James W. Gair and John Paolillo
Cornell University & University of Texas at Arlington
Sinhala is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in Sri Lanka, where it has developed largeley independently of the other Modern Indo-Aryan languages, which are spoken primilary in northern India. As a result of this development, it exhibits grammatical and phonological characteristics not found in other Indo-Aryan languages. Some of these developments may be traces to the influence of the neighboring Dravidian languages, principally Tamil and Malayalam, but many developments include the loss of the aspirate series of stops, the innovation of a series of prenasalized stops in contrast with nasal-stop clusters, and a new low-front vowel /æ/ phonemically distinct from /a/. Morphologically, Sinhala posesses an unusual four-way deictic system, a system of volitivity marking of verbal forms, definiteness marking on nominals, and both causative and plural formation systems involving gemination. Sinhala has basic SOV word order like most languages of the region. Nevertheless some of its most remarkable properties concern its syntax. Non-verb predicates do not use a copula verb, and fail to participate in subordination constructions that employ special verbal morphology. There is a cleft-like construction that uses a postverbal position for focusing, but with variants with the focused element in different positions, in accord with the high degree of constituent freedom of the language. This construction is extremely common in discourse, and it is grammatically required in certain circumstances (e.g. constituent and most WH-questioning).
Sinhala is a strongly diglossic language, with Spoken Sinhala being used for everyday purposes and Literary Sinhala for most written or scripted forms of communication. Available descriptions of Sinhala tend to address Literary Sinhala primilary, so the present volume will focus on Spoken Sinhala. The volume will include a sample of oral narrative collected by one of the authors, complete with interlinear translation.
ISBN 9783895860249. Languages of the World/Materials 34. 60pp. 1997.