Dhivehi language

Dhivehi language

Overview
Maldivian is an Indo-Aryan language
Indo-Aryan languages
The Indo-Aryan languages constitutes a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family...

 predominantly spoken by about 350,000 people in the Maldives
Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

 where it is the national language. It is also the first language
First language
A first language is the language a person has learned from birth or within the critical period, or that a person speaks the best and so is often the basis for sociolinguistic identity...

 of nearly 10,000 people in the island of Minicoy
Minicoy
Minicoy, locally known as Maliku is a census town in the Indian union territory of Lakshadweep and was formerly a part of Maldive Islands.-Etymology:...

 in the Union territory of Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep , formerly known as the Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands, is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 km off the coast of the South West Indian state of Kerala...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 where the Mahl dialect of the Maldivian language is spoken.

The major dialects of Maldividian are Malé, Huvadhu, Mulaku, Addu, Haddhunmathee and Maliku.
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Encyclopedia
Maldivian is an Indo-Aryan language
Indo-Aryan languages
The Indo-Aryan languages constitutes a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family...

 predominantly spoken by about 350,000 people in the Maldives
Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

 where it is the national language. It is also the first language
First language
A first language is the language a person has learned from birth or within the critical period, or that a person speaks the best and so is often the basis for sociolinguistic identity...

 of nearly 10,000 people in the island of Minicoy
Minicoy
Minicoy, locally known as Maliku is a census town in the Indian union territory of Lakshadweep and was formerly a part of Maldive Islands.-Etymology:...

 in the Union territory of Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep , formerly known as the Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands, is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 km off the coast of the South West Indian state of Kerala...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 where the Mahl dialect of the Maldivian language is spoken.

The major dialects of Maldividian are Malé, Huvadhu, Mulaku, Addu, Haddhunmathee and Maliku. The standard form of Maldivian is considered Malé, which is spoken in the Maldivian capital of the same name
Malé
Malé , is the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll . It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island, from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where...

. The Maliku dialect spoken in Minicoy is officially referred as Mahl by the Lakshadweep administration. This has been adopted by many authors when referring to Maldivian spoken in Minicoy.

Maldivian is closely related to the Sinhala language. Many languages have influenced the development of the Maldivian language through the ages, most importantly Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

. Others include French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

, Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

, and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. There are some Dravidian influences too. The English words atoll
Atoll
An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.- Usage :The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi word atholhu OED...

 (a ring of coral islands or reefs) and doni (a vessel for inter-atoll navigation) are anglicized forms of the Dhivehi words Atoḷu and Dōni.

Etymology


The origin of the word "Dhivehi" is Dhiv+vehi meaning Islanders' while bas means language. So Dhivehi-bas means Islanders' language. H. C. P. Bell was one of the first transliterators of this tongue. Bell called the language Divehi, which was consistent with Maldives, the name of the country, for the -dives of Maldives and the word Divehi have the same root, Sanskrit dvīpa "island". Wilhelm Geiger
Wilhelm Geiger
Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger was a German Orientalist, in the fields of Indian and Iranian languages. He was known as a specialist in Pali, Sinhala language and the Dhivehi language of the Maldives.-Life:...

 was a German linguist who undertook the first research on Dhivehi linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 in the early 20th century. He too called the language Divehi, without an "h". An "h
H
H .) is the eighth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:The Semitic letter ⟨ח⟩ most likely represented the voiceless pharyngeal fricative . The form of the letter probably stood for a fence or posts....

" was added to the name of the language in 1976, when a semi-official Latin transliteration
Malé Latin
Dhivehi Latin or Maldivian Latin, known colloquially as Malé Latin or Nasiri Latin, is a Latin Dhivehi alphabet briefly mandated in the Maldives from 1976, but the country reverted to the native Tāna and Arabic alphabets in 1978...

 was developed for the Dhivehi language. Today the spelling with the h
H
H .) is the eighth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:The Semitic letter ⟨ח⟩ most likely represented the voiceless pharyngeal fricative . The form of the letter probably stood for a fence or posts....

is the common-usage as well as the official spelling in the Maldives.

Origin


Dhivehi is an Indo-Aryan
Indo-Aryan languages
The Indo-Aryan languages constitutes a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family...

 language closely related to the Sinhalese language of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

. Dhivehi represents the southernmost Indo-Aryan language. Together with Sinhala, Dhivehi represents a subgroup within the Modern Indo-Aryan languages which is called Insular Indo-Aryan. However, Sinhala and Divehi are not mutually intelligible.

Dhivehi is descended from Maharashtri
Maharashtri
Maharastri or Maharastri Prakrit, SIL: Mahārāṣṭri Prākrit , is a language of ancient and medieval India which is the ancestor of Marathi, Konkani, Sinhala and the Maldivian language as well. It is one of the many languages of a complex called Prakrit, and the chief Dramatic Prakrit...

