14 August, 2018

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Reflections On The Language Of My Birth

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

There are times when I lament my abysmal knowledge of Sinhala. It is a language of course, but even as a language it takes much more than memorising grammar rules and vocabulary to master it. Being a dilettante when it comes to these matters, I never really picked it up. Poetry eludes me, so does prose. I tried my hand at writing a few essays there and a few love poems here, but the experience was so overwhelming that I gave up. This was years ago. I haven’t tried again since. In hindsight this can indicate fear, ignorance, complacency, or a lack of willpower, depending on how you look at it. My excuse is that without getting acquainted with the foundation of a language or for that matter the historical processes behind a language, it is difficult to be creative.

Professor K. A. I. Kalyanaratne, former co-honorary secretary of the Hela Havula, in a review of Cumaratunga Munidasa‘s Purana Sinhala Akuru Karanaya, contended that it is language which separates us from the animal world. I strongly agree. Language is what makes civilisation possible, and civilisation is what facilitates identity on the basis of shared rituals and practices. Perhaps no other intellectual and artiste from the 20th century understood this in relation to the Sinhala language more than Munidasa himself, whose death anniversary fell on July 25. No, this is not a sketch of the man, much less an exploration into what he did, rather some brief reflections on his work.

Cumaratunga Munidasa

Garrett Field, in his seminal but overlooked work Modernising Composition, contends that the modern history of linguistic politics in Sri Lanka begins with Cumaratunga. Put briefly, the man tried to do for the language what the revivalists of the previous century had done for Buddhism. It was his belief that purity in language, the ‘maw basa’, shorn of foreign accretions, was integral to the ideal of nationhood. There would not, in other words, be a ‘desa’ and ‘rasa’ without a ‘basa’. With this objective, he thus sought to redefine Sinhala, not just in relation to academic syllabuses (at one point he was appointed as an inspector of Anglo-Vernacular schools for the Department of Education), but also in opposition to the accepted texts which had been used to teach the subject. Based on these beliefs, he confidently rejected both the Sasadāvata and the Muvadevdāvata, which contained Sanskrit loanwords he felt to be inimical to his project. He was not, in other words, afraid of rebuking what needed to be rebuked.

There were three faces to the man: linguist, poet, and activist. Contemporary society and scholarship tend to analyse each facet in isolation, forgetting that it is the fusion of them, and not the study of one over the other, which can help us understand what the man did and whether the project he spearheaded worked to its envisioned end. That is why his criticism of poets who imbibed Tagore cannot be seen as only an aesthetic judgment, but rather as an integral part of his belief in achieving purity in the markers of our identity. Not even the Mahavamsa was immune from his pen, since it promoted the idea that the Sinhalese were descended from North India, when historical records showed that there was a thriving “hela” civilisation prior to the arrival of Vijaya.

I am certainly not up to the task of charting and tracing what Cumaratunga did in relation to Sinhala poetry, prose, and polemics, but I cannot help but observe that throughout his life, the man combined didacticism and austerity of expression to convey his beliefs to the lay reader, and to convince that reader. This proved to be a strength in later years. With Lakminipahana, Subasa, and Helio, the three journals which helped the Hela Havula disseminate its worldview throughout the country, he was able to turn his endeavours from the fringe project it could well have become to an active search for roots. And one demographic that he targeted, more than any other, was the child. No one who has read Kumara Gee, or sung such immortal classics as “Ha Ha Hari Hawa”, can fail to be moved by its nuances, a point made by former Speaker of the Parliament W. J. M. Lokubandara at the recently held Cumaratunga Munidasa Sisuvarama, where he observed that the man’s poetry rises from its pages and implores us to musicalise it. There was nothing immobile about it, in other words.

The Cumuratunga Munidasa Sisuvarama is one noteworthy way through which his contribution to children’s literature is being sustained, and promoted, among the children of today. Begun in 2012 and organised by the Cumaratunga Munidasa Foundation, it rewards academic achievement in Sinhala by granting a scholarship to the student who obtains the highest mark for the subject at the Ordinary Level exams. Last year, which marked the fifth time the scholarship was granted, there were no less than eight winners, and considering that it took place at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Centre, it was bound to be packed. And so it was. Professor Wimal Dissanayake, who wrote an extensive piece years ago on the route linguistics took in Sri Lanka through the Munidasa, spoke of the way the man brought tradition to modernity. This year, by contrast, the organisers focused on the poet in the man, seeing it fit to invite the leading academic on the subject in Sri Lanka, Professor Sunil Ariyaratne. Also by contrast, this year saw just one winner, Senuki Vilara Gunaratne from Museaus College, with the event being unveiled at the much larger, more comfortable Western Province Aesthetic Resort, on the death anniversary of the Munidasa, July 25.

Professor Ariyaratne spoke. He referred to some poems that, in his opinion, had not been researched into or analysed well before. He contended that these poems could help us gain insights into the man’s innermost beliefs. “Just as the moon brightens the night sky as a thousand stars cannot, so can one good child brighten up his parents’ life in a way that many bad children cannot,” he quoted, observing that it was the man’s didacticism, combined with the many metaphors he borrowed from everyday life, which made his poetry stand out. To this end, a few observations made by that other renowned critic of the Sinhala poem, Gunadasa Amarasekara, might be pertinent here.

In an article titled “Cumaratunga Munidasa the poet”, later published in an anthology dedicated to the man (the first in a series titled “Visidunu Vimasuma”), Amarasekara roundly dismisses the two strands of poetry which dominated the first and second halves of the 20th century: respectively, the Colombo school and the nisadas (free verse) school. “My contention is that Cumaratunga’s Piya Samara is greater than the work of either of these two groups, because of its originality and its efforts at going beyond the confines of the Kotte era,” Amarasekara argues, observing that while the Colombo school, represented in its early years by Ananda Rajakaruna, sought to combine the form and meter of the Kotte Period with contemporary experience, it failed because, in his opinion, it deteriorated to a series of exercises in aestheticism, “more preoccupied with its own workings” as he suggests or rather implies. This can, depending on how you view Amarasekara’s critique, be taken to mean that while the Colombo poets (who imbibed not just the likes of Thotagamuwe Rahula Thera, but also the Lake Poets from England) found a reference point in the 15th and 16th centuries, they were unable to find a canvas for their inspiration in their society. “They were most adept at children’s poetry, at writing ‘nalawena kavi’,” the critic concludes, because “they were preoccupied with the ‘shabda rasaya’ (the face-value and surface allure of a text) over the ‘shabda dhvaniya’ (the implied aural meaning of that text).”

But while the likes of Rajakaruna failed to move from the 15th century, they did not make the error of erasing the fine distinction between prose and poetry, something Amarasekara argues the nisadas school committed. Amarasekara’s distrust of free verse was shared even by contemporary English language poets, most famously Robert Frost, who once contended that writing it was like “playing tennis with the net down.” “Because of the liberty taken by our free verse poets,” the critic argues in his piece, “Sinhalese writers began coming up with metaphors like ‘adaraye simenthi’ (‘the cement of love’) and ‘jeevithaye bhumi thel’ (‘the fuel of life’)”, implying of course that such metaphors made little to no sense and were a convenient cover for the writer’s laziness. Amarasekara then traces these to the poetry of Parakrama Kodithuwakku and Mahagama Sekara, whom he praises with some reservation: “Their efforts were facile at best, despite their depictions of rural Sinhala life.” The definitive work of Sinhala poetry of the 20th century, thus, for the critic at least, is Cumaratunga’s Piya Samara.

I have tried to read Piya Samara many times, and I have tried valiantly to trace the man’s genius through the contours of its verses. I confess, Sekara’s Prabuddha and Munidasa’s Kumara Gee have been easier reads, if at all because I am not endowed enough to penetrate into the many layers at the heart of Piya Samara. To this end, I think it would be relevant to quote Amarasekara, channelling F. R. Leavis: “The (great) tradition of the Sinhala poem finds its peak in the last century with Munidasa Cumaratunga.” That no one continued from where he left off, barring the supporters he gained through the Hela Havula, says a lot about where his project stalled. It is not too late to pick up, though. Poetry, after all, is poetry. It is hidden in the innermost recesses of our imagination, and our imagination is but a product of our civilisation.

*Uditha Devapriya is a freelance writer who can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com

**Photos by Manusha Lakshan and Sithira Edirimanna

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  • 7
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    Uditha Devapriya “There are times when I lament my abysmal knowledge of Sinhala…..I never really picked it up”
    Uditha putha….Don’t worry, unlike Tamil or English it is not an international language…you can survive….

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      Rajash ~ “….unlike Tamil or English it is not an international language….”.
      Here we go again.
      Tamil is NOT. Try using Tamil at Delhi Airport.
      In fact Hindu Gods in Tamil Nadu understand ONLY Sanskrit and that too with Brahmin accent!

