Title: Lisbon to Colombo – A study of Portuguese sounding words in Sinhala Language
Author: Sujeeva Nugawila
Publisher: Author Publication January, 2016
A book titled Lisbon to Colombo and subtitled – A study of Portuguese sounding words in Sinhala Language written by Sujeewa Nugawila was released recently. This reviewer could find an admonition for the author Sujeewa Nugawila in the introduction of the book ‘Lisbon to Colombo’. “The writer cannot confirm or prove that all words documented are totally relevant and accurate although almost every word listed has a relative if not a similar sounding present day Sinhala word in use, a connected meaning or even a simile.”
The writer has culled out from fourteen subjects or categories of Portuguese sounding words which are found as chapters of his book. They are; People, behaviour, attire, culinary, health, other species, war household items, civil, mechanical, nature, religions, superstition, trade, areas and swear slang.
The subject of the author is indeed an epoch-making, novel concept. Though the book is titled ‘Lisbon to Colombo’, the book has dealt with ‘a study of Portuguese sounding words in the Sinhala language’. Writer Nugawila has also placed on record in his introduction that: “It is further speculated in recent times that over 1000 Portuguese words have been incorporated into the Sinhala language, which however has not officially been confirmed. The writer however has based his narration on over 2000 words.”
What’s noteworthy is that the word ‘Aiyo’ – which is believed to have its roots in Sinhala and Tamil languages and has recently gone into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – has similar roots in the Portuguese language. Hence the author Sujeewa Nugawila states in page 21 of his book: “The Sinhalese word ‘aiyoe’ is frequently used in Sinhala as an exclamation when expressing disappointment and sadness. The Portuguese word ‘ai’ means alas!”
Apart from this, the Sinhala word ‘Carapotta’, was a query raised by Tissa Devendra in the JRAS, SL 1997 volume in the ‘notes and queries section at page 72 thus; “Did Lourenco’s ship carry stowaways?”
Devendra states that when he was reading a travel book “Brazilian Adventure by Peter Flaming (Jonathan Cape 1933)” he serendipitously discovered that Portuguese speaking Brazilians called a certain insect carapatos, where Emeritus Professor Vini Vitharana replied in the negative. But Abraham Mendis Gunasekara in 1892 has stated in his ‘Comprehensive Grammar of the Sinhalese Language’ that it was derived from the Tamil word karappanpuchchi. Sujeeva Nugawila states in Chapter 6 ‘Other species’, page 97 that the Portuguese word carapoto/barata means tick, insect or roach. Hence the Sinhala word Carapotta has received a salutary answer to its origins.
The reviewer has found several lapses in the book. First, on page 4 the author states: “By manifest of Portuguese Royal decree, females were prohibited from sailing while sailors were not dissuaded from finding local wives and willing lovers at their ports of call.”
Prof. Tikiri Abeysinghe in his ‘Portuguese Regimentos in Sri Lanka’ published by National Archives cites several instances where batches of Portuguese orphan women who were sent to the East for the Portuguese sailors and soldiers to marry them.
Secondly, on page 137 of the book ‘Parakramabahu’ evidently Parakramabahu the Great or I is referred to as a seventh Century ruler. It is 1153 to 1186 AD, the Polonnaruwa period, i.e. the 10th century is where this king ruled.
Thirdly, on page 238, of the book, no 2 stamp is not of Colombo Fort it is undoubtedly Barreto de Resende’s map circa 1640 in colour on Galle Fort found among the Sloane Mss in the British Museum. The easiest way to identify same is the word “GVALE” found on the map. Vide: F H de Vos in JDBU Volume 2. ‘R.L Brohier’s Links between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands’ 1978 on page 44. A similar black and white but not an identical map is of Anthonio Bocaro found in a posthumously published article of Prof Tikiri Abhaysinghe was introduced by G. P. S. Haris de Silva in JRASSL.
Fourthly, on page 237 of his book Nugawila states that “Knox’s experiences here are said to have influenced the storyline of Daniel Defoe’s acclaimed novel ‘Robinson Crusoe’ in 1719. Defoe’s thoughts may have been influenced by the hospitality and interaction of the aborigines ‘Vedda’ community to a disoriented Portuguese soldier.” I invite the author Sujeewa Nugawila to read Dr. Catherine Frank’s CRUSOE. Dr. Frank has proved beyond doubt that Knox’s book has not influenced Defoe for his novel on “Robinson Crusoe”. However the next lines of Nugawila are open for discussion to ascertain whether Defoe has had such an interaction?
This reviewer finds these words which are derived from the Portuguese not enlisted in your book. They are: Lister in Sinhalese Leestaraya, Buona vista i.e. magnificent view (Galle). Topah in Sinhalese Tuppahi, Bico in Sinhalese Bikkuwa, Komisan Kereema (confession) Sankiristian Kamaraya, Cabouco or Cavouco in Sinhalese Cabook.
