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Dhivehi Bas - ދިވެހި

The Maldivian Language

Dhivehi, as it is called according to the Male Latin spelling, is an Indo Aryan language which is spoken by almost 90% of the population in the Republic of the Maldives (approx. 350,000 people). Dhivehi Bas can be literaly translated to "Maldivian language".
As with other languages, Dhivehi is spoken in many dialects depending on the region. The major dialects spoken within the Republic of the Maldives are Malé, Huvadhu, Mulaku, Addu, Haddhunmathee, and Maliku.
Dhivehi originated from the acient and medieval Indian language "Maharastri Prakrit" which was spoken for about 1400 years between 500 BC to 875 AD throughout india. Over the centuries other languages have influenced Dhivehi. Among them are Arabic, French, Persian, Portuguese, Hindi-Urdu, and English. Yet the influence went both ways as the English words "atoll" (ring-like structure of reefs or islands) and "dhoni" (small multi-purpose sail boat) are lent and anglicised from the the Maldivian words "atoḷu" and "dōni".

Language Codes

  • ISO 639-1 dv
  • ISO 639-2 div
  • ISO 639-3 div

History of Dhivehi

Record of the Maldivian language

Dhivehi can be dated back to the 7th or 8th century based on coral stone carvings found in the Maldives. Later inscriptions include copper plates which hold orders and grants authored by the Maldivian sultans dated to the 12th or 13th century.
The edicts written on the copper plates deal with the country's conversion to Islam, which was spread among the islands in the following centuries. From the 16th century onwards Dhivehi is written in the "Thaana" script. "Thaana" is read and written from right to left like Arabic.

Literary peculiarities

Differences in speaking and writing

Dhivehi as other asian languages shows major differences between the spoken and the written language. Every language which employs idioms shows this effect, yet to a lesser degree.
The Maldivian language in its spoken form utilises twentyseven consonants, whereas the written form also uses additional arabic sounds. Due to its grammatic rules a strict word order is obligtory in the written form which can be abandoned when speaking Dhivehi.
Only two of the dialects, Malé Bas and Maliku Bas, show differences in the written language.

Writing system

in every direction...

Since about twothousand years Dhivehi has had an own script. In its early times it has been used by monks who translated and copied Buddhist scriptures. It used to be written from left to right in a script called "Dhives Akuru" which means "Dhivehi letters". This script has been used in some official correspondence until the early 20th century but the last native user died in the 1990s.
Following the introduction of islam into the Maldives a new script has been introduced. The use has spread throughout the country over time but the 16th century marks the time period where "Thaana" was widely used among the population and in the local administration. The script lends letters from the arabic and indic characters.
English has also been introduced into the country and its use is widespread. The roman letters were also accepted by the locals and so it is no surprise that Dhivehi can also be written using latin characters.

Latin transliteration

Yet another script for Dhivehi

In the 1970s, following the introduction of the first Telex machines by the Maldivian government, the need arose to express the local language in latin letters as the "Thaana" script was deemed non-compatible with the Telex machines.
In 1976 an official transliteration, Dhivehi Latin, was approved by the government and quickly spread among the atolls.
In the following two years the latin transliteration has been found to be inconsistent with previous research about Dhivehi with the Standard Indic transliteration used as sample case. In 1978 following the inauguration of president Maumoon the "Thaana" script was reinstalled causing widespread relief, especially in rural areas. Though the latin transcript was abandoned in the official usage it remains widespread.