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Sinhalese

Sinhalese - Asian Languages

Sinhalese language also spelled Sinhalese or Cingalese, also called Sinhala, Indo-Aryan language, one of the two official languages of Sri Lanka. It was taken there by colonists from northern India about the 5th century BC. Because of its isolation from the other Indo-Aryan tongues of mainland India, Sinhalese developed along independent lines. It was influenced by P?li, the sacred language of the Sri Lankan Buddhists, and to a lesser degree by Sanskrit. It has borrowed a considerable number of words from the Dravidian languages, mostly from Tamil, which is also spoken in Sri Lanka. In Sinhala, there is distinctive DIGLOSSIA, as in many languages of South Asia. The literary language and the spoken language differ from each other in many aspects. The written language is used for all forms of literary texts but also orally at formal occasions (public speeches, TV and radio news broadcasts, etc.), whereas the spoken language is used as the language of communication in everyday life. As a rule, the literary language uses more Sanskrit-based words. The Sinhala alphabet, Sinhala hodiya, is based on ancient Brahmi, as are most Indo-Aryan scripts. In design, the Sinhala alphabet is what is called an "abugida" or "alphasyllabary", meaning that consonants are written with letters while vowels are indicated with diacritics (pilla) on those consonants, unlike English where both consonants and vowels are full letters or Urdu where vowels need not be written at all. Also, when no diacritic is used, an "inherent vowel", either /a/ or /ə/, is understood, depending on the position of the consonant within the word. Discourse Sinhala is a pro-drop language: Arguments of a sentence can be omitted when they can be inferred from context. This is true for subject—as in Italian, for instance—but also objects and other parts of the sentence can be "dropped" in Sinhala if they can be inferred. In that sense, Sinhala can be called a "super pro-drop language", like Japanese.

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