Malagasy, the language of Madagascar
Malagasy is spoken throughout the country -- something which comes as somewhat of a mystery given the size and ethnic diversity of the island. As Peter Tyson puts it in The Eighth Continent, "That an island as large as Madagascar, with diverse ecosystems cut off from one another by forests, deserts, mountains, or rivers, should have but one language baffles linguists. Madagascar's neighbor, Africa, has 1500 languages. The island of New Guinea, only a third large than Madagascar, has 700 languages. Why does Madagascar have only one?"
Malagasy only recently become a written language. Until Welsh missionaries transcribed the language in the 1820s, the Malagasy had to rely on oral history to mark past events. However, even with the development of a written form, written Malagasy hardly resembles spoken Malagasy -- the last syllable is typically dropped while unstressed syllables in the middle of words often disappear (spelling versus pronunciation was evidently influenced by the Welsh transcribers). The capital city of Antananarivo is pronounced "Tananarive" but usually shortened to "Tana."
The Malagasy alphabet has 21 letters found in the English alphabet. Malagasy lacks C, Q, U, W, and X. Thus "Madagascar" is not a Malagasy word -- as Peter Tyson points out -- since Malagasy lacks "c" and all words end in a vowel. The Malagasy word for their country is "Madagasikara," a name in itself that is somewhat unwarranted. Tyson explains that Marco Polo, the European explorer who never actually saw the island but named it, probably confused the island with the Somali town Mogadishu and corrupted the name as "Madagascar." Malagasy themselves called Madagascar Nosin-dambo, Izao tontolo, or Ny aninvon' ny riaka.
Additional information on Malagasy from the U.S. Library of Congress: Language
Selected words and phrases in Malagasy
Mbola tsara Manahoana, Manakory, Akory: Typical greeting meaning Hello, Good morning/day/afternoon/evening
Mbola tsara: Another form of greeting meaning Hello, Good morning/day/afternoon/evening
Salama: Another form of greeting meaning Hello, Good morning/day/afternoon/evening
Azafady: Please (literally means "may it not be taboo to me")
Misaotra: Thank you
Tsy misy fisaorana: You're welcome
Tsy mahay miteny gasy aho: I do not speak Malagasy
Firy taona ianao: How old are you?
Tratra ny anniversaire-nao: Happy birthday
Avy any America aho: I am from America
Manahoana: How are you?
Tsara fa misaotra: Fine, thanks.
Mampidi-doza ve ny mikasika an'io?: Is it dangerous to touch?
Vazaha: White person
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