What is the correct usage, හෙළ or හෙල in words like heLAbasa?
Posted on April 18th, 2011

Chandre Dharmawaradana

The ” correct” usage of a word or  a language is ultimately dictated by the majority usage prevalent in the language. However, even then one should look at  what the learned have said to find out what is the “accepted way”. 

This note is written in the hope that those interested in the Sinhala language would have some comments on the following. What is said below are merely my personal views, and hence they are an invitation for discussion and correction.
Let me at the outset say that many years ago I leaned towards  the form ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦, but
today  I use the form ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¶½ !

We find that both Mooddhaja (Linguals) Layanna , ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦, and the danthaja ( dentals)  layanna  ƒÆ’‚ ¶½ are used by modern writers who use various  forms like:
ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¶½, ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦, ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ” -â„¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ¶½, ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ” -â„¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦, ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ” -â„¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ¶”…¡ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ¶½,  and  also  ƒÆ’‚ ¶½ƒÆ’‚ ¶”…¡ƒÆ’‚ ¶ƒ…‚¡ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¡‚¬, ƒÆ’‚ ¶¯ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ¶½, ƒÆ’‚ ¶¯ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦ etc., but fortunately, no one writes ” ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦ƒÆ’‚ ¶”…¡ƒÆ’‚ ¶ƒ…‚¡ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¡‚¬” as far as I know !!!

What can we say about this? It is usually said that one should look at the source languages and the etymology of the words to understand their correct spelling. Unfortunately, modern Sanskrit uses only the danthaja  form ƒÆ’‚ ¶½, and hence one needs to go to Old Sanskrit to resolve the problem —  that is,  now one has to look at various forms of old Prakrit, Pali, Elu  and renderings of early Sanskrit.  It is not enough to look at what some dictionary says  because dictionary writers may not have spent enough time thinking about it!  We need a closer look at the etymology or “Nishpanna”.

1. One view is that the word “Hela” came from the word “Sinhala”, derived from Sinha,  “ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ” -â„¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ¶”…¡ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾” and “ƒÆ’‚ ¶½”,  or “slayer”, harking back to the story of Sinhabahu and Vijaya  (irrespective of the historicity or not of the story, if a belief exists, that is a sufficient anthroplogical basis ).  If the origin of the word is indeed from “Lion slayer”,   the danthaja form would be expected. Thus the sinhalese  form  (but not the Elu) should be ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ” -â„¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ¶”…¡ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ¶½, and hence, hela is an abbriviation of ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ” -â„¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ¶”…¡ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ¶½ ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ¶½ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¶½.
This suggests that the danthaja form “ƒÆ’‚ ¶½”,  should be used.

2. On the other hand, since the Elu and Pali forms are ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ” -â„¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦ ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘  ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦. This suggests that the moordhaja  form should be used. The Elu (and Pali) form may have arisen from Si ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ” -â„¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ (=Lion), haLa, i.e, ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦ƒÆ’‚ ¶± ƒÆ’‚ ¶½ƒÆ’‚ ¶¯ or “helooo”, and again seems to hark back to the story of slaying the lion.  In  “heloo” the Moordhaja ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦ is the accepted standard from.

3. Another view is that the word hela has NOT originated from ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ” -â„¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ¶”…¡ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ¶½ or ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ” -â„¢ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦,
but from Lanka. In Parkrit (ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‚ Pali, Sanskrit), words where a gaathraakshara (consonant) like L or R is the begining letter, it is common to add a praanakashar (vowel) like e, i or at least an he or ha or hi before the consonant. Thus rahath is found as arhath or arhant in the source languages. The word welamba (mare) becomes elamba in prakrit colloquial  forms.

This same rule is also mentioned in the Tamil grammar Tolkappian, and so Lanka ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘  Ilankai, ƒÆ’‚ ®”‚¡ƒÆ’‚ ®²ƒÆ’‚ ®ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¯ƒÆ’‚ ®”‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¯ƒ”¹- , but I don’t think it is mentioned in the Sidath Sangara.  However, within this view, Lanka becomes Elanka, or Helanka. The shortening of Helanka ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ Hela, ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¶½ is, according to this view,  the origin of Hela. Thus, it is quite ironic that Ilankai   ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘   Ilan ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘   Eelam  comes from the same etymological roots.  [ In fact, many so-called original Tamil words turn out to have roots in old (Rig Veda) Sanskrit – a fact ignored or inadequately researched by some modern  writers interested in pushing ethnicities. See the incorrect Tamil etymology in, e.g., footnote 359 of Kathigesu  Indrapala’s The evolution of an ethnic identity ].

We should note that Lanka is the oldest recorded name given to this island. Dr. Susantha Goonatilleke’s recent book has a detailed discussion of the origin of the  name of Sri Lanka. The form ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦ƒÆ’‚ ¶”…¡ƒÆ’‚ ¶ƒ…‚¡ƒÆ’‚ · does not occur anywahere as far as we know. Both Pali and Sanskrit forms use the danthja layanna.

It should also be added that at one time Prof. D. V. A. S. Amarasekera (Colomo University maths Prof.) claimed that hela had some thing to do with the Greek “Hela”. That has no foundation at all.

These arguments, based on the origin of Hella from Lanka, also suggest that the correct way to write Hela is with a danthaja L, i.e., ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¶½.

4. The word “damila”, written “ƒÆ’‚ ¶¯ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦” is I think unequivocally accepted to have originated from  ƒÆ’‚ ¶¯ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚¡ƒÆ’‚ ¶© ( ƒÆ’‚¢”‚  ƒÆ’‚ ¶¯ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ “ƒÆ’‚ ¶»ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ¶© ), where a hard letter D, ƒÆ’‚ ¶©, is found in the source language. Then it is custormary to replace the hard D with a moordhaja  ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦
in the Elu form and, subsequently in Sinhala. Hence these arguments show that damila, or demala, should be written as “ƒÆ’‚ ¶¯ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦” or  “ƒÆ’‚ ¶¯ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦”, if one wants to be picky about ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦ and ƒÆ’‚ ¶½ .


Hence, most of the arguments seem to favour the danthaja layanna in writing hela,
i.e., ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¶½, and similarly ƒÆ’‚ ¶½ƒÆ’‚ ¶”…¡ƒÆ’‚ ¶ƒ…‚¡ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¡‚¬ has a danthaja laynna. On the other hand,  “ƒÆ’‚ ¶¯ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·”‚¦” has to have a moordhaja layanna. Or, should we follow modern sanskrit and just use the danthaja layanna everwhere?

Chandre Dharmawaradana

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