Sinhala (/ˈsɪnhələ, ˈsɪŋələ/ SIN-hə-lə, SING-ə-lə; සිංහල, siṁhala, [ˈsiŋɦələ]), also known as Sinhalese, is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken by the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka, who make up the largest ethnic group on the island, numbering about 16 million. Sinhala is also spoken as the first language by other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, totalling about 4 million. Sinhala is written using the Sinhala script, which is one of the Brahmic scripts, a descendant of the ancient Indian Brahmi script closely related to the Kadamba script.
Sinhala is one of the official and national languages of Sri Lanka. Sinhala, along with Pali, played a major role in the development of Theravada Buddhist literature.
The oldest Sinhalese Prakrit inscriptions found are from the third to second century BCE following the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, the oldest extant literary works date from the ninth century. The closest relative of Sinhala is the Maldivian language. Sinhala has two main varieties – written and spoken, and is a great example of the linguistic phenomenon known as diglossia.