Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Language Profile: Malagasy

Today we're taking a brief look at Malagasy, the national language of Madagascar. It is one of two official languages in the country alongside French. It is also a member of the Austronesian language family which includes Malay, Tagalog, Cebuano, and Javanese as well.

Ring-tailed lemurs can only be found in Madagascar.
Malagasy is the native language of most people in Madagascar. In primary schools it is used as the language of instruction for all subjects, while it is also used in several subjects in high school. The language is also spoken by Malagasy communities around the world, including the islands of Réunion and Comoros in the Indian Ocean.

There are numerous dialects of Malagasy, including several that are classified by the Ethnologue as completely distinct languages. The two main dialects of the language are called Merina and Sakalava, and differ mainly in their phonological aspects. Malagasy also contains loanwords from Arabic and the Bantu languages.

A Latin-based alphabet is used to write Malagasy. It is comprised of 21 letters, and excludes the letters c, q, u, w, and x found in the English alphabet. Several diacritic marks including the grave and acute accents, circumflex, trema, and tilde are used in the language, but are not always written.