Sinhala is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by about 16 million Sinhalese people
in Sri Lanka. It also used as a second language by another 3 million people
belonging to other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, where it is one of the official
and national languages, along with Tamil. There are also considerable numbers of Sinhala
speakers in Singapore, Thailand, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.
Sinhala at a glance
Native name: සිංහල (Siṃhāla) [ˈsiŋɦələ]
Linguistic affliation: Indo-European; Indo-Iranian; Indo-Aryan; Southern Indo-Aryan; Insular Indo-Aryan
Number of speakers: c.17 million
Spoken in: Sri Lanka
First written: 9th century AD
Writing system: Sinhala alphabets
Status: official and national language in Sri Lanka
Sinhala is also known as Sinhalese or Singhala - the latter version is
closer to the pronunciation native name. The native name of the language is සිංහල
(Siṃhāla), which comes from Sanskrit and could be translated
as "lion-seizer", "lion-killer" or "lion blood", which refer to the
legendary founder of the Sinhala people, Prince Vijaya, a descendant of
Sinhabahu/Sīhabāhu ("Lion-arms"), the son of a princess of the
Vanga Kingdom and a lion.
The Sinhala alphabet, a descendent of the Brahmi
script, started to appear in Prakrit inscriptions during the 3rd and 2nd
centuries BC. Both the alphabet and the language have changed
considerably since then. The earliest surviving literature in Sinhala dates
from the 9th century AD.
The Sinhala alphabet is also used to write Pali and Sanskrit
in Sri Lanka.
Type of writing system: syllabic alphabet.
Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines.
When they appear the the beginning of a syllable, vowels are written
as independent letters.
Prenasalized consonants, such as mb, nd, ṇd and ng, are formed
by special conjunct symbols that combine the stop and the homorganic nasal.
Conjunct symbols are used only when writing Sanskrit or Pali with the
A subset of the letters, known as Eḷu hōḷdiya,
was used to write classical Sinhala (Eḷu) - shown in blue below.
Many extra letters were added to write Sanskrit and Pali loanwords.
Vowel diacritics with ka
These numerals are no longer used in written Sinhala, instead the Western-style numerals are used.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with
reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)