What is the demography of the language?
The Sinhalese language or Sinhala as it is locally known is the native language of the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka. They make up the largest ethnic group in the country totaling up to sixteen million. Other smaller ethnic groups in the nation speak it as a second language, and they total up to about four million people. According to (Chandralal) the country, which is equal to sixty-five thousand six hundred and ten square kilometers, has various distinct ethnic groups with particular linguistic systems. Sinhalese being the national language is use in most parts of Sri Lanka apart from a few districts in the east and north (Chandralal). Though it is popular among the Sinhala people, it is also used by the Tamils and Moors especially those who live in areas that are dominated by the Sinhala. These individuals often speak it bilingually with Tamil. The language also exists among immigrant populations in different regions of the world including Australia, North America, United Kingdom, Europe, and some parts of the Middle East.
What historical events led to the cultural threats that the language faces?
The country is an island, and its closest proximity is India. According to (Narendran), history purports of a possible interaction that existed between the people of India and Sri Lankans. Therefore, these historical interactions might have had an influence on the Sinhala language (Narendran). As the Sinhalese interacted or even transverse between India and Sri Lanka, the languages they interacted with in India may have influenced their linguistic system thus altering the general makeup of the Sinhala language. There is also the issue of colonization where nations like Portugal with the Portuguese language would have influenced the development of the Sinhala language during the colonial period. The bilingual use of the language with other languages in the nation also has an impact on the Sinhala language because there is a development of inevitable hybrids of the Sinhalese speech.
Does the language have a written tradition? If so, please elaborate on this
There are traces of the origin of the language within various Indian linguistic systems. Therefore, the languages alphabet, popularly known as Sinhala hodiya has its basis in the ancient Brahmi script, which is also the foundation of different Indian scripts. Its alphabet has close relations with three Indian alphabets including the South India Grantha alphabet, the Kadamba alphabet, and the Khmer alphabet. Its writing system is unique and popularly known as the abugida. In the system, the writing of consonants is in the form of letters while its vowels get their indications through diacritics natively known as pilla on the consonants. The complete Sinhala alphabet has up to fifty-four letters where thirty-six are consonants while eighteen are vowels. Despite the fifty-four letters, only thirty-six of them including twelve vowels and twenty-four consonants are necessary when writing colloquial spoken Sinhala.
In what domains is/was the language used?
Historically the Sinhala language was mostly associated with Buddhists. It acted as a point of differentiation between the Hindus and the Buddhists (Vadivel). Its use by the Buddhists was mainly evident during the time of Christian missionaries and at which time the missionaries were trying to convert both Buddhists and Hindus to Christianity. Various institutions offer lessons to individuals who want to learn the language. It means that those who teach Sinhalese use the language and is, therefore, present in teaching. Its use is also evident in the mass communication media and in other countries where Sinhalese immigrants are present.
Does the language receive any institutional support from the government, private, community-based organizations, or elsewhere?
Throughout history, there is evidence of support for the language through various leaders within the Sri Lankan government. Right from the various kings who ruled the country in previous centuries to more modern rules, which focus on protection and development of the language. It is evident through various constitutional precepts that were developed for the language by the various governments that ruled the nation. Several forms of literature prepared by the Sinhalese and other individuals from other countries exist that describe and praise the beauty of the language and its writing system. There is, however, no evidence of NGOs that act as support systems for the Sinhala language.
Are there any revitalization efforts for the language?
Several linguists studied and continued to explore the uniqueness of the Sinhala language and how it has evolved over time. Their works present points of references for current and future students who may wish to learn more about the history, makeup, and development of the language. There are also various archives within Sri Lanka and others on the internet that act as a form of revitalization for the language. There is continued use of the language within and without Sri Lanka, which also contributes to its development.
According to your report, how would you classify the level of endangerment of the language according to Crystal pp. 20-21?
Currently, the language is not endangered considering that it is the most used within Sri Lanka. It is also the countrys language meaning that it will still be in use many years to come. Though there are several influences including bilingualism, which affect and alter the language it remains high among the Sinhala people and other ethnic groups within Sri Lanka.
Chandralal, Dileep. Sinhala. John Benjamins Publishing, 2010. Print.
Narendran, Rajasingham. The Evolution Of The Sinhala Language: An Important Reference. Colombo Telegraph. N.p., 2014. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.
Vadivel, S. K. Origin of the Sinhala Language and the Sinhalese. N.p., 2013. Web. 7 Feb. 2017.
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