Confusingly, in Sinhalese words many characters “a” are pronounced like a short “e”. For example, the temple name Lankatilaka is pronounced like “Lanketileke”, stressed on the first syllable. The neighbouring temple Gadaladeniya is pronounced “Gadeledeniye”. Usually, only the short “a” of the first syllable and of closed syllabley (consonant-vowel-consonant) and after an “h” and sometimes after an “r” is pronounced like a Latin “a” in “Roma” or an English “a” in “arms”. Other written “a” characters are spoken like an “e” in “west”.
Sometimes names end in an “e”, for example “Gunatilleke”. You will also find a different spelling, namely “Gunatilleka”, but only scarcely. The two words are pronounced equally with an “e” at the end. However, they have a slightly different meaning. The much more common “Gunatilleke” is a family name, whereas “Gunatilleka” usually is part of a personal name. By the way, there are many exceptions: “Gunatalika” with only one “l” is usually a family name.
Even more confusing is this: Some personal male and female names have the same spelling but different pronunciations. For example “Thushara” spoken with an “a” at the end is a female name, but pronounced like “Thusare”, the same “Thusara” is much more common male name. Usually females of this name are called “Thusari”, but, as already mentioned, “Thusara” with an emphasized “a” like in “arm” at the end is a female name, too.
But don’t worry: Sinhalese people know that foreigners have difficulties pronouncing Sinhalese names of persons and locations. So usually a male Thusara will not be insulted if you call him “ThusarA” instead of “Thusare”.
The Sinhalese spelling would be less confusing than the English transcription. The Sinhalese fonts are a mixture of character and syllable. This is one reason, why English transcriptions cannot be 100% adequate.
all Sri Lanka blog articles
by region, by topic
and A-Z here...