Keywords: Malagasy dialects, Austronesian languages, taxonomy of languages, lexicostatistics, Malagasy origins


The dialects of Madagascar belong to the Greater Barito East group of the Austronesian family and it is widely accepted that the Island was colonized by Indonesian sailors after a maritime trek which probably took place around 650 CE. The language most closely related to Malagasy dialects is Maanyan but also Malay is strongly related especially for what concerns navigation terms. Since the Maanyan Dayaks live along the Barito river in Kalimantan (Borneo) and they do not possess the necessary skill for long maritime navigation, probably they were brought as subordinates by Malay sailors.

In a recent paper we compared 23 different Malagasy dialects in order to determine the time and the landing area of the first colonization. In this research we use new data and new methods to confirm that the landing took place on the south-east coast of the Island. Furthermore, we are able to state here that it is unlikely that there were multiple settlements and, therefore, colonization consisted in a single founding event.

{ Maurizio Serva, The settlement of Madagascar: what dialects and languages can tell | Continue reading }