Substratum influence in Sinhalese and contemporary situation

These features place Vedda language as an independent body of language than a creole variety of Sinhala. Now the Vedda language is fast mingling with Sinhala/Tamil according to the respective neighbouring contexts.

‘From the Southern Sinhala speaking areas, Vedda language gets the Sinhala influence, while from the Northern areas it gets the Tamil influence’. According to Prof. Premakumara De Silva and Asitha G. Punchihewa of the University of Colombo; ‘the original language of the Veddas has now become a second language mostly commercialized as a tourist attraction, than a cultural asset’.

Their functioning language has become Sinhala/Tamil and those who speak the traditional language now are mostly the older generation. The second generation and the youth are more prone to use Sinhala.

There are even those who have very little to no knowledge of the Vedda language. Their language has been a cultural identity of the community for a long time. But now, as the Veddas, especially when the second and third generations mix with the locales, Sinhala/Tamil is the language they choose to communicate.

With the use of technology, and as the youth pursue educational facilities more and more, Vedda language gets reduced to the level of an exhibit.

A visit to the Dambana Vedda Village will prove how the overall culture of Veddas (i.e. their dresses, equipment…etc.) has changed, and how this is reflected in the language as well. According to Geiger and Gair, the Sinhalese language has features that set it apart from other Indo-Aryan languages. Some of the differences can be explained by the substrate influence of the parent stock of the Vedda language.

Sinhalese has many words that are only found in Sinhalese or it is shared between Sinhalese and Vedda and cannot be etymologically derived from Middle or Old Indo-Aryan. Common examples are Kola in Sinhalese and Vedda for leaf, Dola in Sinhalese for Pig and offering in Vedda. Other common words are Rera for wild duck and Gala for stones in toponyms found throughout the island.

There are also high-frequency words denoting body parts in Sinhalese such as Oluva for the head, Kakula for leg, Bella for neck and kalava for thighs that are derived from pre-Sinhalese languages of Sri Lanka.

The author of the oldest Sinhalese grammar, Sidatsangarava, written in the 13th century have recognized a category of words that exclusively belonged to early Sinhalese. It lists naramba (to see) and kolamba (ford or harbour) as belonging to an indigenous source. Kolamba is the source of the name of the commercial capital Colombo.