Malagasy - Malagasy Language
Classification: Malagasy belongs to the group of Bornean languages which in turn belongs to the Austronesian family. The language most similar to Malagasy is the Ma'anyan, spoken in southern Borneo. The seemingly paradoxical fact that the language of Madagascar is of Malay-Polynesian origin is due to the fact that the first settlers of Madagascar arrived on the island by sea from Indonesia, taking their language and culture there.
Phonology: Malagasy words are usually accentuated in the penultimate syllable, except for those ending in "ka", "tra" or "na", which are accentuated in the penultimate syllable. The unstressed vowels are often elided, so malagasy sounds similar to the French transcription "Malagasy". Malagasy has only four vowel sounds, corresponding to the vowels / a /, / e /, / i / and / u / of the Spanish. There is, therefore, no sound / o /.
Writing: The Malagasy language has a written literature that probably dates back to the 15th century. When the French settled in Fort-Dauphin in the seventeenth century, they found an Arabic alphabet -malgache in use, known as the Sobe alphabet (literally, "large writing"), which has raised a hypothesis about the existence of another type of previous alphabet, in smaller characters, believed to be of Indian origin, as widely used in Southeast Asia.
The oldest known manuscript in the alphabet Sora-be is a small Malagasy-Dutch vocabulary from the 17th century, first published in 1908 by Gabriel Ferrand, although the alphabet seems to have been introduced in the southeast of Madagascar from the 15th century onwards. Radama I, the first representative alphabetized of the Merina monarchy unifying the Kingdom of Madagascar in the nineteenth century, although widely versed in the Arabic-Malagasy tradition, three opted for literacy in Latin characters and invited the Protestants of Missionary Society of London to found schools and churches.
The current Malagasy spelling does not use all the letters of the Latin alphabet. Among the vowels, there are only four: a, e, i, o. The latter is pronounced as the "u" Castilian, while the letter "u" is not used. The consonants "c", "q", "w" and "x" are also not used.
Grammar: Malagasy is one of the few languages in the world in which sentences follow the order "verb + object + subject" (VOS).
Lexicon: Along with its Malayan-Polynesian lexical base, Malagasy has many words of Bantu origin, especially Swahili, due to immigration in past centuries of speakers of these languages, as well as trade contacts with the east coast of Africa. These commercial contacts are also the cause of the existence of many words of Arabic origin.
In contemporary times the language has taken many words from French and, in recent years, also from English.
Dialectology: There are different dialectal classifications. A classification distinguishes eleven main dialects of the Madagascan, the bushi, spoken in Mayotte, and other ten on the island of Madagascar: merino, spoken in the plateau interior, antankarana, bara, Northern Betsimisaraka, Southern betsimisarana, Masikoro, sakalava, Tandroy -mahafaly, tanosy and tsimihety.
In fact, the mutual intelligibility between different dialectal forms is restricted, so that Malagasy can also be considered as a group of related languages, rather than as a single language. In this sense, the Malagasy situation is similar to that of languages such as Chinese or Euskera, considered as unique languages due to cultural identity and geographic contiguity, despite the enormous differences shown by their "dialects".
Malagasy dialects can be grouped into two main areas: eastern Malagasy, which includes merina (the variety on which standard Malagasy is based) and western Malagasy, one of whose main varieties is Sakalava. These two groups are separated by an isoglosa that runs along the spine of the island, the south having western varieties and having the central plateau and most of the north (leaving aside the extreme tip) oriental varieties. Ethnologue distinguishes a dozen Malagasy varieties as different languages. They have a 70% lexical similarity with the Merino dialect on which the official language is based.