Sinhala is the mother tongue of the Sinhalese people who live in Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese make up the largest mother tongue group in Sri Lanka. Approximately 16 million people use Sinhala as a first language and another 3 million people in Sri Lanka use Sinhala as a second language. Sinhala is one of the official languages in Sri Lanka and in India as a whole. Sinhala has been used together with the Pali language in the development of Buddhist literature. The Sinhala language is closely related to languages spoken in the Maldives and in the Minicoy Islands in India. Sinhala was also influenced by the Sanskrit language. Sinhala has loan words from other Dravidian languages, which are also spoken in Sri Lanka. Other countries where Sinhala is also spoken includes United Arab Emirates, Canada, Thailand and Singapore.
Sinhala is an Indo-Aryan language, which falls under the Indo-European languages. Sinhala can also be spelled as Cingalese or Singhalese. Singhalese was brought to India by colonialists during the 5th Century BC. The language developed independently from other Indo-Aryan languages. The earliest inscriptions of the language were found in 200 BC. The inscriptions were written on a rock using Brahmi script. Since then, the Sinhala language and written form have evolved to its present form.
The literary language and the spoken Sinhala language are not the same. The literary language is normally used in writing different texts, newspapers, magazines and when speaking in formal situations. The spoken language is used during day to day situations and other informal circumstances. Schools teach the literary language to students. Sinhala has a slang version, which is considered to be non-scholarly and is in most cases frowned down upon. The Sinhala alphabet is based on the Brahmi script. Sinhala uses an alphasyllabry. This means that the consonants are written using letters, while vowels are indicated using didiatrics.