, a Prakrit
Prakrit
Prakrit is the name for a group of Middle Indic, Indo-Aryan languages, derived from Old Indic dialects. The word itself has a flexible definition, being defined sometimes as, "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", or "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious...

 of ancient and medieval India. The Prakrit
Prakrit
Prakrit is the name for a group of Middle Indic, Indo-Aryan languages, derived from Old Indic dialects. The word itself has a flexible definition, being defined sometimes as, "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", or "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious...

 vernacular languages including Maharashtri Prakrit
Maharashtri
Maharastri or Maharastri Prakrit, SIL: Mahārāṣṭri Prākrit , is a language of ancient and medieval India which is the ancestor of Marathi, Konkani, Sinhala and the Maldivian language as well. It is one of the many languages of a complex called Prakrit, and the chief Dramatic Prakrit...

 were originally derived from Vedic Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit
Vedic Sanskrit is an old Indo-Aryan language. It is an archaic form of Sanskrit, an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It is closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language...

.

Whereas earlier it was believed that Dhivehi was a descendant of the Sinhalese language, in 1969 Sinhalese philologist M. W. S. de Silva for the first time proposed that Dhivehi and Sinhalese have branched off from a common mother language (a Prakrit
Prakrit
Prakrit is the name for a group of Middle Indic, Indo-Aryan languages, derived from Old Indic dialects. The word itself has a flexible definition, being defined sometimes as, "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", or "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious...

). He says that “the earliest Indic element in Maldivian is not so much a result of branching off from Sinhalese as a result of a simultaneous separation with Sinhalese from the Indic languages of the mainland of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

”. S. Fritz has recently reached the same conclusion in a detailed study of the language. De Silva refers to the Dravidian
Dravidian languages
The Dravidian language family includes approximately 85 genetically related languages, spoken by about 217 million people. They are mainly spoken in southern India and parts of eastern and central India as well as in northeastern Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, and...

 influences seen in the Dhivehi language such as in the old place names. De Silva’s theory is supported by the legend of Prince Vijaya as told in the Mahavamsa
Mahavamsa
The Mahavamsa is a historical poem written in the Pali language, of the kings of Sri Lanka...

because if this legend is to be believed, the migration of Indo-Aryan
Indo-Aryans
Indo-Aryan is an ethno-linguistic term referring to the wide collection of peoples united as native speakers of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian family of Indo-European languages...

 people to the Maldives archipelago and Sri Lanka from the mainland (India) must have taken place simultaneously.

History



Dhivehi has a continuous written history of about eight hundred years. The earliest writings were on the Lōmāfānu
Lomafanu
Lōmāfānu or Loamaafaanu, also known by the Sanskrit name Sasanam, are Maldivian texts in the form of copper plates on which inscriptions have been added. The oldest of these plates dates from the twelfth century AD....

 (copper-plate grants
Conveyancing
In law, conveyancing is the transfer of legal title of property from one person to another, or the granting of an encumbrance such as a mortgage or a lien....

) of the 12th and 13th centuries. Early inscriptions on coral stone have also been found. The oldest inscription found to date is an inscription on a coral stone, which is estimated to be from around the 7th or 8th century.

Dhivehi is based on Sanskrit foundations and it developed in relative isolation with little contact with the other languages until the 12th century. Since the 16th century, Divehi has been written in a unique script called Tāna which is written from right to left, like that of Hebrew and Arabic (with which it shares several common diacritics for vowel sounds).

The foundation of the historical linguistic analysis of both Divehi and Sinhalese was laid by Wilhelm Geiger
Wilhelm Geiger
Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger was a German Orientalist, in the fields of Indian and Iranian languages. He was known as a specialist in Pali, Sinhala language and the Dhivehi language of the Maldives.-Life:...

 (1856–1943). In Geiger’s comparative study of Divehi (Mahl) and Sinhalese, he assumes that Dhivehi is a dialectical offspring of Sinhalese and therefore is a “daughter language” of Sinhalese. However, the material he collected was not sufficient to judge the “degree of relationship” of Dhivehi and Sinhalese.

Geiger concludes that Dhivehi must have split from Sinhalese not earlier that the 10th century CE. However, there is nothing in the history of these islands or Sinhalese chronicles, even in legendary form that alludes to a migration of Sinhalese people which results such a connection.

Vitharana suggests that Dhivehi did not evolve as a separate language to Sinhalese until 12th century CE. But Reynolds and others have suggested that Dhivehi started showing indications of divergence as early as the 4th century CE.

De Silva proposes that Dhivehi and Sinhalese must have branched off from a common mother language. He says that “the earliest Indic element in Dhivehi is not so much a result of branching off from Sinhalese as a result of a simultaneous separation with Sinhalese from the Indic languages of the mainland of India”, referring to Dravidian influences seen in the Dhivehi language, such as in old place names.