      • 4
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        K.Pillai: Try using English at the busy Tokyo station! in fact I met a Sinhalese, living in in Tokyo, in the bullet train in Tokyo, we spoke in Sinhala and he guided me on my destination.
        so the point I am making is that Tamil is internationally known same as English.

        K.Pillai: “In fact Hindu Gods in Tamil Nadu understand ONLY Sanskrit and that too with Brahmin accent”!
        God has no language barrier…My kids pray to Hindu god in English!!! ….and I think their prayers are answered.

        Christian schools in Jaffna have hymns in Tamil….I am sure Jesus answer their prayers too.

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          further….Sinhala people pray to Hindu Gods in Sinhalese

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            God has no language or religion and is neither male or female.
            It is humans who need God who have created religions and kill each other in the name of religion.
            No fish, bird or animal have God or religion. They are happy and content unlike humans.
            But humans kill them for food and destroy their habitats in the land and sea,and rivers.

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              imagine there’s no countries
              It isn’t hard to do
              Nothing to kill or die for
              And no religion too
              Imagine all the people living life in peace,
              …john lennon

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              “If a lion/”Sinhalese” could speak, we could not understand him.” — Wittgenstein


              “The Language Of My Birth”

              A “Sinhalese” does not share the same conceptual scheme as “others”. That there is something to being a “Sinhalese” that we as “other” humans could not understand, or perceive.

              One could understand what a “Sinhalese,” or for that any other creature is saying to us, but only if we can perceive the world through their eyes and completely understand their value system. ………….. A similar thing occurs with highly isolated tribes in the wilderness. In order for “civilised” man to learn their language he first has to fully understand their way of life.

              the “Singhalese’s” point of reference would be so far from our understanding ……….. that even if he spoke in perfect Sinhala/English we could not understand him.

              Imagine if you’re a medical student and you attend a rocket science lecture. You would hardly understand what was being said in lecture because the lecturers’ reference points are so distant from yours. …………. Now imagine how distant a “Singhalese’s” is?

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          “K.Pillai: Try using English at the busy Tokyo station! “

          So Tamil would have worked better ????

      • 9
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        K.Pillai

        “Tamil is NOT. Try using Tamil at Delhi Airport.”

        Have you tried using Tamil in Sri Lanka at any government departments?
        The donkeys feel very proud of using “SInhala Only”.
        If you say you cannot understand Sinhala they usually raise their voices louder and repeat what they have been saying in the previous fifteen minutes as if that will translate Sinhala into whatever language you understand.

        By the way your Man the Guardian of Tamil and Tamils, Dr Kalaeinger Karunanithy has kicked the bucket this evening. Sinhalese and the state should celebrate his life and death as he was instrumental in VP winning the war for Dr Mahinda.
        He was supposed to be one of the richest in South Asia perhaps richer than Dutta Gamani, Rajapaksa clan, ………………….

        He will be best remembered for opposition to imposition of Hindi, Indra’s emergency, ……………………………. introducing large scale corruption into statecraft, ….

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          Native : “Have you tried using Tamil in Sri Lanka at any government departments?”…LOL

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        KP
        Tamils do not want Tamil not just in their temples, but in supermarkets and so many other places.
        They are happy with the Queen’s language.

        • 2
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          Even in Tamil Nadu the Tamil language is corrupted with English word. I work with lots of Tamilians from Chennai they envy my Tamil sutha Tamil

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        “When historical records showed that there was a thriving “Hela” civilization prior to the arrival of Vijaya”. What a stupid statement !
        Where is the proof of a “Hela” civilization. First of all there was no such thing called Hela. It was Elu which is proto Tamil and the people were of Dravidian ethnicity. Munidasa Kumaratunga said “Eluven Wanamu” and not “Helaven Wananmu”. Pre historic Archaeological findings unearthed have shown to be of either belonging to ancient stone/iron age man or Dravidian (Urn burial sites in several places and two sites of 10,000 year old civilization around Mannar. Sri Lanka was a contiguous land mass with Tamil Nadu before being separated by sea upheaval about 10,000 years ago. It is genetically and archaeologically proved that the people who lived on both sides of the divide were one and the same people who either spoke Tamil or some form of Tamil. We were told about Aryan ancestry of Sinhalese and that Sri Lanka was uncivilized prior to advent of Vijaya. Now that all these have been trashed as fibs, now a set of people have sprung up singing a different song. Please accept the truth that Sinhalese were originally Tamils who evolved into a different ethnic group with in put from others with a different language and culture like how Malayalees evolved from Tamils. All Sinhala propaganda about ancient hela civilization will receive applaud from a bigoted Sinhala audience and not in a forum of independent intellectual scholars.

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          Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam

          “Urn burial sites in several places and two sites of 10,000 year old civilization around Mannar. “

          Could you cite evidence.
          Urn burial site Pomparippu is near Puttalam.

          ” It is genetically and archaeologically proved that the people who lived on both sides of the divide were one and the same people who either spoke Tamil or some form of Tamil. “

          Prof Indrapala is also of the opinion that the people of this island spoke several other local languages, he writes:

          In recent decades a few linguists have made some notable investigations in this direction. The work of M H Peter Silva, James Gair, M W Sugathapala de Silva and W S Karunatilleke are noteworthy. Like M H Peter Silva (who was able to take W F gunawardhana’s pioneering work much further with better scientific training in the 1960s) and C E Godakumbure before him, M W S de Silva and James Gair, in the course of their valuable contributions to Sri Lankan linguistics in the last quarter of the twentieth century, have pointed out Dravidian elements in ancient Sinhala and, what is more important , recognized a language or languages that did not belong to either the Indo Aryan sub family or the Dravidian family existed in the island before Tamil and Sinhala came to be spoken there. Regrettably very little scientific investigation has been undertaken …………………………………

          Historical Linguistics
          Pages 44 & 45 of
          The Evolution of an Ethnic Identity …..2006

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            You may be correct but the vast majority in the island spoke Dravidian Elu which was a simple ,semi or proto Tamil Dravidian dialect and old Sinhalese or Hela ( which is a mixture or Elu and Prakrit) , like Elu was very close to its Tamil mother in pronunciation than modern Sinhalese which just like modern Kannda, Telugu and even Malyalam are now deliberately being Sanskritised , just to prove a point that the mother or base of these languages in not Dravidian/Tamil. All these people suffer from some sort of complex and want to prove something that they are really not.

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            NV, I said that urn burial sites have been found in several places, not in Mannar. The last such site was found in Ibbankatuwa in Galewela between Kurunegala and Dambulla. To detect more such sites, government must provide equipment and funds. Two sites of over 10000 year old civilisation were found in Settikulam and around Giants tank in Mannar district, both by chance.

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          God no, Sankaralingam! Tamils came from Mohenjo Daro, before being driven south by the Barbarians. Hela was a unique race exclusive to Sri Lanka (a few must have crossed the land bridge and gone to S. India). A few Tamils from Mohenjo Daro came down to Lanka, set up a few temples and gave a few language syllables to the Helas.

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            Grandma,
            Modern Sinhala is has three language words(Tamil, Arya Bagshawe & Pali) and one language grammar (Tamil). Where the hell you find Hela in that?

            If there is one grammer base identified as Hela grammer, then you trace it in Sinhala. If there are words in Sinhala not Arabic, European, Arya Bagshawe, Pali or Tamil then identify it. We can check it out if that is hell the Hela you talk about.

            After all you’ve put that much of effort you put and prove the Hela is real race, Most of the historian accept Ceylon was inhibited with Balangoda Race, Vedda, Tamils-Naga and Yakke only.
            Are you pre-civilization Balangoda Race? (If any one of that is still left out).
            Are you Vedda race?
            Are you Naga-Tamil?
            Are you Yakke?
            It sound it is better you stick on your Fernandopulle Burger ID (TN Tamil-European). Less confusion.
            Up to you.

            • 1
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              Mullerian,
              Na, na….not Fernandopulle….HELA FERNANDO (husband’s).

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                Fernando is a Portuguese name. So how can he be Hela. The name Fernando was adopted by mainly Karawa people but also some Salagama and Radha castes. They are all Tamil Nadu immigrants during Portuguese time. Can you show me any Govigama high caste person with Fernando name.

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                  Sankaralingam,
                  Most Karawa and other coastal casts are of Hela origin. Yet, of course, they have been mixing with Indian high-castes that came with their skills for thousands of years. Hence their aptitude for prosperity. Your low-castes who came from South India during the British time were chased away by these coastal Sinhala high-castes and they escaped to Jaffna where they were used as human shields during the last stages of the war. Yes, there are Govigama high-castes that are Fernandos. But they became Christians and adopted the name as did the coastal persons who adopted the name. Once Christian, they preferred the more prosperous coastal areas. A number of people of the Fernando surname are also Portuguese descendants.

