Historical Development of Sinhala & Scripts

Language experts have traced three main stages in the development of Indo-Aryan languages. The first stage was the Sanskrit language. Migrant peoples from the northwest used Sanskrit in northern India sometime before 1000 B.C.

In the next stage, Prakrit evolved from Sanskrit by 250 B.C. Pali was another language of these times that derived from Sanskrit. From about A.D. 1000, later forms of Prakrit, collectively called Apabhramsha, gave birth to the various regional languages in common usage today including modern Sinhala.

Archeological findings excavated recently from Anuradhapura area indicate that the north Indian version of Prakrit had been used in Sri Lanka as the language of communication even before Vijaya period. The North-South language link had been reinforced by the arrival of Vijaya and his followers. This has been further strengthened by the arrival of Arahat Mahinda to introduce Buddhism to Lanka.

The following diagrams show how the Sinhala scripts were developed from the original Brahmi scripts, but with a significant influence of Dravidian languages over the years. However Tamil texts are considered to be a comparatively recent development (See below)extract from the book "The Smile of Murugan" by Prof. Kamil Zvelebil)

Most ancient Texts in Tamil

The following is an extract from the book "The Smile of Murugan" by Prof. Kamil Zvelebil on the most ancient texts in the Tamil language (Kamil Zvelebil, The Smile of Murugan - On Tamil literature of South India, E.J.Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, 1973).
The earliest poems contained in these texts belong roughly to 100 B.C.- 250 A.D. The upper limit for these anthologies is the 5th-6th Cent. A.D. Linguistically, this period is usually described as Early Old Tamil. At the beginning of this period, we have the Urtext of the Tolkappiyam. At the end of this period, we have the earliest poetics of Tamil, the Akapporul of Iraiyanar

Early Tamil Brahmi The two rock-inscriptions
Netunceliyan at Mangulam. Cent. B.C.
Asoka's Brahmi introduced
around ca. 250 B.C. into the
Tamil country. Adapted between
250-220 to Tamil.
3rd -1st
Cent. B.C.
Ur-Tolkappiyum: Eluttatikaram and Collatikaram minus later interpolations. First standardization of the .
Tamil language; the first
literary norm of Maturai
between ca. 200-50 B.C.,
based on oral bardic liter-
ature, pre-literary tradi-
tions and "pre-Sangam" lit-
erature of ca 250-150 B.C.
2nd-1st Cent. B.C




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