|25 million (2015)|
|Latin script (Malagasy alphabet)|
Official language in
Malagasy (; Malagasy pronunciation: [mal?'?as?]) is an Austronesian language and the national language of Madagascar. Most people in Madagascar speak it as a first language, as do some people of Malagasy descent elsewhere.
The Malagasy language is the westernmost member of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family, a grouping that includes languages from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. In fact, Malagasy's distinctiveness from nearby African languages had already been noted by early scholars, such as the Dutch scholar Adriaan Reland in 1708.
Among all Austronesian languages, Dahl (1951) demonstrated that Malagasy and Ma'anyan - an East Barito language spoken in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia on the island of Borneo - were particularly closely related. The language also has apparent influence from early Old Malay. Furthermore, there appears to be a Bantu influence or substratum in Malagasy phonotactics (Dahl 1988).
|Proto-Austronesian, circa 4000 BC||*isa||*DuSa||*telu||*Sepat||*lima||*enem||*pitu||*walu||*Siwa||*puluq|
(incl. Indonesian and Malaysian)
Madagascar was first settled by Austronesian peoples from Maritime Southeast Asia from the Sunda Islands (Malay archipelago). As for their route, one possibility is that the Indonesian Austronesian came directly across the Indian Ocean from Java to Madagascar. It is likely that they went through the Maldives, where evidence of old Indonesian boat design and fishing technology persists until the present. The migrations continued along the first millennium, as confirmed by linguistic researchers who showed the close relationship between the Malagasy language and Old Malay and Old Javanese languages of this period. The Malagasy language originates from the Southeast Barito languages, and the Ma'anyan language is its closest relative, with numerous Malay and Javanese loanwords. It is known that Ma'anyan people were brought as labourers and slaves by Malay and Javanese people in their trading fleets, which reached Madagascar by ca. 50-500 AD. Far later, c. 1000, the original Austronesian settlers mixed with Bantus and Arabs, amongst others. There is evidence that the predecessors of the Malagasy dialects first arrived in the southern stretch of the east coast of Madagascar.
Malagasy is the principal language spoken on the island of Madagascar. It is also spoken by Malagasy communities on neighboring Indian Ocean islands such as Réunion, Mayotte and Mauritius. Expatriate Malagasy communities speaking the language also exist in Europe and North America, to a lesser extent, Belgium and Washington, DC in United States.
The Merina dialect of Malagasy is considered the national language of Madagascar. It is one of two official languages alongside French in the 2010 constitution put in place the Fourth Republic. Previously, under the 2007 constitution, Malagasy was one of three official languages alongside French and English. Malagasy is the language of instruction in all public schools through grade five for all subjects, and remains the language of instruction through high school for the subjects of history and Malagasy language.
There are two principal dialects of Malagasy; Eastern (including Merina) and Western (including Sakalava), with the isogloss running down the spine of the island, the south being western, and the central plateau and much of the north (apart from the very tip) being eastern. Ethnologue encodes 12 variants of Malagasy as distinct languages. They have about a 70% similarity in lexicon with the Merina dialect.
The Eastern dialects are:
The Western dialects are:
The two main dialects of Malagasy are easily distinguished by several phonological features.
Sakalava lost final nasal consonants, whereas Merina added a voiceless :
Final *t became -[tse] in the one but -[?] in the other:
Sakalava retains ancestral *li and *ti, whereas in Merina these become [di] (as in huditra 'skin' above) and [tsi]:
However, these last changes started in Borneo before the Malagasy arrived in Madagascar.
The language has a written literature going back presumably to the 15th century. When the French established Fort-Dauphin in the 17th century, they found an Arabico-Malagasy script in use, known as Sorabe ("large writings"). This Arabic Ajami script was mainly used for astrological and magical texts. The oldest known manuscript in that script is a short Malagasy-Dutch vocabulary from the early 17th century, which was first published in 1908 by Gabriel Ferrand though the script must have been introduced into the southeast area of Madagascar in the 15th century.
