Vedda Language : A short Note
Vedda is an endangered language that is used by the indigenous Vedda people of Sri Lanka. Additionally, communities such as Coast Veddas and Anuradhapura Veddas who do not strictly identify as Veddas also use words from the Vedda language in part for communication during hunting and/or for religious chants, throughout the island.
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When a systematic field study was conducted in 1959, the language was confined to the older generation of Veddas from Dambana.
In the 1990s self-identifying Veddas knew few words and phrases in Vedda, but there were individuals who knew the language comprehensively.
Initially, there was considerable debate amongst linguists as to whether Vedda is a dialect of Sinhalese or an independent language.
Later studies indicate that the language spoken by today’s Veddas is a creole which evolved from ancient times, when the Veddas came into contact with the early Sinhalese, from whom they increasingly borrowed words and synthetic features, yielding the cumulative effect that Vedda resembles Sinhalese in many particulars, but its grammatical core remains intact.
The parent Vedda language(s) is of unknown linguistic origins, while Sinhalese is part of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. Phonologically, Vedda is distinguished from Sinhalese by the higher frequency of palatal sounds [c] and [ɟ].
The effect is also heightened by the addition of inanimate suffixes. Morphologically, the Vedda word classes are nouns, verbs and invariables, with unique gender distinctions inanimate nouns.
It has reduced and simplified many forms of Sinhalese such as second-person pronouns and denotations of negative meanings. Instead of borrowing new words from Sinhalese or other languages, Vedda creates combinations of words from a limited lexical stock.
Vedda maintains many archaic Sinhalese terms from the 10th to 12th centuries, as a relict of its close contact with Sinhalese, while retaining a number of unique words that cannot be derived from Sinhalese.
Vedda has exerted a substratum influence in the formation of Sinhalese. This is evident by the presence of both lexical and structural elements in Sinhalese which cannot be traced to either Indo-Aryan or neighbouring Dravidian languages.