                  • 1
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                    There are a few Silvas and Pereras among Govigamas, but not Fernandos or S/Zoysas (S – Karawa and Z- Salagama). 60 years ago there was a Burgher person next door to mine in Borella, who was a Fernando, but that is rare. Zilva, Pereira, Sousa and Fernandez are the Portuguese Burgher names.

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                      Well, you don’t know much of Sinhalese and Burgher society, do you Sankaralingam. You only know the people you associated with in your small excluded Tamil circles…..well, if you went to outreach too much, you would have been chased away also. My husband’s family are of a Govigama-Karawa mix. Indeed, many Govigamas when converting to Christianity took on the Fernando name and took on the coastal trades – it was considered more opportune (many also lost their lands to the colonial plantations) Most Burgher Fernandos went to Australia. Yes, Sinhalese society learned to evolve with the times in decent form. This is quite unlike Tamil society which stays stuck in castes niches and find it impossible to break away from it.

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            For a race to be unique to Sri Lanka, it must have its own genes. Even Veddhas are not unique to Sri Lanka because they share the same genetic material as Adhi Vasis of Tamil Nadu, Aborigines of Andaman and Orang Asli of Malaysia When the core genetic material of Sinhalese is south Indian, how can they be unique. There was nothing called Hela. It is Sanskrit form for Elu the original name. Race is denoted by the language they speak and the land is denoted by the people who live there. Because people spoke Elu, they were called Elavar and land as Eelam. There were no separate people or separate civilisation in Sri Lanka different from Tamil Nadu. When there is no archaeological evidence of any civilisation found in Sri Lanka that is not Dravidian, how can you claim that there was a race exclusive to Sri Lanka. Your type of argument will make you to be labelled a fool by an intellectual impartial audience.

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              Sankaralingam,
              Genetics come about through association with declared specimens. Tamil declaring Tamilhood, and the genetic material becomes automatically Tamil. Nobody declared Hela before- the buffoons continue to claim Bengali origins.

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                Genetic input occur when one ethnic group mingles with another. But the core genetic material remains the same. Aryans have a typical genetic marker even now despite mingling with others. It was found that none of the Sinhalese whose DNA was studied showed this typical Aryan genetic marker, debunking Aryan theory of Sinhala ancestry. There is some truth in Bengali origin as Sinhalese have 26% Bengali genetic input. No Sinhalese tested showed any genetic material other than South Indian, Bengali and Veddha. So where is this Hela ethnicity that you are talking about. There has never been any archaeological discovery to prove a Hela ethnic existence, and most probably will never be. Fact is that after Sri Lanka got separated from Tamil Nadu by sea upheaval, people in the Island who were the same as those living in main land, became separate, and with input from Bengali immigrants developed a separate identity with a separate language, culture and customs. This is nothing strange because Malayalees evolved into a separate ethnic group from Tamils at the same period of time.

                • 1
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                  Sounds about correct Sarkaralingam. But in this modern time, genetics can only go that far. There could be other underlying coefficients that science cannot detect at present. Helas as a tribe, didn’t need to trek very far as Lanka was self-contained with all its forests, fruits and vegetables. As different tribes also emerged from the soil of different land masses, Helas emerged from Lankan soil (or were put there by different gods or space-craft). Guess there is yet a graduating genetic connection between tribes of a landmass due to close proximity (unless they came from different planets…….still planets of a feather flock together and the space-crafts land in the same landmass area).

              • 0
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                Ramona, you are wrong to tell me that “You only know the people you associated within your small excluded Tamil circles”. I was born in Colombo and lived there for 44 years before migrating. In the lane where I lived, there were two burghers, three Sinhalese, two Tamils and one moor family. So I had a mix with all ethnicities since childhood. We exchanged food among us during festivities and I used to look forward for Lamprais of Burghers and Biriyani from moor family. I attended Royal College for 14 years since lower kindergarten days where in my batch we had 76 Sinhalese, 38 Tamils, 15 Moors, 15 Burghers and 08 of mixed parentage. Do you think that I had not associated with people other than small excluded Tamil circles. Even now we exchange at least 03 e-mails per day among us copied to all classmates. This shows that I have outreached to others and is being welcomed by them. Our classmates of all ethnicities meet at least three times a year and have cordial relationship amongst them. Therefore your allegation against me is unwarranted and shows that you have done it with some foolish manner. I also wish to inform you that we used to give breakfast dana on first of every month to Buddhist temple 100 yards away from my home and they insisted that we give them Thosai and sambar as they do not get it from any others.

                • 0
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                  A really great debate between Kumarikandam Sankaralingam and extra-terrestrial Grandma Therese. May the best nut win.

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                    LAC3 (Rtd) Budhdhadasa,

                    What sounds extra-terrestrial to you is actually the true nature of the struggling masses who have little voice.

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                  Sankaralingam,

                  Your group is the typical group from a very small neighborhood niche of Colombo. Indeed even Royal College was about a small cross section of Lankan society, of those of all races (no doubt), who managed to make their way to live in the Colombo neighborhoods and have white-collar jobs on the backs of the struggling masses.
                  *
                  Yours in the generation who lived/live in the batch-mate era, and feel it belongs to all of Sri Lanka. Yours is the generation who went to the West and get together in batch-mate groups and jaw about the old-times and success story of what you got from the free education system of Sri Lanka (then jump up and do biala together with a sprinkling of the dirty-joke session). Yours is the generation who created the ethnic tensions after creating racial profiling in your schools. But you never had a chance to go to the wider Island society and see the struggling masses and the way they assimilated and cared for each other in the midst of their poverty and hardships.

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              Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam

              “For a race to be unique to Sri Lanka, it must have its own genes. “

              Is “Racial Classification or Race” still in fashion or use?
              Is it possible to assign particular gene to a particular race?
              How do you account for gene mutation?

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          Sankaralingam,
          1. Elu is a name given to a form of Sinhalese which is devoid of foreign loans. It was first defined in the 9-10th centuries. It is not something ancient as Tamils think. Tamils heard of Elu in the 19th century, and then later started to make all these obnoxious theories about some mystical Tamil dialect called Elu. Do you have any written evidence of this mystical Tamil dialect called Elu? IF you do not have it, that means it is just a fabricated story.
          2. Sri Lanka was never ever a contiguous land mass with Tamil Nadu. The land is more or less the same as it is today, only the sea level has changed. What happened during the ice age was that the sea level sank and the ocean floor hundreds of feet below was exposed. When the ice age ended the sea level rose. This has happened 27 times according to geologists (Deraniyagala). But if anyone was to come here when the sea level was low, then they have to first climb down 100(s) of feet and then walk without falling into craters and holes for some 30-40 to 100 miles, depending where they are coming from, and then climb up 100s of feet like climbing a mountain again to reach this island. This is the reason that although there was no water between Srilanka and India for good many years during the ice age Sri Lanka has managed to have 40+ species of endemic freshwater fish and hundreds of other species which are endemic to this island. If it was a contiguous land mass with India we will have the same fauna and flora as India.

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            Contiguity does not guarantee the spread of any species across a land mass.
            If that is true the same species should occur from East China to Spain.
            Some species are unique to certain parts of India.
            *
            Some of what we call species unique to Sri Lanka could be sub-species.
            Also new species can evolve and stabilize in a changed environment over periods as short as a few tens of generations.
            I seriously doubt if we have species which bred/evolved in isolation for a hundred thousand of years.

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            Punchi,
            ” But if anyone was to come here when the sea level was low, then they have to first climb down 100(s) of feet and then walk without falling into craters and holes for some 30-40 to 100 miles, “
            Your knowledge of geography is lamentable. The waters around Adam’s bridge even today are very shallow. That is why the Indians tried to dig a canal through it, to avoid having to sail around the island. The distance is only about 20 miles, average depth less than 10 feet in gaps between shoals.

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            Mr. Point,
            “If it was a contiguous land mass with India we will have the same fauna and flora as India.”
            Haven’t you noticed that we do, actually? The variations between our fauna/flora and their Indian couterparts are the same as variations between different Indian states. There are leopards, elephants and coconuts in Kerala but not that common in Tamilnadu. Just as there are fewer coconuts in Jaffna. There are fossils of lions in SL, whereas they still exist in parts of India. Elephants have been seen crossing the sea in the Andamans.

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              Raman

              “There are fossils of lions in SL,”

              Where did you find fossils of lions in Sri Lanka?
              Is it the P.E.P. Deraniyagala’s “Panthera leo sinhaleyus, or Ceylon lion”?
              It was his imaginary Sinhala Lion. In response the Tamils found Tamil Tigers.

