Pali and Sinhala?

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Pali and Sinhala?

Postby shjohnk » Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:27 am

Is Pali related to or close in any way to modern Sinhala (as spoken in Sri Lanka)? I heard some talks by K. Sri Dhammanda and when he pronounced the Pali term, I just got a feeling of 'Now THAT'S how they're pronounced!' :)
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Re: Pali and Sinhala?

Postby Pannapetar » Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:58 am

Both Pali and Sinhala are Indo-Aryan languages, but so are Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and others. I suppose that you can find words with a common etymology (like you can find some Greek words in the German language), but I have no idea how far this goes. Only someone who masters both languages can tell for certain. Anyone here?

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Pali and Sinhala?

Postby piotr » Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:11 am


I remember one dhamma-talk by Sayadaw U Jotika given to Sri Lankans, where his audience noticed that some Sinhala words sound almost identical to Pali, but their meaning is rather different. I can't remember any examples now.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...
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Re: Pali and Sinhala?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:21 am

I'm no expert, but as piotr says there are some similar words. Not sure if they have been absorbed (like the Pali and Sanskrit loanwords in Thai) or would be there anyway.

My first teacher was from Bangladesh, so his native language was therefore Bengali. He said that learning Pali, and then Sinhalese when we went to Sri Lanka, was quite easy due to the similarities. Then he moved to Thailand and Thai was a lot harder... I gather for him reading Pali was probably easier than reading English.

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Re: Pali and Sinhala?

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:58 pm

sinhalese pali
dukha dukkha
vedanawa vedana
tanhawa tanha
karma kamma
sukha sukha
samadhi samadhi
satiya sati
pragna panna
kusal kusala
maitri metta
upeksha upekkha
sil sila
bhavanawa bavana
veerya viriya
karunawa karuna
margaya magga
phalaya phala
vimukti vimukti
nivan/nirvanaya nibbana
buddha buddha
dharma dhamma
sangha sangha
panchaskanda pancakkhanda

we have sankskirt influences too. Remember it is 'buddhist' country so these terms are in common usage. there has been an emphasis on preserving the pali, almost a bit too much, as it was threatened over the centuries. The pali was written down for the first time (I think) in sri lanka on ola leaves during times of famine and war, for it's preservation.
With Metta

& Upekkha
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Re: Pali and Sinhala?

Postby halaha » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:06 pm

As mentioned in an earlier post although Sinhala and Pali words may sound alike they can have different meanings. Let me give one example. Vedana in Pali is feeling whereas in Sinhala it is pain.
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Re: Pali and Sinhala?

Postby Neinteresnayawe » Fri Aug 08, 2014 4:07 pm

Very good and informative exchange .. Thank you!
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Re: Pali and Sinhala?

Postby meindzai » Fri Aug 08, 2014 4:14 pm

What about grammatical structure? Is it similar?

I think Sinhala is to pali what _____ is to Latin, where ___ is one of English, Spanish, Italian....

I'm always impressed at the way Sri Lankan monks seem to be able to rattle off pali phrases like it's their native language. But much of this is probably a matter of training as well.

I've considered (in the past) learning Sri Lankan as an aid to learning Pali, because there are a lot more resources out there for learning Sinhala. There's some pali learning resources of course, but not exactly Rosetta Stone.

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Re: Pali and Sinhala?

Postby pulga » Fri Aug 08, 2014 7:28 pm

The best book for learning colloquial Sinhala that I know of is Prof. Karunatillake's An Introduction to Spoken Sinhala. ... unatillake

Pali and Sinhala do have a lot in common etymologically.
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Re: Pali and Sinhala?

Postby SarathW » Sat Aug 09, 2014 12:18 am

I am sure many of you know that I am a Sri Lankan.
I can relate many of Sinhalease word to Pali.
It is a great help for me to understand the meaning of some Pali words.
Some times Sinhalease words do not give the same depth of meaning what implied in Buddhism. (eg: Upekkha - euanimity)
Some times we use the Pali words in the wrong context (eg: Samvega)
It is a great language but threaten to be extinct soon due to the usage of international language English.

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Re: Pali and Sinhala?

Postby pulga » Tue Aug 19, 2014 11:29 pm

Here's a charming video in simple Sinhala. They're talking about themselves and their families. ... DAC6C83C38

Deyawatte is fifty-nine, not eighty-nine.

The whole series is great for getting a feel for the language.
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