Voice Over Sydney: Malagasy is spoken on the island of Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa. Despite its close proximity to Africa, however, Malagasy is not a member of any African language family. Rather, it is a group of closely related varieties representing the westernmost extension of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. Its closest relative outside of Madagascar is Ma’anyan in southeast Borneo. The indigenous people of Madagascar, who make up some 36 tribes and are of mixed Indonesian and African stock, are also known as Malagasy.
Africans and Indonesians reached the island of Madagascar in about the 5th century AD. Indonesians most probably came from southeast Borneo where close relatives of Malagasy, such as Ma’anyan, are still spoken today. The Malagasy immigrants came in contact with settlers from the east coast of Africa who spoke Bantu languages. As a result, Malagasy exhibits Bantu influence in its sound system and vocabulary. Indonesian immigration continuing until the 15th century. By the beginning of the 17th century there were a number of small Malagasy kingdoms. At the end of the 18th century, the Merina people conquered the other kingdoms on the island. In the 19th century, European missionaries codified and recorded the main Merina dialect on which the present standard dialect is based.
Voice Over Sydney: Malagasy Language Status
Malagasy is one of the official languages of Madagascar which became the Malagasy Republic in 1960. The other official language is French. The language is spoken by most of the island’s 22 million inhabitants. It is also spoken in the Comoros and Réunion islands east of Madagascar. During the French colonization of Madagascar, French became the dominant language of the island, while Malagasy was relegated to an inferior position. Today, French remains important, largely because of its international status and the fact that most of Malagasy’s elite has been educated in French. Both Malagasy and French are used in everyday communication, official government publications, in the media, and in education. Many residents of urban centers are bilingual in Malagasy and French.
Voice Over Sydney: Malagasy Language Dialects
Ethnologue lists a dozen varieties of Malagasy. There are two principal dialect groups: eastern, and western. The geographic division between the two runs along the spine of the island. The Merina dialect is considered the national language of Madagascar. The dialects are characterized by a high degree of lexical similarity.