The first bilingual renderings of religious texts are those by Étienne de Flacourt, who also published the first dictionary of the language. Radama I, the first literate representative of the Merina monarchy, though extensively versed in the Arabico-Malagasy tradition, opted in 1823 for a Latin system derived by David Jones and invited the Protestant London Missionary Society to establish schools and churches. The first book to be printed in Malagasy using Latin characters was the Bible, which was translated into Malagasy in 1835 by British Protestant missionaries working in the highlands area of Madagascar.
The current Malagasy alphabet consists of 21 letters: a, b, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, v, y, z. The orthography maps rather straightforwardly to the phonemic inventory. The letters i and y both represent the /i/ sound (y is used word-finally, and i elsewhere), while o is pronounced /u/. The affricates // and // are written tr and dr, respectively, while /ts/ and /dz/ are written ts and j. The letter h is often silent. All other letters have essentially their IPA values. The letters c, q, u, w and x are all not used in native Malagasy words.
Mp and occasionally nt may begin a word, but they are pronounced /p, t/.
@ is used informally as a short form for amin'ny, which is a preposition followed by the definite form, meaning for instance with the.
|?||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||?||⟨?⟩ & ⟨?⟩||?||⟨?⟩ & ⟨⟩||⟨⟩ & ⟨⟩||?||?||?||?||?||⟨⟩ & ⟨⟩||?||?|
|a||b||d||e||f||g, ng||h||i, y||j||k||l||m||n||o||p||r||s||t||v||z||n?||dr||tr||ts||mp||nt||ai||ao||oa||oi||ia, ea||io, eo||ie|
Diacritics are not obligatory in standard Malagasy, except in the case where its absence leads to an ambiguity: tanàna ("city") must have the diacritic to discriminate itself from tanana ("hand"). They may however be used in the following ways:
After a stressed syllable, as at the end of most words and in the final two syllables of some, /a, u, i/ are reduced to [?, ?, ?]. (/i/ is spelled ⟨y⟩ in such cases, though in monosyllabic words like ny and vy, ⟨y⟩ is pronounced as a full [i].) Final /a/, and sometimes final syllables, are devoiced at the end of an utterance. /e/ and /o/ are never reduced or devoiced. The large number of reduced of vowels, and their effect on neighbouring consonants, give Malagasy a phonological quality not unlike that of Portuguese.
/o/ is marginal in Merina dialect, found in interjections and loan words, though it is also found in place names from other dialectical areas. /ai, au/ are diphthongs [ai?, au?] in careful speech, [e, o] or [?, ?] in more casual speech. /ai/, whichever way it is pronounced, affects following /k, ?/ as /i/ does.
|Nasal||m ⟨m⟩||n ⟨n⟩||? ⟨n?⟩|
|voiceless||p ⟨p⟩||t ⟨t⟩||ts ⟨ts⟩||⟨tr⟩||k ⟨k⟩|
|voiceless prenasalized||mp ⟨mp⟩||nt
|nts ⟨nts⟩||⟨ntr⟩||?k ⟨nk⟩|
|voiced||b ⟨b⟩||d ⟨d⟩||dz ⟨j⟩||⟨dr⟩||? ⟨g⟩|
|voiced prenasalized||mb ⟨mb⟩||nd
|Fricative||voiceless||f ⟨f⟩||s ⟨s⟩||h ⟨h⟩|
|voiced||v ⟨v⟩||z ⟨z⟩|
The alveolars /s ts z dz l/ are slightly palatalized. /ts, dz, s, z/ vary between [ts, dz, s, z] and [t?, d?, ?, ?], and are especially likely to be the latter when followed by unstressed /i/: Thus French malgache [mal?a?] 'Malagasy'. The velars /k ? ?k h/ are palatalized after /i/ (e.g. alika /alik?a/ 'dog'). /h/ is frequently elided in casual speech.
