Malagasy is an Austronesian language and the national language of Madagascar. Most people in Madagascar speak it as a first language, as do some people of Malagasy descent elsewhere.
The Malagasy language is the westernmost member of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family, a grouping that includes languages from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. In fact, Malagasy’s distinctiveness from nearby African languages had already been noted by early scholars, such as the Dutch scholar Adriaan Reland in 1708.
Among all Austronesian languages, Dahl (1951) demonstrated that Malagasy and Ma’anyan – an East Barito language spoken in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia on the island of Borneo – were particularly closely related. The language also has apparent influence from early Old Malay. Furthermore, there appears to be a Bantu influence or substratum in Malagasy phonotactics (Dahl 1988). Later, Adelaar (1995) suggested that the vocabulary of Malagasy also contains many words that are of South Sulawesi origin. Further evidence for this suggestion was presented by Blench (2018).
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