De Silva’s theory is supported by the legend of Prince Vijaya as told in the Mahavamsa because if this legend is to be believed, the migration of Indo-Aryan colonists to the Minicoy, Maldives and Sri Lanka from the mainland (India) must have taken place simultaneously. This means that Dhivehi and Sinhalese must be “sister languages” that developed from a common Prakrit.

Whatever the origin of Dhivehi, linguists agree that Dhivehi is an Indo-Aryan language which also has older Indic elements in it.

A rare Maliku Thaana primer written in Divehi published by the UT Lakshadweep Administration during the time of Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Ratna Gandhi was the sixth Prime Minister of India . He took office after his mother's assassination on 31 October 1984; he himself was assassinated on 21 May 1991. He became the youngest Prime Minister of India when he took office at the age of 40.Rajiv Gandhi was the elder son of Indira...

's rule was reprinted by Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 researcher Xavier Romero-Frias
Xavier Romero-Frias
Xavier Romero-Frias , is a Spanish writer and scholar. He lived in the Maldives over a 13-year period. His present residence is in Bangkok, Thailand.-Works:...

 in 2003.

Dhivehi Language Day


Dhivehi Language Day is marked on 14 April. Reference: http://www.nationallibraryofmaldives.com/node/417

Geographic distribution


Most speakers of Dhivehi live in the Maldives
Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

, where it is the national language of the Island nation. Dhivehi is also spoken in Minicoy Island
Minicoy
Minicoy, locally known as Maliku is a census town in the Indian union territory of Lakshadweep and was formerly a part of Maldive Islands.-Etymology:...

 in the Union Territory
Union Territory
A Union Territory is a sub-national administrative division of India, in the federal framework of governance. Unlike the states of India, which have their own elected governments, union territories are ruled directly by the federal government; the President of India appoints an Administrator or...

 of Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep , formerly known as the Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands, is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 km off the coast of the South West Indian state of Kerala...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, while a few have migrated to Thiruvananthapuram
Thiruvananthapuram
Thiruvananthapuram , formerly known as Trivandrum, is the capital of the Indian state of Kerala and the headquarters of the Thiruvananthapuram District. It is located on the west coast of India near the extreme south of the mainland...

, Kochi
Kochi (India)
Kochi , formerly Cochin, is a major port city on the west coast of India by the Arabian Sea. Kochi is part of the district of Ernakulam in the state of Kerala. Kochi is often called by the name Ernakulam, which refers to the western part of the mainland Kochi...

 and elsewhere in the state of Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

.

Official status


Dhivehi is the official language of Maldives
Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...

 and semi-official language in Union Territory
Union Territory
A Union Territory is a sub-national administrative division of India, in the federal framework of governance. Unlike the states of India, which have their own elected governments, union territories are ruled directly by the federal government; the President of India appoints an Administrator or...

 of Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep , formerly known as the Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands, is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 km off the coast of the South West Indian state of Kerala...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.

Dialects


Due to the widespread distribution of the islands, differences in pronunciation and vocabulary have developed during the centuries. The mainstream form of Dhivehi is known as Malé Bas and is based on the dialect spoken in the capital of the Maldives.

The most notable dialects of the language are to be found in the southern atolls, namely Huvadhu, Fuvahmulah and Addu. Slighter variants are spoken in Haddhunmathi
Haddhunmathi Atoll
Haddhunmathi or Haddummati Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives. It corresponds to the natural atoll of the same name.It is mostly rimmed by barrier reefs, the broadest of which are topped by islands...

 and in Minicoy (Maliku)
Minicoy
Minicoy, locally known as Maliku is a census town in the Indian union territory of Lakshadweep and was formerly a part of Maldive Islands.-Etymology:...

 where Haddhunmathee bas and Maliku Bas (Mahl) are spoken respectively. The dialect spoken in Minicoy has less differences to the standard Dhivehi than other dialects. Among the dialects Male' Bas and Maliku Bas are most identical. The other variants show much difference.

Mulaku Bas, is a dialect of Dhivehi which is spoken by the people of Fuvahmulah. Mulaku Bas has laamu sukun which is absent from the other dialects of Dhivehi. This is a final 'l' without vowel sound. Another characteristic of this variant of Dhivehi is the 'o' sound at the end of words, instead of the final 'u' common in all other forms of Dhivehi. E.g. 'fanno' instead of 'fannu'. Regarding pronunciation, the retroflex 'ṣ', which has almost a slight 'r' sound in mainstream Dhivehi, becomes š in Mulaku Bas, sounding like shīn. One of the most unique features of Mulaku bas is that it distinguishes gender unlike other dialects. Also, there are many remarkable differences in the dialect in place of the Sukun system as well as the vowel or diacritical system following a distinctive set of rules.

