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Sinhala (සිංහල), also known as Sinhalese (older spelling: Singhalese) is the mother tongue of the Sinhalese people, who make up the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka, numbering about 16 million. Sinhala is also spoken, as a second language by other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, totalling about 3 million.

It belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. Sinhala is one of the official and national languages of Sri Lanka, along with Tamil.

Sinhala, along with Pali, played a major role in the development of Theravada Buddhist literature.

Sinhala has its own writing system, the Sinhala alphabet, which is a member of the Brahmic family of scripts, and a descendant of the ancient Indian Brahmi script.

The oldest Sinhala inscriptions found are from the 6th century BCE, on pottery; the oldest existing literary works date from the 9th century CE.
The closest relative of Sinhala is the language of the Maldives and Minicoy Island (India), Dhivehi.


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