Imatges de pÓgina


Although symbols of sounds peculiar to the Sanserit, are found in the Singhalese Alphabet; it is nevertheless true, that, except in its arrangement, it bears no affinity to the alphabet which is regarded as the most appropriate to the Sanscrit, the Nagari or Deva Nagari. The Singhalese characters appear to have assumed their present circular form at a very late period in the History of Ceylon; for on reference to the ancient Inscriptions, an impression of one of which is to be seen in the Museum of this society," we find that the old characters were more angular in their formation, and less perfect in shape.

Major Forbes says, “Two distinct written characters have been employed in Ceylon; one of these has not only been obsolete for generations, but even its alphabet was unknown: this is called the Nagara, and is remarkable for the square or angular form of its letters. The Singhalese character now in use, on the contrary, is equally remarkable for its circularity. The Nagara for many ages has only existed in the numerous stone inscriptions that are scattered over Ceylon, and still remain untranslated; but as the alphabet lately restored by Mr. Prinsep and published in his most valuable journal, appears to be nearly identical with the Ceylon Nagara, there is little doubt that any . Pali scholar may now investigate the secret of these writings. This form of letters was probably brought into Ceylon from Patalipura by Mehindoo, B. c. 307.”—

It is indeed no less probable that of the “two distinct characters” the Deva Nagara was introduced by the Sinha conquerors; and although we are unprepared to discuss the subject with any confidence, we may nevertheless remark that this conjecture is supported by what Mr. Turnour says in his Introduction to the Mahawanso, that Singhapura whence Wijaya came, “is probably the modern Singhaya on

The Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, before which this essay was read.


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the Gunduck river, in the vicinity of which the remains of Budhistical edifices are still to be found.

Be this however as it may; the Singhalese characters certainly present a great affinity to those of the Southern family of languages which are distinct from the Sanscrit. For, who can look at the Tamil and Singhalese alphabets, without being struck with the sameness of their arrangement, and the resemblance in the formation of a great number of the characters which are found in them. The following examples will exhibit the affinity between the Tamil and the Singhalese Hodia. g=e; ere U; &=x ē; eg=eo ū; 2= k; p=w p; c=vy; =1 r; s=" n; &c. The vowel-signs too, with which the consonants are inflected, agree in a wonderful manner. e. g. os=un pā; <= pi; g=s pi; s=4 pu; e=pū; Quraw pe; od=G pē; 9o=@un po; co= põ; 909=0w Qur

pow; &c. So likewise different other letters.

The Karnataka alphabet, one of the Southern family of languages, we are told, bears a resemblance to the Singhalese. The Rev. Mr. Hardy says, “The alphabet which is peculiar to the Singhalese, and not used for any other language, in its general character bears a considerable resemblance to the ancient Karnataka, as seen in the copper-plates of a grant made to the Syrian Church by one of the early native princes, the date of whose reign is not known.”

In the Telingu, the characters which stand for our 9, a, ., 6, and e (see Phonology, by Edmund Fry, p. 292); in the Grantha, the equivalents of our c, a, a, a, w and C,(id. p. 102); in a Pali alphabet said to be found in certain parts of the north of Java, amongst others, the letter which stands for our @ (id. p. 16); and in the Burman, the letters which represent our m., s, O, , and 6 (id. p. 132), are strikingly similar: and although our language furnishes us with strong evidence on the one hand against the supposition that it belongs to the Southern class of languages, and on


the other in favor of the belief that it bears a great affinity to the principal of the Northern class, viz. the Sanscrit; yet a comparison of the alphabets to which we have just directed attention, with the Singhalese characters, exhibits a strong relationship between those alphabets and our own: whilst between the Nagari and the Singhalese there is an utter absence of that resemblance, except in the anuswara o, and the visarga ?, which are the same not only in those two, but in many of the Asiatic alphabets.