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                The lions died out long before any humans arrived.

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            “Sri Lanka was never a contiguous land mass with Tamil Nadu”. What an ignorant statement. Firstly NASA and Indian Institute of Oceanology (IIO) have published photographs of a civilisation buried under the sea between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. Secondly there is a land connection between Rameshwaram and Mannar which is only ten feet below sea level at its deepest point. Thirdly during the 2004 tsunami several structures along Tamil Nadu coast emerged as waters receded. For your information Deraniyagala was an archaeologist and not a geologist. If you compare Ramanthapuram district of Tamil Nadu and Mannar district both have same arid condition and plantation. Similarly other parts of dry zone Sri Lanka is similar to Tamil Nadu and wet zones of Sri Lanka is similar to Kerala. All animals found in Sri Lanka are found in Tamil Nadu, while some animals found in northern and eastern parts of India like Lions, Tigers and Rhinos are not found in Sri Lanka. Having endemic species special to Sri Lanka does not mean that Sri Lanka was always separate, because India being a single territory has endemic species special to various areas. There is a recent video clip going around explaining Kumarikandam which was a land mass from Madagasgar to Papua New Guinea, encompassing Sri Lanka.

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              Dr.GS,
              “There is a recent video clip going around explaining Kumarikandam which was a land mass from Madagasgar to Papua New Guinea, encompassing Sri Lanka.”
              Including internet garbage as “evidence” degrades the credibility of any real facts you might present.

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              OC
              If the intelligence of one who believes the Kumarikkandam fairy tales is not questionable, his sanity certainly is.

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                When some people said that earth was round, those who had unshakable belief that it was flat condemned them as madmen. With technological advance in the future, this hypothesis of a contiguous land mass of Kumarikandam (Lemuria), will be proved right. Similarly the lost continent of Atlantis. It is the insane people who jump to castigate others.

                • 0
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                  Dr. GS,
                  This is also on the internet. : “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemuria_(continent)Lemuria /lɪˈmjuːriə/ is the name of a “lost land” located either in the Indian or the Pacific Ocean, as postulated by a now-discredited 19th century scientific …”

                  Why not believe this too? Your beliefs should not be coloured by personal bias. I will believe in Kumarikandam (and Atlantis and the Dandumonara ) when the “advanced tech” turns up in the local museum.

      • 4
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        Or better, Try using Tamil at Madras Airport!

        • 2
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          Hamlet… what the hell were you doing at Madras Airport….did you go there to TN to trace your ancestors?

          • 3
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            No Rajash; on the way to Denmark! Ha! Ha!

            • 0
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              oh you fancy Danish ladies?

              • 1
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                Rajash; Is that why you go to Madras, for the Ladies?

    • 7
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      Rajash: How sad to hear a thinly wailed racist comment coming from you unwarranted and unnecessary. Even in my old age I am learning Tamil, not because I want to use it internationally, but because it is one of the official languages of the country I was born in. On the other and all over the world in cities from LA to Toronto to London, Paris New York, Milan, Melbourne to name a few there are Sri Lankan Buddhist temples which teach Sinhala to many many second and third generation children of Sinhala ancestry. They are learning Sinhala, recently with even more enthusiasm than before and so Sinhala would be an International language.

      • 4
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        Rajash: “How sad to hear a thinly wailed racist comment coming from you unwarranted and unnecessary. “
        Not racist at all.
        The point I am making is that Tamil is known internationally and spoken international and researched by international scholars. Tamil inscriptions are found all over the world going back to thousands of years. Google Tamil and you will know how international not just the Tamil language but Tamil culture, Tamil music, Tamil musical instruments etc etc

        Just having one Wikipedia website maintained by Sinhala people does not make Sinhala language international. Sinhala children speaking the language at home does not make it international either.

      • 3
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        wannihami

        “Even in my old age I am learning Tamil, not because I want to use it internationally, but because it is one of the official languages of the country I was born in.”

        Is Tamil really an official language?
        Read the constitution:
        CHAPTER IV
        LANGUAGE
        18. 4
        [(1)] The Official Language of Sri Lanka shall be
        Sinhala.

        [(2) Tamil shall also be an official language.
        (3) English shall be the link language.
        (4) Parliament shall by law provide for the implementation
        of the provisions of this Chapter].
        19. The National Languages of Sri Lanka shall be Sinhala
        and Tamil.

        • 5
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          NV,
          The basic trouble with Sinhala is that it is basically an agrarian language which when compared to others has very little associated in the way of music, architecture, technology, science,etc. With music in particular, there is still quite listenable Western music from the 13th century, and similar ragas from India. We have to invent “Sinhala” music. Architecture? As far as I know, mostly temples, nothing secular like people’s houses as in places like Rome. Let’s not talk about local technological innovation.
          So words simply do not exist for many modern items. It is better to adapt English terms (as in Hindi) instead of being uptight about “purity” and using jaw-breaking Sanskrit.

          • 2
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            Old codger do you have problem with logic?. Sinhala Aurveda practicioners had many many medical terms and plant terms in place for millennia, and how do you think they built those huge Stupas, and engineered massive tanks and constructed irrigation systems that last to this day? Using sign language? So you are saying Sinhala has no terms for mathematics? Physics? Engineering and medicine?
            Were there English words for myocardial infarction or ischemia? Arn’t they Latin and Greek origin

            • 3
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              Wanni,
              “Sinhala Aurveda practicioners had many many medical terms and plant terms in place for millennia,”
              Uptight, are we? Above is exactly what I meant by “agrarian language”. Huge stupas, yes but these are basically giant piles of earth . Nothing inside them. Even the Pyramids have galleries and chambers. As for Sinhala and Mathematics, where are the Sinhala writings that can compare with Euclid or Pythagoras ? Or even the statecraft of Kautilya? India had mathematicians like Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, and Bhaskara II.
              “Were there English words for myocardial infarction or ischemia? Arn’t they Latin and Greek origin” Exactly my point. English willingly takes in foreign terms without looking for non-existent Anglo-Saxon ones. Why do Sinhala scholars insist on “purity” without adapting Portuguese/ Dutch/ English loan-words? Try buying a “Sanyuktha thatiya” if you know what that is!
              Sinhalese does have its strengths. It has separate words for your father’s siblings or your mother’s. English has only two.
              It is good to be proud of one’s language, but it is also good to be aware of its limitations. Why not admit that we are only a minor off shoot of the Indian civilization?

              • 1
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                old codger

                “India had mathematicians like Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, and Bhaskara II.”

                Come on old codger, they might have had brilliant mathematical mind whereas it was Achchige Patali Champika Ranawaka’s ancestor who discovered Zero.

                • 1
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                  Wannihami do not be a stupid fellow displaying your ignorance. English people never denied that English language has borrowed words from Latin and Greek. In contrast Sinhala racists are denying that Sinhala language has borrowed words from Tamil and Sanskrit. The name Ayurveda itself is Sanskrit (Ayur-life and Veda- science), which shows that Sinhalese had borrowed this knowledge from Indians. All medical terms and medicinal plants you are saying to be original to Sinhalese are borrowed. In contrast Tamils have their own Siddha medicine, which also took from Ayurveda. So stop trying to praise yourself and be labelled a fool. As for Tanks and Stupas, these were all built by South Indian technologists. Tank building by damming rivers and irrigating their fields by canals is the heritage of people who lived in Mesopotamia to Indus Valley and South India. Even latest Buddha statue was erected by sculpture experts from Tamil Nadu. Please do not distort truth to make false claim about Sinhalese. Accept that almost everything Sinhala is borrowed from Tamils or Aryans.

              • 1
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                old codger..so Agrarian society when they built Tanks and Canals, what did they use to calculate the the distances, the volumes, the angles, inclines? When you say architecture do you only mean domestic dwellings (that is anew definition to the word hahaha?
                Use of Sankrit in deriving Sinhala words for sciences, is same as using Greek or Latin in English language to derive medical terms. I remember at one time educating you about some other nonsense you wrote,, but I think you should start a self study on logic.
                How come you are so dense that you cannot understand why medical and scientific fields in various languages use Greek and Latin and Sanskrit to derive the words. Are you developing senility? May be I can help.
                You remind me of some political “know all” saying some time back that JVP cannot write a constitution because their members don’t speak English!
                Every language has limitations, because language is derived through the experiences, and but higher mathematics, Physics, Law etc all can be taught and is taught in Sinhala.
                And Euclid and Pythagoras were Greek, not English..oh I give up you are losing it!

              • 1
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                the other thing is old codger you don’t seem to understand the difference between symbolism and the literal, Stupas are artifacts of symbolism, Pyramids were burial chambers where the dead were kept hoping they would travel to wherever they were going. with their jewels, silks and spices.

