Languages of Sri Lanka

Languages of Sri Lanka

Languages of Sri Lanka
A road sign to Adam's Peak in Sinhala, Tamil and English
Official languages Sinhala, Tamil
Main foreign languages English
Sign languages multiple sign languages

Several languages are spoken in Sri Lanka within the Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Austronesian families. Sri Lanka accords official status to Sinhala and Tamil. The languages spoken on the island nation are deeply influenced by the languages of neighbouring India, the Maldives and Malaysia. Arab settlers and the colonial powers of Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain have also influenced the development of modern languages in Sri Lanka.


  • Languages 1
  • Languages of foreign influence 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


The Sinhala language is spoken by the Sinhalese people, who constitute approximately 74% of the national population and total about 13 million. It utilizes the Sinhala abugida script, which is derived from the ancient Brahmi script. The Rodiya language, a dialect of Sinhala, is spoken by the low-caste community of chamodi veddhas. The Veddah peoples, totaling barely 2500,[1] speak a distinct language, possibly a creolized form of an earlier indigenous language. The Tamil language is spoken by Sri Lankan Tamils, as well as by Tamil migrants from the neighboring Indian state of Tamil Nadu and by most Sri Lankan Moors. Tamil speakers number around 4.7 million. There are more than 50,000 speakers of the Sri Lankan Creole Malay language, which is strongly influenced by the Malay language.

Languages of foreign influence

English, Sinhala and Tamil languages on a war grave memorial plate in Kandy.
(click to see full view of memorial plate)

English in Sri Lanka is fluently spoken by approximately 10%[2] of the population, and widely used for official and commercial purposes, it is the native language of approximately 74,000 people, mainly in urban areas. Sri Lankan peoples of Portuguese descent, numbering approximately 30,000,[3] speak the Sri Lankan Portuguese creole language. The Muslim community in Sri Lanka widely uses Arabic for religious purposes. Until recently the Arwi language a fusion of Arabic and Tamil.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Sri Lanka - language". Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Indo-Portuguese at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)

External links

  • Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration, Sri Lanka
  • Department of Official Languages, Sri Lanka
  • Ethnologue report for Sri Lanka
  • Sri Lanka Country Studies