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Full Text: Anthropos, 32.1937

Rev. S. Gnana Prakasar, O. M. I. 
Dravidian Grammar and Syntax in Sinhalese. 
Now, the language of the original inhabitants of Ceylon, as far as can 
be traced from the “unknown formations” of declension and conjugation and 
the construction of sentences in Sinhalese, was without doubt, an ancient form 
of Dravidian.-This we shall point out in the sequel. James de Alwis had noted, 
this long ago. In the Introduction to his learned translation of the Sidath 
Sangara he wrote: “The Singhalese is unquestionably an Indian dialect; and 
looking merely to the geographical position of Ceylon, it is but natural to 
conclude that the Singhalese owe their origin to the inhabitants of Southern 
India, and that their language belongs to the Southern family of languages. 
To trace, therefore, Singhalese to one of the Northern family of languages and 
to call it a dialect of Sanscrit, is apparently far more difficult than to 
assign it an origin common with the Telingu, Tamil and Malayalim, the 
Southern family 3 .” He also held the opinion that the native tongue of the 
ancient Ceylonese, which later became Sinhalese, had been itself derived “from 
the same source from whence Sanscrit and Pali have been derived” 4 . We 
shall return to this interesting opinion later. 
That the grammar and construction of Sinhalese have always remained 
Dravidian in the main, is admitted by all serious students of the present day. 
I can do no better than quote here at some length from a living Sinhalese 
scholar. In a lecture delivered at Ananda College, Colombo, “before the Direc 
tor of Education and a gathering of learned men” on the 28 th of September 1918 
Mudaliyar W. F. Gunawardhana gave a succinct account of the whole argu 
ment. After alluding to the traditional story of Vijaya and his seven hundred 
followers invading Ceylon from a country where a certain form of Prakrit 
was spoken, and of their taking wives, with a large retinue, from the Tamil 
country in South India, the Mudaliyar said: 
“Language, it may be premised, is the medium for the communication of 
our thoughts, and thoughts are communicated not by isolated words, but by 
means of sentences, Language taken essentially is, therefore, the sentence, and 
grammar is that science which analyses and explains the construction of the 
sentence. Scientifically, therefore, the determining factor of a language is not 
its vocabulary, but its structure, viz., that aspect of it which is concerned with 
the arrangement and mutual adjustment of words in the expression of thought; 
and in this respect, it must be said, that Sinhalese is essentially a Dravidian 
language. This is not all. Its evolution too seems to have been on a Tamil basis. 
And so we seem safe in saying that, while, in regard to its word-equipment, 
Sinhalese is the child of Pali and Sanskrit, it is, with regard to its physical 
features and physical structure, essentially the daughter of Tamil.. . We have 
already seen that Pali, if it was not the actual dialect of Prakrit introduced by 
Vijaya and his followers into Ceylon, at any rate, fairly represents the lan 
guage introduced. We shall, therefore, make this the standard of comparison 
in our further remarks. 
. 3 Sidath Sangara, p. XLVI. 
' 4 lb., pp. XXI, XL, XLVI.

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