Huvadhu Bas, spoken by the inhabitants of the large atoll of Huvadhu is another distinctive form of Dhivehi. Because of the isolation from the Northern Atolls, and the capital of Malé, the local dialect Huvadhu Bas compared to other variants makes much use of the retroflex 'Ţ'. Huvadhu Bas also retains old Sinhala words, is sometimes considered to be linguistically closer to Sinhala than the other dilects of Divehi.

Addu Bas is also quite different from the official form of the Dhivehi language and has some affinities with Mulaku Bas. In the past Addu atoll being a centre of Education, the islanders from the three atolls of the south who acquired education from the atoll used the Addu Bas as their lingua franca. Hence, when for example one of these islanders of any of the Huvadhu islands met with someone from Fuvahmulah, they would use the Addu Bas to talk to each other. Addu Bas is the most widespread of the dialects of Dhivehi. The secessionist government of the Suvadives
United Suvadive Republic
The United Suvadive Republic or Suvadive Islands was a short-lived breakaway nation in the remote Southern Atolls of the Maldive Islands, namely Addu Atoll, Huvadhu Atoll and Fuvahmulah that geographically make up the Suvadive archipelago.The name of this nation was originally an ancient name for...

 (1959–1963) however, used the Male' Bas in its official correspondence.

The letter Ṇaviyani
Naviyani
Letter Naviyani used to be the 19th letter of the Divehi alphabet. This letter's former position in the alphabet was between letters Daviyani and Zaviyani....

  (different from the letter Ñaviyani), which represented the retroflex n sound common to many Indic languages (Gujarati
Gujarati language
Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language, and part of the greater Indo-European language family. It is derived from a language called Old Gujarati which is the ancestor language of the modern Gujarati and Rajasthani languages...

, Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

, etc.), was abolished from official documents in 1950 by Muhammad Amin, the ruler of Maldives. The reason why this particular letter representing a retroflex sound was abolished and not others like Ḷaviyani, Ḍaviyani or Ṭaviyani is not known. Letter Ṇaviyani's former position in the Thaana alphabet was between letters Gaafu and Seenu. But today this position is taken by Palatal Nasal Ñ or Ñyaviyani ޏ. It is still seen in reprints of traditional old books like the Bodu Tarutheebu and official documents like Rādavaḷi. It is also used by people of southern atolls when writing songs or poetry in their language variant.

According to Sonja Fritz:

"In many respects, the dialects of Dhivehi represent different diachronial stages in the development of the language. Especially in the field of morphology, the amount of archaic features steadily increase from the north to the south. Within the three southern most atolls (of the Maldives), the dialect of the Addu islands which form the southern tip of the whole archipelago is characterized by the highest degree of archaicity".

Sonja Fritz puts forward this theory based on research into the dialects of Addu and Fuvahmulah. She is yet to do research on the dialect of Huvadhu Atoll. And even she has to do more research on both Addu and Fuvahmulah dialect. Only then can she determine whether the dialects Fuvahmulah and Huvadhu or that of Addu is more archaic. However, from Male' (Maldives) to the south up to Huvadhu Atoll (Maldives) the amount of archaic features increase but from Huvadhu Atoll the amount of archaic features decrease towards south. And the dialect of Huvadhu is characterized by the highest degree of archaicity.

Fritz also adds:

"Thus the different classes of verb conjugation and nominal inflection are best preserved there, morphological simplifications and, as a consequence increasing from atoll to atoll towards north (in the Maldives)".

Spoken and literary varieties


Divehi presents another aspect with which English speakers are not too familiar: the distinction between what is spoken and what is written. Every language that has a written idiom has this distinction to a greater or lesser degree. But Asian languages such as Dhivehi seem to exhibit major differences between the two varieties of language.

Spoken Dhivehi, for instance, has twenty seven consonants. In contrast, written or literary Divehi contains these sounds and some Arabic sounds as well. Though these sounds are also used in speaking, their phonetics is not strictly observed. This results in pronouncing it as close as possible to the Dhivehi sounds when speaking.

To make things simpler it may be said that every sentence in written Dhivehi ends with the addition of ‘ve’, which is never used to end a sentence in spoken Dhivehi. In using ‘ve’ a strict word-order also has to be maintained. But in spoken Dhivehi word-order is not considered to be very rigid.

One of the very important things one has to take into account in written Dhivehi which is not so important in spoken Dhivehi is the ‘sukun’, on the letters ‘alif’ and ‘rhaviyani’. ‘Sukun’ in general, is a mark to indicate an abrupt stop on the sound of the letter on which it is placed. However if it comes within the word, the letter is repeated; if it comes on a ‘rhaviyani’ or ‘alif’, at the end of a word, it signifies the sound ‘h’; if it comes on a ‘thaa’, the sound is replaced by ‘iy’. Another thing to note! Though Dhivehi has some dialects, these dialects are hardly used in writing. Only Malé Bas and Maliku Bas are used in writing, and both does not show much differences like the rest of the dialects.

