More precisely, it is the Sinhala script rather than the language itself that has been named as one of the world’s 16 most creative alphabets among today’s functioning languages, some of them among the oldest known to mankind.
The individual responsible for gaining the Sinhala alphabet this eminence among the written scripts of the world is J.B. Disanayaka, a former Professor of Sinhala at the University of Colombo who personally appeared before the international jury to make an irrefutable case for placing the Sinhala alphabet among the world’s most creative ones.
The latest Sinhala alphabet is that which has been approved by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and consists of 61 letters (though only 58 are in use), a process in which Disanayaka played a leading role at a conference in Greece.
So what is that makes the Sinhala script unique and deserving of a place among the most creative alphabets in the world?
Disanayaka in presenting the case in Seoul identified two unique features.
• existence of 2 unique vowel characters
• existence of 5 unique consonant characters
As for the five consonant letters, they are not found in any other Indo-European or Dravidian language. But they are found in the Maldivian language Divehi which is an off-shoot of the Old Sinhala.
The significance of the evolution of the Sinhala script is that it has a complete set of visual symbols to represent sounds.
Apart from the fact that Sinhala has created its own alphabet, it has helped the evolution of other languages such as Thai.
It happened in the 11th century during the Sukhothai period when Sri Lankan Buddhist monks resident in the then Thai capital city inspired the creation of the Thai script by King Ramkhamhaeng.
It seems a curious coincidence that the Sri Lanka ambassador to Thailand is also accredited to Cambodia and Laos for the languages of all four countries are now recognized as among the most creative in the world.