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                  My dear Wanni,
                  I seem to have provoked you into more uptightness.
                  “so Agrarian society when they built Tanks and Canals, what did they use to calculate the the distances, the volumes, the angles, inclines? When you say architecture do you only mean domestic dwellings (that is anew definition to the word hahaha?”
                  I am referring to the heavy bias in favour of religious architecture. There are no well-preserved domestic structures . Other people too built tanks and canals, but they built houses and stadiums too. They used water wheels to grind grain.
                  As to angles and distances, are the names of the builders recorded anywhere? It is quite likely that the real builders were hired from India, where practically everything came from.
                  “and but higher mathematics, Physics, Law etc all can be taught and is taught in Sinhala.
                  And Euclid and Pythagoras were Greek, not English..oh I give up you are losing it!”
                  And of course, the Natha Deviyo scientists at Kelaniya campus are the result.
                  Who said Pythagoras and Euclid were English?
                  All I want to know is where are the Sinhala mathematical writings? Or even a Sinhala “Kama Sutra”? Please don’t blame the evil Portuguese for that.

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                    old codger

                    “Or even a Sinhala “Kama Sutra”?”

                    I suppose it is being preserved by the Mahasangha in monasteries like the Mahawamsa.

                    Please don’t forget Champika believes his ancestors discovered Zero. This is the core problem with Sri Lankans. You do not seem to appreciate your own ancestor’s achievements. Zero was invented by Sinhala/Buddhists long before Buddha was born.

                    Mauritian bank notes contain Tamil Numerals whereas Sinhala numerals are missing in Sri Lankan notes while portraits of crooks, racists, war criminals are printed on them. What a cruel joke.

                    • 0
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                      NV,
                      “I suppose it is being preserved by the Mahasangha in monasteries like the Mahawamsa.”
                      For personal use only?

          • 4
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            OC
            The point is that Tamil has not advanced much since colonial intervention. There is stubborn conservatism blocking modernization especially re new sounds that entered the language.
            There has been no effort to unify the language (I do not mean just dialects, but the written language).
            There is serious lack of consistency in coining technical terms. (I can give a long list.)
            Much of the problem relates to a confused attitude towards modernization and obsession with an imagined ageless ‘tradition’.
            *
            Younger languages, including Sinhala, adopted and adapted in many ways. Sinhala introduced a symbol for ‘f’ in the 1970s, and considers another to get the ‘o’ sound in “office” etc., despite an abundance of letters to deal with all sounds in South Asian languages. It simplified the grammar making it unessential to decline the verb with gender, number, status etc. (E.g., ‘enava’ and ‘aavaa’ can be used for any number, gender or social status.)
            *
            Tamils have a tradition to be proud of. Of what use is it if it cannot address current needs?

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              Those who are calling them as protectors of UoJ by keeping the Foreign Blood infiltrating the university, is preaching of modernizing a language. But the entire world treat new blood mixing in universities is the growth of understandings and expanding the horizons. Famous universities pay for their students to attend classes in another foreign country.

              Tamil is a language trying to keep its 2500 years of literature still to contribute for its classical nature, but not going out of use by the uncontrolled changes.

              There is no easy way to match the English in Science and Education. The UoJ is not ready to pay attention to that deficiency. Today TN is the second biggest economic power house in the country because in 1960 DMK resisted for 700 Million speaking Hindi, but worked on the English. These people are talking of Sinhalaziation of Tamil to satisfy their Sinhala Masters by forcing it on Tamils. Sinhala Politicians struggling to buy properties in UK, Australia, New Zeeland and US and trying to settle their future generation there. This people have learned to salute to Sinhala oppressions for favors. But real Tamils are living with many hundreds of novelties and wonders existing in the world around, watching, observing and enjoying it but convulsing to turn one as one of them.
              The brain has to display breadth and depth to propose changes.

              • 0
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                Mallung, you said “The brain has to display breadth and depth to propose changes.”
                *
                What particularly is the problem with your brain?
                Thickness?
                You do sound thick?

      • 4
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        wannihami

        “They are learning Sinhala, recently with even more enthusiasm than before and so Sinhala would be an International language.”

        Of course spoken only among a few thousand Sinhala descendants.

      • 4
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        wannihami:

        “Even in my old age I am learning Tamil, not because I want to use it internationally, but because it is one of the official languages of the country I was born in.”

        You should always start learning Tamil in the morning first listening to SemMozhi (classical language) Tamil Anthem By AR.Rahman (A winner of double Academy Awards) and the link is as follows:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=100&v=lRITPjraXgA

        It appears that your distant cousin Kaleinger Dr Karunanithy listened to this Tamil Anthem in his dead bed. A spin perhaps, even in his dead bed he breathed Tamil, will be embedded in folk memory. You have million myths why not Tamils.

        Its fun learning languages.
        You don’t have to learn Tamil just because it is one of the official languages of the country (only in the past 30 years) you were born in but because it is fun to learn or maybe it was your ancestral language before your family converted to Sinhala/Buddhism.

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          Where were you born in, By the way? I was born in Sri Lanka but I am not under any pressure to learn anyoneelse’s language. So what is your problem?

          You are not a true native of this country, but a transplanted weed?

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            To the point

            “I was born in Sri Lanka but I am not under any pressure to learn anyoneelse’s language.”

            You sound like a Sinhala/Buddhist fascist hence you are not under any pressure. On the other hand there are people who are constantly put under pressure by you lot, the Sinhala/Buddhist fascists.

            “You are not a true native of this country, but a transplanted weed?”

            When, where and who authorize you to issue certificates/identity cards to the natives. It is surprising that Kallthonies are being allowed to make identity checks on the natives.

          • 0
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            Oh To the point, that is the the point, Tamil is not anyone else’s language, languages like the sky and the sun belongs to everyone, and since I plan to spend more time in the North (love Killinocci), I am learning Tamil so that I can read the signage, the newspapers and speak to the towns people.
            And To the point my problem is I get bored easily with people and places so I travel, meet people, learn languages and cultures.

      • 0
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        Wannihami, whether you like it or not internationally Tamil language has a higher status than Sinhala language because of its antiquity and literary richness. Similarly Tamil culture has a higher status than Sinhala culture. Carnatic Music is one of the leaders in Music, whereas Sinhalese do not have any but are copying Hindustani music. Bharatham (Bha – relates to Bhavam or facial expressions, Ra relates to Ragam or melodious gestures and Tha relates to Thalam or rhythmic movements of feet). Bharatha Natyam is considered as not only one of the oldest but also one of the best dance forms in the world. Compared to it both Kandyan (copied from Kathakkali of Kerala) and low country (more like devil dance) are mere passengers, not worth any intellectual consideration. Low country Sinhala dress of reddha hetta is from Kerala Mundu dress, and Sari is a Dravidian dress not original to Sinhalese. (even Kandyan sari and blouse resemble Kerala form). There is hardly any food indigenous to Sinhalese except kos mallung, ambul thiyal and Aasmi/Lavaria, which no food connoisseur will dare to taste. When there is no way even for Chinese, Russian, Hindi or Arabic to be an international language, it is your stupidity to expect Sinhala spoken by only a few to become one.

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          Quite a few Tamils here seem to brag about their language the way some do of their dead grandfather.
          *
          Carnatic Music was dominated by Telugu musicians for centuries. The Tamil music movement started in ealy 20th Century.
          Bharathanatyam was the preserve of the Devadasi community for centuries, and it thrived in Tamilnadu partly because of Telugu migration.
          The Tamils of Sri Lanka have little to claim in these fields, and interest began in the 20th Century and they still look up to India.
          Tamil being recognized as a regional or official language in just four countries means little when Tamils themselves do not use it as a serious alternative to English. The language has stagnated for too long, and the brief attempt at its revival has rather failed.

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          Kathakali, a narrative dance, has little to with Kandyan dancing by way of costume, makeup, music or dance. If at all there is some marginal influence.

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      Rajash

      Here is another name dropping literati in the making.

      If you really want to know about Cumaratunga Munidasa (he was a contemporary of Tamil language purist in Tamil Nadu, Maraimalai Adigal) please read:

      Munidasa Kumaratunga’s Contribution to Sinhalese Linguistics by Sarathchandra Wickremasuriya, The Ceylon Journal of the Humanities, Volume One, Number One, 1970 and
      Purifying the Sinhala Language: The Hela Movement of Munidasa Cumaratunga (1930s-1940s) Modern Asian Studies July 2012, vol. 46 by Professor Sandagomi Coperahewa.

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        Thank you Native….I will definitely read it

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    Sinhalese dates from the 3rd century as Prakrit.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinhalese_language

    Spoken only in Sri Lanka.