Writing system


The Maldivian language has had its own script since very ancient times, most likely over two millennia, when Maldivian Buddhist monks translated and copied the Buddhist scriptures.

It used to be written in the earlier form (Evēla) of the Dhives Akuru
Dhives Akuru
Divehi Akuru or Dhives Akuru is a script formerly used to write the Divehi language. This script was christened "Dives Akuru" by H. C. P...

 ("Dhivehi letters") which are written from left to right. Dhives Akuru were used in all of the islands between the conversion to Islam and until the 18th century. These ancient Maldivian letters were also used in official correspondence with Addu Atoll until the early 20th century. Perhaps they were used in some isolated islands and rural communities until the 1960s, but the last remaining native user died in the 1990s. Today Maldivians rarely learn the Dhives Akuru alphabet, for Arabic is being favoured as second script.

Dhivehi is presently written using a different script, called Thaana or Tāna, written from right to left. This script is relatively recent.

The literacy rate of the Maldives is very high (98%) compared to other South Asian countries. Since the 1960s English has become the medium of education in most schools although they still have Dhivehi classes, but Dhivehi is still the language used for the overall administration.

In Minicoy
Minicoy
Minicoy, locally known as Maliku is a census town in the Indian union territory of Lakshadweep and was formerly a part of Maldive Islands.-Etymology:...

, a variant of Devanagari is used along with Tāna.
Dhivehi uses the mainly Tāna script for writing. It is an abjad
Abjad
An abjad is a type of writing system in which each symbol always or usually stands for a consonant; the reader must supply the appropriate vowel....

, with vowels derived from the vowel diacritics of the Arabic abjad
Arabic alphabet
The Arabic alphabet or Arabic abjad is the Arabic script as it is codified for writing the Arabic language. It is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters. Because letters usually stand for consonants, it is classified as an abjad.-Consonants:The Arabic alphabet has...

. It is a largely phonemic
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 script: With a few minor exceptions, spelling can be predicted from pronunciation, and pronunciation from spelling.

The origins of Tāna are unique among the world's alphabets: The first nine letters (h–v) are derived from the Arabic numerals, whereas the next nine (m–d) were the local Indic numerals. (See Hindu-Arabic numerals
Hindu-Arabic numeral system
The Hindu–Arabic numeral system or Hindu numeral system is a positional decimal numeral system developed between the 1st and 5th centuries by Indian mathematicians, adopted by Persian and Arab mathematicians , and spread to the western world...

.) The remaining letters for loanwords (t–z) and Arabic transliteration are derived from phonetically similar native consonants by means of diacritics, with the exception of y, which is of unknown origin. This means that Thaana is one of the few alphabets not derived graphically from the original Semitic alphabet
Middle Bronze Age alphabets
Proto-Sinaitic is a Middle Bronze Age script attested in a very small collection of inscriptions at Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai Peninsula. Due to the extreme scarcity of Proto-Sinaitic signs, very little is known with certainty about the nature of the script...

 – unless the Indic numerals were (see Brahmi numeral
Brahmi numeral
The Brahmi numerals are an indigenous Indian numeral system attested from the 3rd century BCE . They are the direct graphic ancestors of the modern Indic and Hindu-Arabic numerals. However, they were conceptually distinct from these later systems, as they were not used as a positional system with a...

s).

Tāna, like Hebrew and Arabic, is written right to left. It indicates vowels with diacritic marks derived from Arabic. Each letter must carry either a vowel or a sukun (which indicates "no vowel"). The only exception to this rule is noonu which, when written without a diacritic, indicates prenasalization of a following stop.

The vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

 or diacritical signs are called fili in Dhivehi; there are five fili for short vowels (a,i,u,e,o), where the first three look identical to the Arabic
Arabic alphabet
The Arabic alphabet or Arabic abjad is the Arabic script as it is codified for writing the Arabic language. It is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters. Because letters usually stand for consonants, it is classified as an abjad.-Consonants:The Arabic alphabet has...

 vowel signs
Harakat
The Arabic script has numerous diacritics, including ijam ⟨⟩ , and tashkil ⟨⟩...

 (fatha, kasra and damma). Long vowels (aa,ee,oo,ey,oa) are denoted by doubled fili (except oa, which is a modification of the short obofili).

The letter alifu has no sound value of its own and is used for three different purposes:
It can act as a carrier for a vowel with no preceding consonant, that is, a word-initial vowel or the second part of a diphthong
Diphthong
A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

; when it carries a sukun, it indicates gemination
Gemination
In phonetics, gemination happens when a spoken consonant is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time than a short consonant. Gemination is distinct from stress and may appear independently of it....