To the Singhalese language are (properly speaking) known 10 vowels and 20 consonants. The vowels are subdivided into die oreca light or short, and coo heavy, or long. The short vowels a, a, e, e, and @, are rendered long thus: , , (ore) en, ed, and : and the latter are considered distinct from the former. Each of the 20 consonants *, ,, 8, o, a, b, 09, ç, 8, 8, 2, @, cs, 0, e, ə, o, en, e, o, (some of which are otherwise expressed to produce corresponding aspirate sounds, but which being foreign to the Singhalese are not here reckoned), may be so inflected as to produce all the sounds of the vowels both long and short, with the exception of the last. Thus, take e. g. the first consonant s. It contains the sound of q. Render it sa and the inherent vowel sound is 9-render it os. and it is erender it on it is es-render it and it is a. So likewise the five long vowel sounds are produced by rendering a into 339, 3, O2 B), and noui.— The other consonants may in like manner be varied. But the last (Anusıcára) o, being immutable, and having no vowel sound inherent in it, cannot be uttered without the help of a vowel ; and it is therefore usually expressed in the alphabet with

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• The general use of this lingual sound (50) must here be explained, since there is another 3., having the same sound. Son is used after a

m; as som feet, Sungai Budha. But where the o or m is not in the same syllable with Son, the tal 3 is used; as go-8.6 gods and men, and 05.050 last name.

6 or


the first vowel—thus, qo. The 19 consonants thus produce 10 times 19, or 190 sounds. Add to this number the unchangeable consonant o, and the 10 vowels, and we then have 201, the total number of sounds which compose the Singhalese alphabet. These, aceording to the author of the Sidath' Sangarawa, are all the sounds which are necessary for a correct expression of the Singhalese; yet we find two letters or sounds exclusively Singhalese, omitted by the Gram marian in the above number. They are ou [having the sound of a in ‘and'] and its long sound opu [as in ‘ant']; and are the vowels by whose assistance the changeable 19 consonants are rendered w.l and er; and con, &c. Thus by adding ou and on, and twice 19 consonant sounds, which are formed by their assistance, to the 201 sounds to which we have already directed the reader's attention, we obtain the 241 vocal sounds in the Singhalese language.

All the sounds which are comprehended in the above number are used in the cognate languages, with the exception of ou, ou, e, , e, and, in the Sanscrit; and qi, qu, , and @, in the Pali.

quand on-Dr. MacVicar says, in reference to these vowels, “It must be here remarked, however, that in the Singhalese a vowel sound frequently occurs which must be attended to at the present time, though it will probably vanish, at least in writing, when the people who speak Singhalese rise in taste and intellect. I allude to that ugly guttural sound of a, of which w and ~ are the symbols, which is heard in the bleating of a sheep, and in some measure also when a person with an English accent utters in a melancholy manner, and very lengthened, the word Mary.Although it is to be observed that these vowel sounds, with which nouns and verbs were anciently inflected in different cases and moods, are now generally set aside by the substitution of other vowels, as gou (ou) Sc (see § 34), which is now uttered gos (q), or eam () now; @OW 0087

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3 sdoc@u (qu) (see Addenda $ 22), which is now written O6w81008.gador@s (q); yet we do not apprehend the result which Dr. MacVicar thinks is “probable.” For these vowel sounds are as much a necessary part of our language as a and op; and hardly can a dozen lines be written in Singhalese without introducing the sounds of Qu and ou. The Rev. B. Clough, in his Dictionary, gives 233 words wherein these vowels are initials. How many more may we not enumerate which he has omitted? How many more in which they occur as finals? and how many more still are there to be found in a language where the (19+4*=) 23 Singhalese consonants, not to mention divers others of a Sanscrit origin, are inflected with these vowels?

Nor indeed are they at all so harsh in sound as Dr. Mac Vicar imagines. We would have our readers bear in mind, that on does not, any more than the other five long vowels, necessarily and usually produce a “lengthened” “melancholy " sound. For all vowels have three quantities, short, long, and prolated; of which the two first alone are generally used in a language, the last being only found to represent the sounds of animals, as an Bha! the bleating of a sheep; ” or in uttering an extraordinary emotion of the mind, as ar 'cannot'? [when it would convey a contemptuous mode of reply or inquiry]; or for the sake of sustaining the voice in singing. And the ordinary short &, and long que are frequently met with in the English without producing either a “lengthened” (prolated), or “melancholy” sound; e. g. Qu in 'and,''cat'; and an in 'ant,' 'man,' stand,' &c, To suppose, therefore, that ou and an in the Singhalese will ere long vanish, is no more probable, than to suppose that their equivalent sounds in the English, will, in process of time, be similarly lost.

The four additional consonants here indicated are ę, o, @, and ,

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