Sinhala script (Sinhala: සිංහල අක්ෂර මාලාව; Siṁhala Akṣara Mālāva) is an Abugida, a script between a syllabic and alphabetic script. It is also known as Sinhalese script. It is written from left to right. It is used to write Sinhala, which is the official language of Sri Lanka. It is also used to write Sanskrit and Pali. These languages are used for religious texts. The Sinhalese Akṣara Mālāva, one of the Brahmic scripts, comes from the Ancient Indian Brahmi script. It is also related to the ancient Kannada script.
|Sinhala script (Sinhalese)|
|සිංහල අක්ෂර මාලාව|
Siṁhala Akṣara Mālāva
|Linguistic classification:||Proto-Sinaitic alphabet|
Sinhala script comes from Brahmi, and was imported from Northern India, around the 3rd century BCE. Sinhala script developed in a complex way: Part independently but also strongly influenced by South Indian scripts at various stages. It is clearly influenced by the early Grantha script. Pottery from the 6th century BCE has been found in Anuradhapura, with lithic inscriptions dating from 2nd century BCE written in Prakrit.
Medieval Sinhalese first began to be used around 750 AD. It has a very strong influence from the Grantha script. As a result, Medieval (and modern) Sinhalese look similar to the South Indian scripts. By the 9th century CE, literature written in Sinhala script appeared and the script began to be used in other texts. As an example, the Buddhist literature of the Theravada-Buddhists of Sri Lanka, written in Pali, used Sinhala script.
Modern Sinhalese first appeared in the 13th century and is marked by the writing of the grammar book Sidat Sangara. In 1736, the Dutch were the first to print with Sinhala type on the island. The resulting type followed the features of the native Sinhala script that was written on palm leaves. The Dutch created type that was the same width throughout the letters (monolinear) with no separation between words in early documents. During the Colonial period, a new style of Sinhala also began to used which was high contrast and had different thicknesses. This high contrast type slowly replaced the monolinear type as the preferred style.
Today, the alphabet is used by over 16 million people to write Sinhala in very different situations, such as newspapers, TV commercials, government announcements, graffiti, and schoolbooks.
Types of alphabetsEdit
Sidath sangara alphabetEdit
This alphabet was invented in the Dambadeniya period (1220–1345). This is the first specific Sinhala alphabet to be found in writing.
This alphabet includes the letters usually used everyday. It is enough to write almost every word in Sinhala.
The Śuddha set was not enough to spell Pali and Sanskrit words correctly. So, new letters had to be used. This alphabet first appears in Abraham Mendis Gunasekara's Comprehensive Grammar of the Sinhalese Language, a grammar book published in 1891.
National Institute of Education AlphabetEdit
The alphabet was adopted by the National Institute of Education in 1989. This is the alphabet commonly used in schools in Sri Lanka.
Contemporary Sinhala Alphabet (Modern Sinhala Alphabet)Edit
This alphabet was first published in 1990 by J.B. Dissanayake. Here, the vowels අ and ආ have two forms as open and closed.
International Standards Institution Sinhala AlphabetEdit
Unicode Sinhala AlphabetEdit
ක = 'ka' sound (this is the base consonant)
ක + ි = කි = 'ki' sound (a small arch like shape is placed on top of ක)
ක + ් = ක් = 'k' sound (a small flag like shape is placed on top of ක)
ක + ෙ = කෙ = 'ke' sound (a swirl is placed in front of ක)
Letters and how they are pronouncedEdit
Here, the letters of the National Institute of Education Alphabet are shown.
There are 18 vowels.
- අ is pronounced like the u in cut
- ආ is pronounced like the a in father
- ඇ is pronounced like the a in cat
- ඈ is pronounced like ඇ but the sound is held longer
- ඉ is pronounced like the i in is
- ඊ is pronounced like the ee in feet
- උ is pronounced like the u in put
- ඌ is pronounced like the u in flute
- ඍ is pronounced like the ri in river (when it is combined with a consonant, it is pronounced like ru)
- ඎ is pronounced like the ree in reel This vowel occurs rarely
- ඏ is pronounced as li or lu. This vowel is no longer in use
- ඐ is pronounced as ඏ but the sound is held longer. This vowel is no longer in use
- එ is pronounced like the e in bed
- ඒ is pronounced like the a in ancient
- ඓ is pronounced like eye
- ඔ is pronounced like the o in cot
- ඕ is pronounced like the o in go
- ඖ is pronounced like the ou in house
There are 42 consonants. The consonants are divided into many groups based on how they are pronounced.
|IPA||[p]||[pa]||[b]||[ba]||[m]||[ᵐb]||[j]||[r]||[l]||[ʋ]||[sa]||[sa]||[s]||[ɦ]||[ɭ]||[fa, ɸa, pa]|
The consonant ඥ (pronounced like ඤ - like the ny in canyon) is used today but it is not included in the National Institute of Education Alphabet.
Media related to Sinhala script at Wikimedia Commons
- Daniels (1996), p. 408.
- Masica, Colin P. (1993). The Indo-Aryan Languages. p. 143.
- Daniels (1996), p. 379.
- Cardona, George; Dhanesh, Jain (2003). The Indo-Aryan Languages. p. 109.
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- Diringer, David (1948). Alphabet a key to the history of mankind. p. 389.
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