 (lengthening) of the following consonant; and if alifu+sukun occurs at the end of a word, it indicates that the word ends in /eh/. Gemination of nasals, however, is indicated by noonu+sukun preceding the nasal to be geminated.

The most intriguing fact about the Tāna alphabet is its order (hā, shaviyani, nūnu, rā, bā, etc.). Its order doesn’t follow the ancient order of the other Indic Scripts (like Sinhala or Tamil) or the order of the Arabic alphabet.

Dhivehi also uses Roman script and Devanāgarī
Devanagari
Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

 script. It used to be written in the older script Dhives Akuru
Dhives Akuru
Divehi Akuru or Dhives Akuru is a script formerly used to write the Divehi language. This script was christened "Dives Akuru" by H. C. P...

.

Latin Transliteration of the Dhivehi language


Towards the mid 1970s, during President Ibrahim Nasir's tenure, Telex
Telegraphy
Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages via some form of signalling technology. Telegraphy requires messages to be converted to a code which is known to both sender and receiver...

 machines were introduced by the Maldivian Government in the local administration. The new telex equipment was viewed as a great progress, however the local Tāna script was deemed to be an obstacle because messages on the telex machines
Teleprinter
A teleprinter is a electromechanical typewriter that can be used to communicate typed messages from point to point and point to multipoint over a variety of communication channels that range from a simple electrical connection, such as a pair of wires, to the use of radio and microwave as the...

 could only be written in the Latin script.
Following this, Dhivehi Latin, a new official Latin transliteration was swiftly approved by the Maldive government in 1976 and was quickly implemented by the administration. Booklets were printed and dispatched to all Atoll and Island Offices, as well as schools and merchant liners. This was seen by many as the effective demise of the Tāna script.

Clarence Maloney, the American anthropologist who was in the Maldives at the time of the change, lamented the inconsistencies of the "Dhivehi Latin
Malé Latin
Dhivehi Latin or Maldivian Latin, known colloquially as Malé Latin or Nasiri Latin, is a Latin Dhivehi alphabet briefly mandated in the Maldives from 1976, but the country reverted to the native Tāna and Arabic alphabets in 1978...

" which ignored all previous linguistic research on the Maldivian language done by H.C.P. Bell and Wilhelm Geiger. He wondered why the modern Standard Indic transliteration had not been considered. Standard Indic is a consistent script system that is well adapted to writing practically all languages of South Asia.

The Tāna script was reinstated by the Maldivian government shortly after President Maumoon took power in 1978. There was widespread relief in certain places, especially rural areas, where the introduction of Latin had been regarded with suspicion. However, the substandard Latin transcription of 1976 continues to be widely used.

Phonology



The sound system of Dhivehi is similar to that of south Indian languages. Like other modern Indo-Aryan languages the Dhivehi phonemic inventory shows an opposition of long and short vowels, of dental and retroflex consonants as well as single and geminate consonants.
EWLINE
Vowels
Front
Front vowel
A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

Central
Central vowel
A central vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a central vowel is that the tongue is positioned halfway between a front vowel and a back vowel...

Back
Back vowel
A back vowel is a type of vowel sound used in spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a back vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Back vowels are sometimes also called dark...

short long short long short long
Close
Close vowel
A close vowel is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close vowel is that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.This term is prescribed by the...

i u
Mid
Mid vowel
A mid vowel is a vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned mid-way between an open vowel and a close vowel...

e o
Open
Open vowel
An open vowel is defined as a vowel sound in which the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue...

a
EWLINE
Consonants
Labial
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

Dental Alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Retroflex
Retroflex consonant
A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

Palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Plosive voiceless
Voiceless
In linguistics, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx vibrating. Phonologically, this is a type of phonation, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word "phonation" implies voicing, and that voicelessness is the lack of...

t ʈ c k
voiced
Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

b d ɖ ɟ ɡ
prenasalized ᵐb ⁿd ᶯɖ ᵑɡ
Fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

voiceless f s ʂ ɕ h
voiced v z
Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m n ɳ ɲ ŋ
Approximant
Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

l ɭ j
Trill
Trill consonant
In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....

r

Intonation


Intonation is how words rise and fall in pitch when one speaks a sentence. Dhivehi, like English, has intonation, but its patterns are very different from those of English. You will, in fact, get accustomed to the Dhivehi patterns of intonation if you listen to the native Dhivehi speakers speaking English. For most Dhivehi speakers speak English with the intonation patterns peculiar to Dhivehi. But do not worry about your inability to grasp these patterns all at once. The context in which a sentence is used will clarify many of your problems.

Stress is another point that may bother you. The patterns of stress in Dhivehi are very different from those in English. In Dhivehi, the general tendency is to stress the first syllable of a word.

