is Malagasy closely related to the Ma'anyan language of Borneo?
- connieLv 71 decade agoFavorite Answer
The Malagasy language is not related to nearby African languages, instead being the westernmost member of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family, a fact noted as long ago as the eighteenth century. It is related to the Malayo-Polynesian languages of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, and more closely with the Southeast Barito group of languages spoken in Borneo except for its Polynesian morphophonemics. Malagasy shares much of its basic vocabulary with the Ma'anyan language, a language from the region of the Barito River in southern Borneo. This indicates that Madagascar was first settled by Austronesian people from the Malay Archipelago who had transited through Borneo, though it is not clear precisely when or why such colonisation took place.
Ma'anyan or Ma'anjan or Maanyak Dayak is an Austronesian language belonging to the East Barito languages. It is spoken by about 150,000 Ma'anyan people (subgroup of Dayak people) living in the central Kalimantan, Indonesia. It is closely related to Malagasy languages spoken in Madagascar. There is high lexical similarity with other East Barito languages like Paku language (77%) or Dusun Witu (75%). (the link shows 12 words that are similar)
Standard Malagasy based on the Merina dialect is, according to the seminal research of Otto Christian Dahl, a Norwegian linguist, closely related to Ma'anyan, a Western Austronesian language spoken by the Ma'anyan Ot Siang, some 70,000 people on an interior area around Tamianglayang town, east of the Barito River in Central Kalimantan province (Kalimantan Tengah, Borneo). Several other Dayak languages are very similar to Ma'anyan. Ma'anyan is linguistically rather distant from Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia, the official languages of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Dahl says an inscription on the stone of Bangka -- an island offshore Sumatra --, was partly written in "old Ma'anyan" (or in Lom, a now probably extinct language of Bangka?). The Kota Kapur stone, now in a museum in Jakarta, is dated 686 A.D. and Dahl thought it to mark the period of the Ma'anyan migration to Madagascar.
Due to Dahl's research, the affinity between Malagasy and Ma'anyan has in recent decades been overstated. A comparison of 92 basic words in Ma'anyan and Malagasy shows that only 49 Malagasy words resemble the respective Ma'anyan words. One reason for the excessive emphasis on Ma'anyan as the origin of Malagasy is the fact that Malagasy numbers closely follow Ma'anyan. But Malagasy weekdays are of Arabic origin, for that matter. Disregarding the numbers, probably less than half of basic Malagasy words are related to Ma'anyan. One reason could, of course, be the increasing absorption of Malay words by the Ma'anyan during the centuries of colonization by the Malays. In order to gain a better understanding, old Ma'anyan of pre-Malay days would have to be compared to 19th century Malagasy dialects.
However, some linguists have recently changed the classification and said that the Dayak languages do not belong to the Austronesian family of languages but constitute another, independent branch of the Austric languages that originated in southern China (Philip E. Ross, L.L. Cavalli-Sforza in Scientific American; www. spektrum.de, dossier 1/2000) That means Ma'anyan is an Austric language, and therefore the Austronesian component of Malagasy must have come from elsewhere.
Sander Adelaar of Melbourne University and Nikolaus Himmelmann (U Bonn) are about to publish a major study on "The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar" (Curzon Press, Richmond 2002) which will explore the influence of Indo-Pacific languages other than Ma'anyan on Malagasy, with some emphasis on Lom and Sekak, the old languages of the Orang Lom and the Orang Sekak, Veddoid minorities of Bangka Island off the coast of Sumatra. The Orang Sekak are sea nomads on the southern coast of Bangka whereas the Orang Lom are living in the northern part of the island. Another major study is in publication by Pierre Verin (an experienced malgachiste) and Henry Wright: "Madagascar and Indonesia:New Evidence from Archaelogy and Linguistics." Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association 18, Indo-Pacific Prehistory: The Melaka Papers, vol 2:35-42
- 6 years ago
I just discovered it through your interesting article. I wish I could go to those people speaking Ma anyan and see if I could recognize some of Malagasy words.