Historical and Linguistic Survey of Dhivehi – 1988

by / Thursday, 24 April 2014 / Published in Language

Historical and Linguistic Survey of Dhivehi: Final Report
by Prof. Stanley Wijesundera, Prof. G.D. Wijayawardhana, Prof. J.B. Disanayaka, Hassan Ahmed Maniku, and Mohamed Luthufee.
Sri Lanka, University of Colombo 1988


Dialect Variation in Dhivehi is caused by:

Geographic factors
[This] seems to be the most important factor that has given rise to regional variation. northernmost island is 470 miles away from the southernmost island, Gan in Addu atoll.

Lack of Transport
[This] has led to the growth of regional dialects in the Maldives…. Travelling in [dhoanis and odis] over very long distances is uncomfortable and hence people tend to visit only those islands that lie in close proximity.

Lack of Mass Communication
[This] is a matter of recent history. …no national press… The print media is a major factor in the process of language standardisation and thus, the absence of a national press has encouraged regional variation in Dhivehi. The only form of mass media that has had some impact on eliminating regional variation is the radio.

Proximity to India and Sri Lanka
… northern islands are closer to India, the southern islands are closer to Sri Lanka. … different kinds of cultural and linguistic exposure.

The impact of Buddhism
Language and religion are inextricably related and the existence of Buddhism in the pre-Islamic period, particularly in the southern atolls, must be recognised as a factor that gave rise to regional variation in Dhivehi.

Social Variation in Dhivehi is caused by:
Maldivian society is unique in the sense that it is perhaps the only society in which all members belong to one single religion, Islam. … its social fabric has acquired an Islamic texture of a unique nature. One of the instances where this Islamic impact on Dhivehi is most conspicuous is in the use of the Imperative verb.”
Asking another Maldivian to ‘Listen!’ means use of a different verb than that used to implore Allah. Also the dying of a Maldivian is expressed in a different way from the dying of Muhammad. The same with being born.

According to traditional social stratification, all members of the society fall into three major classes:

  1. Royalty
  2. Aristocrats
  3. Commoners.

The language uses between these classes mainly changed in the following areas:

  1. Pronouns
  2. Nouns – here an honorific can be added when talking about a superior’s possession.


Report’s Conclusions

  1. The genetic affinities between Dhivehi and Sinhala relate to several chronological phases rather than to a single phase in the history of the two languages, a conclusion which implies several waves of ethnic and linguistic migrations from Sri Lanka to the Maldives.”
  2. The earliest phase is prior to the 4th century AD.
  3. Arabic has had the major influence on Dhivehi after the 12th century, particularly in the vocabulary and the thana script.
  4. Influence of Hindi and Gujarati has been mainly on the vocabulary.
  5. Influence of Tamil and Malayalam has also been mainly on the vocabulary, rather than on the linguistic structure.
  6. Dhivehi still reflects the social structure of the society.
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