The set of two identical sounds together in Dhivehi is also quite unlike in English. Take the word ‘possible’ in English. The two ‘ss’ sounds in it are pronounced in much the same way as the single ‘s’ in a word like ‘positive’. When two such identical sounds occur together in a word in Dhivehi, it is important to assign such sounds to the adjacent syllables. Thus, the two ‘s’ sounds in ‘vissaara’ (storm) will fall into the two adjoining syllables as follows: ‘vis-saara’. Note, for example:

feth-thun (to make sink)
dhek-kun (to show)

Consonant clusters


Native Dhivehi (mabbas) words do not allow initial consonant cluster
Consonant cluster
In linguistics, a consonant cluster is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word splits....

s; the maximum syllabic structure is CVC (i.e. one vowel flanked by a consonant on each side). Many speakers of Dhivehi restrict their phonology to this pattern, even when using loan words, such iskūl (VC.CVC) for skūl (CCVC) "school".

Letters


The old set of letters used to be:

ހ ށ ނ ރ ބ ޅ ކ އ ވ މ ފ ދ ތ ލ ގ ޱ ސ ޑ ޒ ޓ ޔ ޕ ޖ ޗ

The Dhivehi letters now used are:

ހ ށ ނ ރ ބ ޅ ކ އ ވ މ ފ ދ ތ ލ ގ ޏ ސ ޑ ޒ ޓ ޔ ޕ ޖ ޗ

The letter ޱ was replaced by ޏ during the rule of Mohamed Ameen Didi

Nouns


Nouns in Dhivehi inflect for definiteness, number and case. Definiteness may be one of definite, indefinite or unspecified. Number may be singular or plural. Case may be one of nominative, dative, ablative, genitive, locative, instrumental
Instrumental
An instrumental is a musical composition or recording without lyrics or singing, although it might include some non-articulate vocal input; the music is primarily or exclusively produced by musical instruments....

or emphatic.

Nominal morphology


The nominal system of Dhivehi comprises nouns, pronouns, adjectives and numerals as parts of speech.

Numerals


Dhivehi uses two numeral systems. Both of them are identical up to 30. After 30, however, one system places the unit numeral stem before the decade (for example: eh-thirees '31' lit. one and thirty) while the other combines the stem of the decade with the unit numeral (for example: thirees-ekeh '31' lit. thirty + one). The latter system also has numerals multiplied by ten for decades 70, 80 and 90.

The decade fas dholhas '60' lit. five twelves, comes from a much older duodecimal
Duodecimal
The duodecimal system is a positional notation numeral system using twelve as its base. In this system, the number ten may be written as 'A', 'T' or 'X', and the number eleven as 'B' or 'E'...

 or dozen system which has nearly disappeared.

Verbal morphology


The Divehi verbal system is characterized by a derivational relationship between active, causative and involitive/intransitive verb forms.

Word order


The word order
Word order
In linguistics, word order typology refers to the study of the order of the syntactic constituents of a language, and how different languages can employ different orders. Correlations between orders found in different syntactic subdomains are also of interest...

 in Dhivehi is not as rigid as in English, though changes in the order of words in a sentence may convey subtle differences in meaning. To ask for some fish in a market, one uses the following words: ‘mashah’ (to me) ‘mas’ (fish) ‘vikkaa’ (sell), which may be put in any of the following orders without a change in meaning:
  • mashah mas vikkaa.
  • mas mashah vikkaa.
  • mas vikkaa mashah.
  • vikkaa mashah mas.


The word ‘mashah’ (to me) may be dropped wherever the context makes it obvious.

Loan words in Dhivehi


Speakers of Dhivehi use a great deal of loan words in their everyday conversation. The extent, to which loan words and host of words from many other languages are used, varies from speakers to speaker, depending on his contacts with that language. Thus, those who have had an English education will tend to use a larger number of English words while an average speaker with little or no contact with English will tend to use just a few. Some of these adapted words, of course have now become so much part of the Dhivehi language that there seem to be no other words that could replace them.

There are certain ways by which loan words are naturalized in Dhivehi. This depends on whether the loan word refers to (a) a person, (b) a thing or (c) some kind of action.

Words referring to persons


If the loan word is one that refers to a person, the Dhivehi word ‘eh’ is added after it to make it an ‘indefinite’ noun and ‘un’ to make it plural and the word as it is expresses the idea of definiteness, in the singular. And most of the time ‘u’ is added to make it a definite singular noun, which should be omitted to add the suffixes mentioned above.

Waiter (veitar) + eh = a waiter (veitareh)
Waiter (veitar) + un = waiters (veitarun)
Waiter (veitar) + u = the waiter (veitaru)

Among some of the most common words of this kind are the following:

Agent (ejentu)
Ambassador (embesedaru)
Architect (aakitektu)
Cashier (keyshiyaru)
Director (direktaru)
Doctor (doktaru)
Driver (duraivaru)
Guard (gaadu)
Inspector (inispektaru)
Manager (meneyjaru)
Minister (ministaru)
Operator (opareytaru)
Producer (purodiusaru)
Sergeant (saajentu)

Words referring to things


If the loan word refers to a thing, the Dhivehi word ‘eh’ is added after it, to make it an indefinite singular noun and plural by adding ‘uthah’ to the word and ‘u’ is added to make it a definite singular noun, which should be omitted to add the suffixes mentioned above.