The reported postalveolar trilled affricates / / are sometimes simple stops, [? ? ], but they often have a rhotic release, [? ?]. It is not clear if they are actually trilled, or are simply non-sibilant affricates [? ?]. However, in another Austronesian language with a claimed trilled affricate, Fijian, trilling occurs but is rare, and the primary distinguishing feature is that it is postalveolar. The Malagasy sounds are frequently transcribed [ ], and that is the convention used in this article.
In reduplication, compounding, possessive and verbal constructions, and after nasals, fricatives and liquids ('spirants') become stops, as follows:
Words are generally accented on the penultimate syllable, unless the word ends in ka, tra and often na, in which case they are stressed on the antepenultimate syllable. In many dialects, unstressed vowels (except /e/) are devoiced, and in some cases almost completely elided; thus fanorona is pronounced [f'nurn].
Mamaky boky ny mpianatra
(reads book the student)
"The student reads the book"
Nividy ronono ho an'ny zaza ny vehivavy
(bought milk for the child the woman)
"The woman bought milk for the child"
Within phrases, Malagasy order is typical of head-initial languages: Malagasy has prepositions rather than postpositions (ho an'ny zaza "for the child"). Determiners precede the noun, while quantifiers, modifying adjective phrases, and relative clauses follow the noun (ny boky "the book(s)", ny boky mena "the red book(s)", ny boky rehetra "all the books", ny boky novakin'ny mpianatra "the book(s) read by the student(s)").
Somewhat unusually, demonstrative determiners are repeated both before and after the noun ity boky ity "this book" (lit. "this book this").
Verbs have syntactically three productive "voice" forms according to the thematic role they play in the sentence: the basic "agent focus" forms of the majority of Malagasy verbs, the derived "patient focus" forms used in "passive" constructions, and the derived "goal focus" forms used in constructions with focus on instrumentality. Thus
all mean "I wash my hands with soap" though focus is determined in each case by the sentence initial verb form and the sentence final (noun) argument: manasa "wash" and aho "I" in (1), sasako "wash" and ny tanako "my hands" in (2), anasako "wash" and ny savony "soap" in (3). There is no equivalent to the English preposition with in (3).
Verbs inflect for past, present, and future tense, where tense is marked by prefixes (e.g. mividy "buy", nividy "bought", hividy "will buy").
Malagasy has no grammatical gender, and nouns do not inflect for number. However, pronouns and demonstratives have distinct singular and plural forms (cf. io boky io "that book", ireto boky ireto "these books").
The following set of pronouns are the pronouns found in Standard Malagasy. Note: the nominative first person singular pronoun is divided between a long and short form; the long form occurs before a verb (focalized or topicalized subjects) and the short form after a verb. The genitive first and second pronouns are also divided between long and short forms; the long form occurs if the root ends with anything but [na], [ka*] or [tra]; if the stem ends with [na], the long form also occurs but [na] is deleted; and if the stem ends with [ka*] or [tra], the final vowel of the root is deleted and the short form occurs.
|1st person singular||izaho/aho||-ko/-o||ahy|
|2nd person singular||ianao||-nao/-ao||anao|
|3rd person singular||izy||-ny||antsy|
|1st person plural inclusive||isika||-ntsika/-tsika||antsika|
|1st person plural exclusive||izahay||-nay/-ay||anay|
|2nd person plural||ianareo||-nareo/-areo||anareo|
|3rd person plural||izy (ireo)||-ny||azy (ireo)|
Malagasy has a complex system of deixis (these, those, here, there, etc.), with seven degrees of distance as well as evidentiality across all seven. The evidential dimension is prototypically visible vs. non-visible referents; however, the non-visible forms may be used for visible referents which are only vaguely identified or have unclear boundaries, whereas the visible forms are used for non-visible referents when these are topical to the conversation.
Malagasy shares much of its basic vocabulary with the Ma'anyan language, a language from the region of the Barito River in southern Borneo. The Malagasy language also includes some borrowings from Arabic and Bantu languages (especially the Sabaki branch, from which most notably Swahili derives), and more recently from French and English.
