Reading and Writing Sinhala

  • Marasinghe A. D. K. Wijaythilake
  • Rauno ParrilaEmail author
Part of the Literacy Studies book series (LITS, volume 17)


Sinhala is one of the two official languages in Sri Lanka spoken by about 74% of the population. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages and is written with a distinct, highly cursive akshara script. The extensive Sinhala akshara set (600 plus) is mostly consistent from akshara to sounds, and the basic literacy rates in Sri Lanka are high. Advanced literacy skills, however, require extended study due to strong diglossia: Spoken Sinhala has been open to influences from Dravidian (mainly Tamil) and European (Portuguese, Dutch, and English) languages, but Literary Sinhala has mostly maintained the classic vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. As a result, spelling and writing are complicated by significant differences between the two forms. In this chapter, we will first describe both forms of Sinhala and then review the limited existing research on Sinhala literacy.


Sinhala Phonology Orthography Diglossia Reading development Writing development 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marasinghe A. D. K. Wijaythilake
    • 1
  • Rauno Parrila
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Educational StudiesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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