Tamil loanwords in Sinhala

Tamil Loanwords In Sinhala

Tamil loanwords in Sinhala

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Sinhala words of Tamil origin came about as part of the more than 2000 years of language interactions between Sinhala and Tamil in the Island of Sri Lanka.

Kinds of loanwords

The words pertaining to the fields of commerce, administration, botany, food and military are the most numerous; this is to be expected because
  • new innovations and goods usually reached the Sinhalese via the Tamils whose area of settlement separates them from the rest of South Asia and
  • Tamil-speaking Muslim conducted most of the island's foreign trade since the 10th century CE.
Bilingualism and assimilation
However it is important to note that the range of borrowings goes beyond the scope to be expected for a situation where two neighbouring peoples exchange material goods: Firstly, there are many Tamil loanwords pertaining to everyday and social life (kinship terms, body parts, ordinary activities etc.); secondly, not only lexical words (nouns, adjectives and verbs) but also at least one function word (ōnē) has been borrowed. This—along with the deep impact Tamil has had on Sinhala syntax (e.g. the use of a verbal adjective of "to say" as a subordinating conjunction meaning "whether" and "that")--is the result of not only close coexistence but the existence of large numbers of bilinguals and a high degree of mixing, intermarriage, etc.

The borrowing process

Tamil loanwords in Sinhala can appear in the same form as the original word (e.g. akkā), but...
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