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      The term Prakrit refers to nearly all Indo-Aryan languages that coexisted with Sanskrit. There were several Prakrits that were mostly regional. Sanskrit drew from them as much as they did from Sanskrit.
      The way the term is often used gives the impression was that it was one language.
      *
      How old Sinhala is not as important as its ability to adopt and adapt.
      Munidasa’s contribution was in strengthening the capability of Sinhala to adopt and adapt.
      De-sanskritization, although necessary in the context of over-sanskritization, occurred less emotionally in Sinhala than in Tamil, where the desire to cleanse the language of all Sanskrit words did a lot of harm to language growth.
      The tragedy of our languages is that there is little will to advance the languages as vehicles of modernity, than in the decades up to the 1960s.

  • 3
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    Uditha Devapriya
    The language of your birth? Crying!
    The only time when you are in a world of equals! Few seconds later someone (for example the midwife) say something soothing and hits you in the back. You reply with a yell. There is an air of celebration – some may poke a silver spoon and so on……Enter the mother who cuddles, cuddles and feeds. She says something and you look her in the eyes.
    Several years later you look her in the eyes and she brings toast!
    .
    To cut a long story short, there is nothing called ‘language of birth’.
    Language does not contribute to civilisation. You imply civilisation is based on rituals. Not at all.
    PS: I know you are being prosaic!

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    DevapriyaL How many Anglo-venaculars you know ? Why did you try to be too smart instead of saying he was inspector in “those dyas” english speaking schools. You did not mention the “colonial mentality of Sri lankans” here. I remember the days, women were looking for a husband who was wearing trousers and not the Sarong. PEople were laughing at those who spoke non grammatical english. So, you think you are from a different class. IT takes time to learn. where I am living there are nations, Indians to be one, who do not like to talk in english. Instead they talk in theire DESHI language. That is not only Indians.

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    justice – .”…Sinhalese_languageSpoken only in Sri Lanka” you endorse my point.
    Please Goolge Tamil Language…and be enlighten….that at one time Tamil was the only language spoken in the universe……but as K.Pillai say lets not go there.

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      Rajash, there you go!
      The Sinhalese Speaking people have only One Country They can all their Own!
      Tamils can always go to Tamilnadu if the Don’t like Sri Lanka!

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        Hamlet

        “Tamils can always go to Tamilnadu if the Don’t like Sri Lanka!”

        I agree they should go back to their ancestral homeland.
        So should the rest of the descendants of Kallathonies, irrespective of what language they speak now. Lets go by their genes, M20. It is more than enough to claim their rights back in South India.

        Or let them go to Aryan countries and claim back their heritage, maybe in Helsinki, Singapura, Hela province of Papua New Guinea, Mohenjo-daro province of Sindh- according to Ranil, ….. Sinhala Settlements in Tamil Nadu – Prof Champahalaxmi, …………etc.

        The Sinhala/Buddhists have many choices. Even the father of racism in this island the public racist Aryan Anagarika Homeless Dharmapala lived and died in India. The followers should follow him.

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          Native Vedda, Please read:-
          Steven Kemper’s 2015 book, ‘Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World’ published by the University of Chicago Press!

          • 1
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            Hamlet

            I do not have access to Steven Kemper’s 2015 book. It might take me a few months to read it.

            You should read Gananath Obeysekere’s Personal Identity and Cultural Crisis of The Case of Anagarika Dharmapala of Sri Lanka,
            in
            The Biographical Process
            Studies in the History and Psychology of Religion.
            By
            Frank E Renolds
            and Ronald Capps.

            and
            Return to righteousness, a collection of speeches, essays, and letters of the Anagarika Dharmapala.
            Anagarika Dharmapala and Ananda W P Guruge

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          Hamlet
          If you don’t like SL because of Tamils, you have your own country Denmark to go to.
          The Tamils I know there also can speak fluent Sinhalese.
          In fact most SL Tamils everywhere in the word can speak Sinhalese.
          Even if you go to Tamil Nadu there are people who can speak to you in Sinhalese if you speak to them.
          But only Sinhalese like you in SL who do not wish to speak in Tamil.
          Isn’t that your whole problem?

          • 0
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            Uthungan, not really, on any of those accounts, there are lots of Tamil students who are now in the Universities in the south who do not speak Sinhala or English (yes tough), and many Tamils in the Vanni (where I would be moving to eventually) do not speak Sinhala, and Tamils I have met from Tamilnadu do not speak Sinhala
            Also, some of the younger Sinhala children are becoming very good in Tamil, they have excellent Tamil speaking teachers in the North Central province Sinhala Schools.

        • 1
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          But who would be left Vedda? Just you? You would be so so lonely without us. :-)

      • 0
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        Why can’t you go to Denmark? You can speak to the Tamils there in Sinhalese, they will understand you.You can be a prince there.

        • 1
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          Yes! But Hamlet was Questioning whether it is Better ” To Be, or Not to Be” “Whether it is Nobler in the Mind, to Suffer the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune, Or By Opposing, End them”

        • 1
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          Uthungan

          Racist land grabbers are coming secure your land in Vanni.
          Be warned KP is supposed to be living in Killinochi-yagama. Crooks can and will collude.

          By the way didn’t your mother warn you “say no to strangers bearing gift”?

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        Sri Lanka is one country two nation , a Tamil nation and a Sinhala Nation……not sure where the Muslims fit in here

      • 1
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        Hamlet…you didn’t get the point….Tamils are at home anywhere in the world…because of their universal , language, liberal outlook…and enriched culture which is evidenced by ankor wat temple or unearthing of Tamil sculptures in hard core Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia….Hamlet please google…

        ….and further more, this is unlike the Sinhala army …. excavating their own burial in Vanning of Rajapakses underpants and shouting hey presto we have Sinhala civilization here even before we defeated LTTE

        • 1
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          “…Hamlet please google..”: The trouble is Google throws up any number of crackpot theories by various nationalist supremacists with a myth to peddle or axe to grind.

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      Rajesh, your statement is incorrect. Tamil is not the oldest language. Analysis by scholars says that Sangam poetry was composed between the 3 rd century bc and 3 rd century ad. In fact, the recent archeological excavations in Madurai, relate to this timeline. Propagation of incorrect statments does more harm than good. Please refrain. Thanks

      • 1
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        MRaj after the defeat of LTTE the Sinhala scholars have unearthed archaeological excavations in Vanni, (that they buried the night before) going back to more than 3rd century bc ……..

      • 1
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        International linguistic scholars have declared that Tamil is the oldest written language, may not be the oldest spoken language. Languages like Sumerian and Coptic Egyptians had written forms but they were in hieroglyphics and not letters.

        • 0
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          Please be more specific and quote examples Dr Gnana. I would be quite happy to know that Tamil has the oldest written language, with a corpus of literature.

        • 0
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          Which linguists have told this nonsense? PLEASE GIVE THE NAMES. Also hieroglyphic writing is not writing? Who told this nonsense? Tamil is most certainly not the oldest written language of the world. What some linguists have said is that Tamil is the oldest written Dravidian language, oldest records according all accredited linguists are from 3rd century BC, using modified Ashokan Brahmi, called Tamil Brahmi. Some linguists classify this stage of Tamil as proto-Tamil, and say that written evidence of Tamil proper appears only in the first few centuries AD, which ofcourse is highly debatable. Most linguists classify this stage as Old Tamil. [ If one is to determine the age of a language by when the evidence of first written specimens were found, then Sinhalese is older than Tamil, as the oldest Brahmi inscriptions found upto now is Sinhala Brahmi from Anuradhapura dating to 490 BC with 50 years correction for the southern hemisphere readings of C14 datings, then we get a 540 BC. Ref. Passage to Anuradhapura (Connigham Robin 1995) and Deraniyagala published data on Anuradhapura Brahmi script finidings].

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            There are Tamil Brahmi inscriptions from at least 500 BC from Adichallanur Tamil Nadu. Be more proficient please

            • 1
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              not from 20000BC? Are you sure?

              • 0
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                There is Tamil Brahmi graffiti on uns and pottery dated to around those dates in that particular site. I never said, this makes Tamil the oldest, all I am saying is that there is graffiti during that period. That’s all.

              • 1
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                sach

                “not from 20000BC? Are you sure?”

                No actually it it was “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”.

                You need to visit your local optician urgently.

            • 1
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              MRaj

              Prof Pathmanathan and his team of researchers have identified Tamil Brahmi inscription in the East dating from 300 BC.

              Ref:
              History of Tamils in Sri Lanka
              The Nagas and Tamil in Eastern Sri Lanka Vol 1
              Edited by Prof S Pathmanathan

          • 0
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            Sinhala Brahmi from Anuradhapura dating to 490 BC with 50 years correction for the southern hemisphere readings of C14 datings, then we get a 540 BC. Ref. Passage to Anuradhapura (Connigham Robin 1995) and Deraniyagala published data on Anuradhapura Brahmi script finidings].

