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Say it in dhivehi

just 210Although many Maldivians speak fluent English, especially in the capital city, Male, the Maldives have their own unique language. Dhivehi, also has its own script, probably deriving from numbers and symbols used in the local form of magic.

Dhivehi developed from the old form of Sinhala, originating from the region of lower Punjub. However, some elements present in dhivehi are similar to old Prakrit forms of North India, which was proven by De Silva or Reynolds, who studied Maldivian suffixes and particles, which couldn’t possibly develop from the old Sinhala (Maloney 1980, p. 87-88).

The modern form of the script thaana is written from right to left. It is opposite to the old script Dhivehi Akuru, which was probably dropped around 16th century to simplify the use of some Arabic sentences and words. Originally thanaa characters were based on the Arabic numbers and symbols used in the local form of magic fanditha. Some spells quoted Arabic written from right to left. Eventually, it was easier to adapt thaana to the everyday use (Maldivian Culture 2010, p. 11-14).

Maldivian script has a very unique structure. Unlike Indic or Arabic alphabets it isn’t put in any logical order. It’s possible that because of it was originally used in the magical practice the letters had been embroiled to confuse unwelcome user. (Maldivian Culture 2010, p. 11-14). First dhivehi inscriptions Loamaafaanu took a form of the copper plates. This group of texts is dated from 12th Century and it was written in the old version of the script, Divehi Akuru. Today, although it doesn’t have a status of co-official, dhivehi co-exists with English, which is widely used in education and state institutions.

dhivehi_thaana

Maldives may seem homogenous comparing to extremely multicultural India, but when one takes a closer look the islands do differ, especially when it comes to language and some customs. The differences aren’t huge, but worth mentioning. Maloney writes about the uniformity of the language in the Maldives, except three Southern atolls of Addu, Huvadu and Fua Mulaku (Maloney 1980, p. 89).

A Catalan ethnographer Xavier Romero-Frias uses a slightly different division, suggesting distinguishing three cultural and linguistic groups among the Maldivians. According to his research the dominant group (about 70%) are inhabitants of the Northern atolls, beginning with Haa up to Laamu. The second group is three Southern atolls consisting about 10% of the population. The third group is islanders from the Minicoy, which formally belongs to Indian Laccadives archipelago, but estimated 4% of the Maldivians live there (Xavier Romero-Frias).

The Madives stay in the constant and intense contact with India and Sri Lanka, so there are also some immigrant groups stationing in the islands. However, exact data on specific numbers are not known.

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