The following samples are of the Merina dialect or Standard Malagasy, which is spoken in the capital of Madagascar and in the central highlands or "plateau", home of the Merina people. It is generally understood throughout the island.
|No||Tsia, (before a verb) Tsy||tsi, ts?|
|Hello! / How are you?||Manao ahoana!||mana'?on/mana'on|
|Hello! (rural areas)||Salama!||sa'lam|
|I'm fine, thank you.||Tsara fa misaotra.||'tsar fa m?'so:t|
|You're welcome||Tsisy fisaorana.||ts? 'mis? f?'so:ran|
|Excuse me||Azafady (with arm and hand pointing to the ground)||aza'fad?|
|Sorry||Miala tsiny||mjala 'tsin?|
|When?||Rahoviana?, (past tense) Oviana||ro:'vin/raw'vin|
|Where?||Aiza?, (past tense) Taiza||ajz|
|Why?||Fa maninona?||fa manin:|
|What's your name?||Iza ny anaranao?||iza njanara'naw|
|For||Ho an'ny / Ho an'i||wan:i|
|I don't understand.||Tsy mazava, Tsy azoko.||ts? mazav|
|Yes, I understand.||Eny, mazava, Eny, azoko||?en? mazav|
|Go away!||Mandehana!||man di an?|
|Can you help me please?||Afaka manampy ahy ve ianao azafady?||afaka manap? a ve enaw azafad?|
|Where are the toilets?||Aiza ny efitrano fivoahana?, Aiza ny V.C.?, Aiza ny toilet?||ajza njefit?an? fi'vwa:n|
|Do you speak English?||Mahay teny anglisy ve ianao?||mi'ten? ã?'?li? ve e'naw|
|I do not speak Malagasy.||Tsy mahay teny malagasy aho.||ts? maaj ten? mala'?as? a|
|I do not speak French.||Tsy mahay teny frantsay aho.||ts? maaj ten? frantsaj a|
|I am thirsty.||Mangetaheta aho.||maeta'eta|
|I am hungry.||Noana aho.||no:na|
|I am sick.||Marary aho.|
|I am tired.||Vizaka aho, Reraka aho||'vizaka, rerakau|
|I need to pee.||Poritra aho, Ny olombelona tsy akoho||purt?a|
|I would like to go to Antsirabe.||Te hankany Antsirabe aho.||tiku ankan? anjantsirabe|
|That's expensive!||Lafo be izany!||laf?'be zan?|
|I'm hungry for some rice.||Noana vary aho.||no:na varja|
|What can I do for you?||Inona no azoko atao ho anao?||in:a ?az?kwata? wanaw|
|I love you.||Tiako ianao.||tikwena?|
|eleven||iraika ambin'ny folo||rajk?ambeful?|
|twelve||roa ambin'ny folo||rumbeful?|
|ten thousand||iray alina||rajal|
|one hundred thousand||iray hetsy||rajets?|
|one million||iray tapitrisa||rajtapt?is|
|one billion||iray lavitrisa||rajlavt?is|
|3,568,942||roa amby efapolo sy sivin-jato sy valo arivo sy enina alina sy dimy hetsy sy telo tapitrisa||rumbefapul? s?sivdzat? s?valoriv? s?en:al s?dimjets? s?telutapit?is|
The first dictionary of the language is Étienne de Flacourt's Dictionnaire de la langue de Madagascar published in 1658 though earlier glossaries written in Arabico-Malagasy script exist. A later Vocabulaire Anglais-Malagasy was published in 1729. An 892-page Malagasy-English dictionary was published by James Richardson of the London Missionary Society in 1885, available as a reprint; however, this dictionary includes archaic terminology and definitions. Whereas later works have been of lesser size, several have been updated to reflect the evolution and progress of the language, including a more modern, bilingual frequency dictionary based on a corpus of over 5 million Malagasy words.