            Cunningham Robin has found Sinhala Scripts in 540 BC? Does he share Thero De Silva’s foreign labels or different? May be Lord Naseby’s brother or Chamika’s son?

            (Brahmi scripts found in Anuradhapura are being dated to early 4th BC. This is only telling the ancient use of Brahmi, unlike the North Indian claim of Asoka in that. This even completely beat the theory of Hebrew used to derive Brami. With the Pancha Ishwaram in Ceylon. Brahmi could be the developed from Indus Valley pictures. It is no way connecting to Sinhala, Hela, Mahavamsa, Gemunu…….Those cannot be substantiated.

        • 0
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          Question: How did the “International linguistic scholars” stumble upon this most important fact?

      • 0
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        Tamil – An Entire Civilization, Not Just a Language

        கல் தோன்றி மண் தோன்றா காலத்தே வாளோடு முன் தோன்றிய மூத்த குடி தமிழ் குடி!.

        Kal thondri mann thodrakaalam munbe mun thondri mootha Thamizh ( even before there were stones and sand, there was Thamizh) The language had grammar far before other languages were born ( tholkappiam)

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          Rajash

          கல் தோன்றி மண் தோன்றா காலத்தே வாளோடு முன் தோன்றிய மூத்த குடி தமிழ் குடி!. – This quote is from –
          புறப்பொருள் வெண்பா மாலை – Purapporul Venpa Malai (a 9th Century Book on Grammar).
          Tholkappiam is dated between 3 BEC and 5 CE

      • 0
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        Google and see Tamil is the oldest language and far older than Sanskrit. Even the Sanskrit worshipping BJP Prime Minister Modi has openly admitted to this.

        • 2
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          Rohan:-
          What Authority has Google got, to Publish Entries that get entered as Gospel Truth?

          Are they written by People like Rajash with a Distinct Bias towards the origins of the Tamil Language?

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            Rationalist –
            In this age of internet there is a vast amount of “knowledge base” available on the internet. I agree some are “fake news” . But there is a vast amount of authentic material and research material available on the internet.

            I am sure you must have heard the phrase “lets google it”. For your kind information Google is a search engine. Google itself does not publish anything, on the other hand it search for materials published on other websites in the vast internet space and return the materials on the subject matter of your interest.

            so don’t bla bla bla here for the sake of it…but be rational.

        • 2
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          Rohan
          Do not take every entry in Google as sacred truth. (Even ‘sacred truths’ are not always correct.)
          *
          One should read serious South Indian historians about the age of Tamil.
          Vaiyaapurippillai’s position of the 1960s, contradicting claims of millennia BC old origins, is supported even by the most recent research.
          *
          Sangam literature which comprises short poems starts in 3rd Century BC, the earliest. The classics are after 3rd Century AD. Ethical works entered via Jain faith mainly.
          *
          The oldest surviving language is perhaps Chinese, and the Chinese do not even talk about it.
          They are a more practical people I guess.

          • 0
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            You puny head picked up something, again, from Vaiyapuri Pillai’s old writing and that is not readily showing up in Google search so are preaching to Rohan that Hinduism was invented by Jains.

            If I ask some questions you are going run into circular motion and if the force heavy you will break and will fly away on a path on the the Tangent. Why do you get into this type quip preaching, where you have no understanding of the subject?

            Can I ask you some questions on your Theory that Jains invented Hinduism?

            • 0
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              Hi Mallung,
              Byyyyyeeee

            • 0
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              “There are some Sinhala idiots who say that Buddha spoke Sinhala.”
              Like their Tamil counterparts who believe that Hindu gods spoke Sanskrit.

    • 2
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      Rajash you mean God spoke in Tamil? LOL

      • 1
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        Paul “Rajash you mean God spoke in Tamil? LOL”
        It was K.Pillai who implied God spoke Tamil. Not me.

      • 2
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        Paul

        “Rajash you mean God spoke in Tamil? LOL”

        The first ape spoke Tamil.
        However Achchige Patali Champika Ranawaka Sinhala language is so ancient he believes first ape spoke Sinhala and discovered Zero.

      • 0
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        At that is what Alex Collier saying.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRghF1pQccA

  • 4
    1

    Thank you for this courageous article Uditha! Unfortunately the madness of Tangore’s North Indian notions have been in Sri Lanka for too long (mad for North India; even more mad for Sri lanka). But for poets and musicians like Cumaratunga comes the implicit knowledge of what the soul of our nation is built on. We need more of these people to build up our Lankan identity. We need the science of linguistics and music to build up our reality. We need to leave aside false racial promotion and know from our hearts what we are true essence is. What emerges will be that guiding light for rationality and peace.

  • 7
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    “… it is language which separates us from the animal world. I strongly agree. Language is what makes civilisation possible, and civilisation is what facilitates identity on the basis of shared rituals and practices.”
    .
    True. But it is also equally true that language is not an unproblematic transparent medium simply reflecting what is out there. Rather it reflects the constant power struggle among contending social forces and classes to define ‘reality.’ Language therefore is not a neutral representation of ‘reality,’ but rather an attempt to ‘RE present’ reality to suit one’s ideological needs. Going deeper one can say language creates ‘reality’ or even language is ‘reality’ for human animals. Many elements of language are not transparent, but are opaque and deeply embedded in our brains/psyches. Therefore language must be viewed as a contested terrain: it is dynamic and fluid reflecting the constant power struggle among diverse groups and factions in any society. It is an integral part of the historical process by which a community/society fashions its worldview. Therefore language is not neutral. It is shot through with the various contending ideologies vying for supremacy. It is a battleground for competing discourses. The dominant/ruling class tries to impose its ideology, its discourse, as the ‘official’ definition of reality, as history, over the subordinate classes. Language therefore is not a monologic arena but rather a dialogic battleground where many voices are in ceaseless interaction, negotiation, contestation and open conflict.
    .
    Of course language enables us to become ‘human’ by facilitating communication. But a paean to the ‘civilizing’ role of language doesn’t tell the complete story. We have to wonder if language has only turned us into a new kind of animal – the linguistic animal.

    • 3
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      Ajay,

      Interesting what you say. The ancients said that in the beginning was the Word. Dogs in different countries bark the same; cats in different countries meow the same. Humans in different countries speak differently. Climatic and other conditions formed the tongue to respond to different contextual stimuli. As we evolved and were at a loss for so many things, we were forced use the tongue to get meaning across. In the process we developed a differing intellect to animals. That, or the Word that was floating around in space and time, and was divinely made into the fleshy human-kind.
      +
      Ideologies and the Word are two different conceptual areas of the brain. Ideologies come about through assimilated schemas of understanding (irrespective of words) – high level thought (whether good or evil). Words come about automatically in the young, through association with word-content of more mature individuals (a basic-level automaticity). Poets like Cumaratunga were deeply sentient of this natural inborn Word-instinct of the Hela animal.

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        Ramona,
        I have noticed that Sri Lankan dogs bark just like foreign ones, but they understand commands only in English. Maybe you can explain?

        • 2
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          You are only talking about your dog.

        • 4
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          May I old codger? It is because English is a simple language that even the Dogs can be proficient in.
          If you want to use Sinhala on Dogs you have to use what is regarded as the lower class Sinhala, i.e. Pala, Waren, Kapiya etc and the Dogs learn that very fast just like they learn English. Ring a bell?

          • 3
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            unju, unju also (I think that is Tamil).

          • 2
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            wannihami

            “It is because English is a simple language that even the Dogs can be proficient in.”

            The Pavlov’s Russian dog did obey commands instructed not in English but listening to sound of bell. Isn’t it known as Classical conditioning ( Pavlovian conditioning or Respondent conditioning).

            Don’t we see the same conditioning in this columns and in this island.

        • 0
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          OC
          Most dog owners (since pet or guard dog ownership is a middle class phenomenon) speak English, and more importantly are used to being ordered in English.
          *
          However, I know many people who speak in Sinhala and Tamil to dogs, and the dogs respond.

        • 2
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          OC
          Sorry for my intervention.
          I did not notice that you are being barked at by a bunch lacking a sense of humor.

          • 0
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            SJ,
            Thanks for the sympathy.

  • 0
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    Uditha, Is the title of the article appropriate to its text. I guess not. The three comments that are already there lead to my hunch.

    • 0
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      The title could have been “Reflections On My Mother Tongue “Sinhala””
      Not sure if CT Editorial decide on the title.
      On the hand reading the opening paragraph Uditha may be Reflecting On The Language Of his Birth” not necessarily his choice of mother tongue.?…any regrets Uditah?

