Sinhalese - Orientation

Identification. The Sinhalese speak the Sinhala language, live in the southwestern portion of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) , and are predominantly of the Theravada Buddhist faith. The name derives from the term for "dwelling of lions," an allusion to the mythical founder, an Indian princess who mated with a lion.

Location. Sri Lanka is located between 5°55′ and 9°51′ N and 79°41′ and 81°5.3′ E. Sinhalese traditionally make their homes in the wet zone of the central, south, and west Provinces of Sri Lanka, where they are divided into two regional subgroups, the Kandyan Sinhalese of the central highlands, and the Low Country Sinhalese of the maritime provinces. With the rise of government-sponsored internal colonization projects after 1945, considerable internal migration has occurred to the central and northeastern dry zone.

Demography. In 1989 the population of Sri Lanka was estimated as 17,541,000. The population density averages approximately 252 persons per square kilometer and the Population is growing at the rate of 1.8 percent per year. Sinhalese constitute 75 percent of the population of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's principal ethnic minority, the Sri Lanka Tamils, comprise an additional 11 percent, while the Sri Lanka Moors, a Tamil-speaking Muslim group, constitute 6.5 percent. Other minorities include the so-called Indian Tamils, descendants of tea plantation workers imported by the British, who comprise 8 percent, and small communities of Malays and Europeans.

Linguistic Affiliation. Sinhala is an Indo-European Language of the Indo-Aryan Group and was brought to Sri Lanka by North Indian settlers in approximately 500 B . C . subsequently Sinhala evolved in isolation from its North Indian origins but in close proximity with the Dravidian tongues of southern India, which gave it a distinct character as early as the third century B . C .

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