Car (kaar) + eh = a car (kaareh)
Car (kaar) + u = the car (kaaru)
Car (kaar) + uthah = cars (kaaruthah)

Some of the most commonly used words of this kind are the following:

bicycle (baisikalu)
bill (bilu)
cable (keybalu)
cake (keyku)
coat (koatu)
counter (kauntaru)
parcel (paarusalu)
ticket (tiketu)

Words referring to actions


If the loan word refers to some kind of action, the Dhivehi word ‘kuranee’ (present), ‘koffi’ (past) or ‘kuraane’ (future) is added after it, if it is done intentionally, and ‘vanee’ (present), ‘vejje’ (past) and ‘vaane’ (future) is added after it, if it happens to be unintentional or passive.
  • Cancel (kensal) + kuranee = canceling
  • Cancel (kensal) + koffi = cancelled
  • Cancel (kensal) + kuraane = will cancel

  • Cancel (kensal) + vanee = canceling (on its own) i.e. getting cancelled.
  • Cancel (kensal) + vejje = cancelled (on its own) i.e. got cancelled.
  • Cancel (kensal) + vaane = will cancel (on its own) i.e. will get cancelled.


Here are some examples:
  • Book (buk) kuranee = booking
  • Develop (divelop) kuranee = developing
  • tharaqqee (develop) kuranee = developing.

Levels of speech


Inherent in the Dhivehi language is a form of elaborate class distinction expressed through three levels: The first level, the enme maaiy goiy (known colloquially as reethi bas), is used to address members of the upper class and of royal blood, but is now more often used on national radio and TV. To show respect for elders, officials and strangers the second level, maaiy goiy is used. People use the more informal third level aadhaige goiy in everyday life and to talk about themselves. Even a nobleman or a high official does not use the high level to talk about himself.

Regarding salutations, there is no direct translation of the English "hello" or "good-bye" in Dhivehi. Instead, islanders greet each other with a smile or the raising of the eyebrow and just ask "where are you going?", followed by "what for?". Goodbyes were not traditionally expressed, except in highly formal speech or in poetry (Lhen).

Word origins


After arrival of Islam in South Asia, Persian and Arabic made a significant impact on Divehi. It borrowed extensively from both the languages, especially terms related to Islam and Judiciary. Some examples follow:
  • namādu – prayer (from Persian namāz)
  • rōda – fasting (from Persian rōzā)
  • kāfaru – infidel (from Arabic kāfir)
  • taareekh – date or history (from Arabic tarikh)
  • zaraafaa – giraffe (from Arabic zarafah)


Portuguese influence, in the language can be seen from the period of Portuguese colonial power in the region. Some examples follow:
  • lonsi – hunting spear (from Portuguese lança)
  • mēzu – table (from Portuguese mesa)


Dhivehi has also borrowed words from Urdu
Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

, Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

 and more recently, English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 (in particular many scientific and technological terms).

English words are also commonly used in the spoken language, for example "phone", "note" and "radio".

Some common phrases

Dhivehi Phrase Latin Transliteration English Translation
Marhaba Marhaba Welcome
ޝުކުރިއްޔާ Shukuriyyaa Thank you
ނޫން Noon No

Sample Text


The following is a sample text in Dhivehi, of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

 (by the United Nations):
Transliteration (SAMT):


Gloss (word-to-word):
Article 1 – All human-beings also born, dignity and rights' in freedom and equality acquired people like is. Them to reason and conscience's endowment acquired is. And they one another to behaviour to do brotherhood's spirit with.


Translation (grammatical):
Article 1 – All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Typography


The Mahal Unit Press at Minicoy
Minicoy
Minicoy, locally known as Maliku is a census town in the Indian union territory of Lakshadweep and was formerly a part of Maldive Islands.-Etymology:...

started functioning in 1984 onwards where all kinds of Dhivehi printing work is undertaken. The press also releases the Lakshadweep Times in three languages on a regular basis: Dhivehi, English and Malayalam. Presently this unit is functioning in the main Building which is constructed in 1998. For the first time in the history of Lakshadweep, Dhivehi Language was brought into the field of typography.

Activities :
  1. Production of note books for the department of Education and Jawahar Navodaya School at Minicoy.
  2. Printing Dhivehi Text Book for I to IV Standards.
  3. Undertaking printing work from the public on a payment basis.

Text editors


Fthaana, Universal Word, Accent Express, Accent Special Edition are the most common word processors used. However now most of the people use MS Word to write Dhivehi.

External links