  • 2
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    Uditha, it is not hard to become proficient in Sinhala literature, one of the best ways is to attempt at translating Sandesha Kavya to English, and that would give you an opportunity to get the meaning right.
    I assume you have a basic knowledge of Sinhala (that is you are able to read and understand a newspaper in Sinhala), that is all that is needed and a copy of Malalasekara’s Sinhala/English/Sinhala dictionary.
    Another avenue is to get a tutor older than 75 (!) who was educated in the rural areas of the country, preferably a retired Sinhala teacher, they are extremely proficient in Sinhala literature.

    • 3
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      Uditha Devapriya ,

      Sandesha Kavya (message poem) originally appeared in Sanskrit and later copied in Sinhala.

      Try Sinhala folk poetry (janakavi).

  • 2
    1

    ““… it is language which separates us from the animal world.”

    Mind you animals do communicate with each other..and animals do understand when humans communicate with them…if language is for communication and understanding …animals do communicate and understand

    However animals don’t kill each other for dominance of language, animals don’t discriminate on the basis of language.

    language does separate us from the animals unfortunately for the worse.

    so Professor K. A. I. Kalyanaratne go it wrong …unless of course he is talking about the Sinhala language and the speakers of that language

  • 0
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    As the way, article is being discussed it looks the writing is a disaster. Start with something and, it looks, finally talks about Kumaratunga Munidasa’s poetry. Nothing is given. Instead talks about some westerners. One person with a Portugeuse name wants to build the country’s identity, look another protestant, who doe snot know that they country had an identity for over 2600 years and now foreign cultures have desteoyed it and the culture they talk about is only from the middle east and either muslim or Tamil. The best sinhala word for this is ANAGATHTHA.

  • 0
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    Depending on what you define as the language, LAnguage or communication skills are developed among many animals. for example, Whales you Radar and probably SONAR to communicate between groups what ever the distance which can be thgousands of miles and they can emit radiation to draw the landscape of the area that they swim in their mind in order to detect things infront of them.

  • 1
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    When analyzing a subject such as language and its evolution, it is important to give examples and context – neither of which is given within this article. The fact that it has been written in English for a primarily English-speaking audience makes it more critical to acquaint the reader with the various nuances of Cumaratunga’s contributions to Sinhala.

    I have found the few Sigiri kurutu gee that I have read and Nanda Malini’s lyrics to be very different from everyday Sinhala – but nonetheless these have a certain straight-forwardness and succinctness that our regular vernacular does not possess.

  • 6
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    I thought statements like “There are times when I lament my abysmal knowledge of Sinhala” are out of fashion these days. This was typical 1950s, Colombo ‘Toiyas’ talk that came out of an inferiority complex which they were trying to reverse. The modern half-baked products that come out of the so-called International Schools circuit are currently filling this void. We should be glad that Royalists, Thomians and Trinitians are free from this kind of silly mentality.

    It is is clearly untrue that the writer, who can’t be over 30 or so by the looks of him, has an ‘abysmal knowledge’ of Sinhala. Firstly, the parents MUST be Sinhala speaking and reading Sinhala newspapers, would have travelled by public transport and spoken to others in the neighbourhood and therefore would have been (if the writer had 50% normal brain power) able to learn Sinhala naturally.

    These kinds of statements only go to show that some people are still so stupid to assume that they can gain some kind of social superior status by claiming poor SInhala knowledge.

    This writer deserves the sympthy of CT readers.

  • 3
    0

    The contributions to this forum shows how easily we get distracted.
    Languages constantly evolve. For example “Will the generation of Tamils of the 1800s understand today’s TV Tamil?”. The answer is only of academic interest.
    The claims about the age of Tamil is “Google” based. Google almost always ends up with versions that we want to hear and no more. One of the commenters will never realise the irrelevancy of his contributions!
    .
    Uditha has been let off the hook. We are waiting for his answers to for example “Appalled” above.

    • 0
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      K.Pillai “The claims about the age of Tamil is “Google” based.”

      K.Pillai…. In this age of internet there is a vast amount of “knowledge base” base available on the internet. I agree some are “fake news” . But there is a vast amount of authentic material and research material available on the internet.

      I am sure you must have heard the phrase “lets google it”. For your kind information Google is a search engine which search the vast internet space and return materials on the subject matter you choose to search.

      so” Googled base”, to borrow your phrase doesn’t mean its fake.

      I am sure you use Google to search on subjects that are of interest to you.

      The comments posted on CT blogs are like the “Google search engine return”
      You thumps up what is relevant to you.

      • 0
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        Rajash
        A friend of mine, a don at Colombo University, tells me that “Google” is not a recognised citation in academia.
        I felt the need to point out that conversation can meander away. Do you need further proof?
        .
        Rajash: Here is an example in how I stray away!
        You said in a post here ~ “…….God has no language barrier…My kids pray to Hindu god in English!!! ….and I think their prayers are answered……”.
        I have children 26 to 2 years – seven in between! I tell them never ever to pray. I tell them that people who pray almost always ask God favours. I tell them finally it is their own efforts that ultimately works.
        PS: In the case of one of my daughters I had to pay the bribe – certainly cannot be part of divine plan! We are in a human created way of living.

        • 0
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          K.Pillai: “A friend of mine, a don at Colombo University, tells me that “Google” is not a recognised citation in academia.” I agree.
          Let me emphasize again Google is a search engine to obtain wealth information on the subject matter you are interested form websites of academic organisations, multinational companies, Government sponsored research organisations, etc etc . Then you cite the orgnisation’s webs site and NOT Google as the source. When I said google “Tamil Language” I meant that the search engine will point to wealth of information from various organisations, that are too exhaustive to list here in CT. I am sure the CT readers IT literate who perhaps Google Colombo Telegraph to get to the CT website?

          As for the Kids praying, I never force religion down my children’s throat. May be they learnt from my Grand parents. By my kids marriage were are a mixed religion expanded at the same time close knit family

        • 0
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          K.Pillai- “I have children 26 to 2 years – seven in between! ” you horny bugger :)

          • 0
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            Rajash ~ “…..you horny bugger…….”.
            Can you see the digression?

            Laid a bait and you fell for it.

  • 0
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    It brings back a very bizarre comment one of the old codger (no relation to the above I hope) political commenters wrote here and said somewhere else, he said that JVP cannot formulate a constitution because the members cannot speak English! JVP cannot write a sensible constitution because they are out of touch with the 20th and the 21st century and not because they cannot speak English.

  • 2
    0

    Saying he has abysyminal knoweldge of Sinhala this Uditha Devapriya tries to show he is a Kalu Sudda and thereby tries to be upper class. what a low life. Those who know good Sinhala and says they know little Sinhala are low lives.

    If his Sinhala is bad, Uditha Devapriya is not qualified to analayse Sinhala by such erudiates as Cumaratunga, Mahagamasekara and Rajakaruna

  • 1
    0

    This guy looks hi fi, he does not know proper Sinhala

  • 1
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    Surely Uditha must be from top posh Sinhala family that’s why his Sinhala is absymil.

    My foot!

  • 1
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    It;s due to this ‘absymil’ knowledge that our country is going to dogs

  • 2
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    If they know English:

    Two Tamils always speak in Tamil, Two Sinhalese always speak in English

    • 3
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      Yes Binduhami if they are able to they will because they are friendly people so they make sure that non Sinhala people will understand them.
      On the other hand Tamils don’t want to reach out to non Tamil speaking people other than to white skinned people so they speak in Tamil.
      Any one can deny this?

  • 2
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    So an article about Sinhala became a discussion about Tamil. History revisionism is the core of Tamil nationalism. A community with a inferior mindset were fed with ridiculous fantasies about their language by the Tamil nationalist political leaders in TN. That is how they laid the foundation for the Tamil nationalists movement in India. Their statements are extremely ridiculous and it has made Tamil the joke in the linguistic world. For Tamils everything under the sun has a Tamil connection. Tamil is the oldest language, mother of all languages, older than sanskrit bla bla bla. But when someone says Tamil may be the least developed language they get their panties in a twist. The buggers dont realise if they say T amil is the oldest then it becomes the least developed.

    History revisionism by Tamils need to be researched more and more. Because it has killed many in SL

  • 0
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    Sach you must bring up this topic in the presence of a Tamil and and a Kannada person, they will argue to the point that they both claim God spoke in their respective language. This is an inherent problem between different Indian states and Sri Lankan Tamils too hang on to that argument the moment they see something written about language, they don’t realize Sinhalese don’t give two hoots as to God spoke what or whether Adam was Sinhala.

    • 0
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      There are some Sinhala idiots who say that Buddha spoke Sinhala.

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