Finally this reviewer is reminded of another article by Prof. K. N. O. Dharmadasa titled: ‘The Impact of Portuguese on the Sinhala Language’ on page 199 of the book titled: “The Portuguese in the Orient” An ICES publication 2010 and more recently Shihan de Silva Wijayaratne. This reviewer does not find these books, articles, papers enlisted in this book.
This reviewer wishes to comment on three accounts found in your book. They are:
Firstly, your account on the ‘Buruande’ page 123 of your book. It is well-known that this bed was introduced by the Boer prisoners’ of war. Hence ‘Boer’s bed’ became Buruande in Sinhaliese. The writer Sujeewa Nugawila attempts to draw out roots from the Portuguese word ‘berco’ and therefore has no relevance or pertinence. This writer is of the fervent opinion that it is not tenable or an authentic account.
Secondly, on page 140 of your book the account on the Portuguese inscription found in at the Sankapala Viharaya Ratnapura together with the photograph of the carving on the Portuguese officer and Sinhala warrior found on page 108 of your book.
J. P. Lewis in his magnum opus on Tombstones on page 286 quotes William Skeen on ‘Adams Peak’ thus: “The sculpture was no doubt executed in Europe by Royal or Vice-Regal command and sent hitherto to do honour to the soldier whose valorous deed it commemorated.”
Lewis also quotes Donald Ferguson’s transcript and translation published in JRAS CB Vol XVI (Vide: Lewis at P287). The translation clearly stated that the Portuguese officer for 23 (?) years in India for 15(?) years who served as a captain. The officer is referred to as a person ‘who conquered kings of Jaffna and the Sinhalese kings.’ The officer who conquered is referred in the inscription as ‘Simaō Pinhaō’. Lewis also rules out the possibility of the Sinhalese warrior as Kuruwita Bandara or Kuruwiti Ralahami ‘who was of the title of the renegade Antonio Barreto’, ‘Simaō Pinhaō was certainly dead by that time’. So as you say it is not ‘rumored to be a description of the Portuguese officer ‘categorically it is referred to a Portuguese captain according to the inscription found there-in. The reviewer is of the view this description cannot be accounted as ‘a half caste Portuguese turned traitor being publicly executed for his duplicity by the same officer’ as you say, it is a sheer pretentious sign evoking a sense of fear to the public that may be even as ‘a warning to the public’ as you say.
But Sir Paul E. Pieris in his ‘Ceylon Portuguese Era volume I (1913) 1992 (on P 404 f.n.3) Tisara Publications refers to the article cited by Lewis Supra written by Donald W. Ferguson and has stated that ‘he was however mistaken as to the identity of the Sinhalese warrior, whose name is still remembered in local tradition’. Facing page 406 of the same book the caption he carries to the same carving referred to by Sujeewa Nugawila is as ‘Pinhao and Ratneka Mudiyanse’ so it is evident that Sir Paul E. Peiris view has cleared out the doubts that hitherto existed. But he has not supported this local tradition through any historical authoritative text.
Thirdly, Prof CR de Silva’s article: ‘First visit of the Portuguese 1505 or 1506’ in the light of the letter published in an old pamphlet by Juan Augur originally published in Salomanca (Spain) in September 1512 which is not referred to in your book. Should it be taken as cum granosalus or with a pinch of salt.
This reviewer advocates further the following three books for your kind perusal. They are:
01: Rev. John Callaway’s Portuguese – English Dictionary 1818 Wesleyan mission publication.
02): W. B. Fox’s A Dictionary in the Sinhalese, Portuguese and English Languages.
03): William Buckley Fox – A Compendium of the Ceylon Portuguese Language CLR (3rd series) Vol IV No. 7, January 1936 pages 281 to 292.
This reviewer has not traced the last two books.
My acquaintance with the Ferreira family of Galle all who are no more- all whom were Portuguese burgher descendants- from Anchorage of Mahamodera – all were Aloysians like the reviewer– Anton and the two twin brothers Ben and Eric made me learn a few lines from their fragments of the original mother tongue was to be. That is: KUME BEBE FUJE MARE i.e. EAT DRINK F…… AND DIE – lingers in my memory with a sense of nostalgia.
Sujeewa Nugawila’s ‘Lisbon to Colombo’ has opened the gateway and sought to trail the blaze to ascertain the Portuguese sounding words in Sinhala Language. In other words this is a book on philology, lexicography and phonetics, which compels us to re-examine or re-encounter the roots of certain words used in the Sinhala language in the light of evidence that could be in support to believe or to disbelieve same.
Finally this reviewer is reminded of an ancient maxim thus: “The initiation of all wise or noble things comes and must come, from individuals, generally at first from some individual”. This reviewer dares to say that the author of “Lisbon to Colombo” Sujeewa Nugawila is one such individual.