As the lingua franca of the Maldives, Dhivehi is a language with deep roots in neighbouring cultures and its influence on the archipelago. Let us examine the origins of this unique language.
Dhivehi or the Maldivian native language is classified as an Indo-Aryan language that is closely connected to neighbouring Sri Lanka’s native tongue Sinhalese. Both of these languages are a subgroup in the Indo-Aryan languages that are identified as Insular Indo-Aryan despite the fact that speakers of either language cannot comprehend one another. Believed to have descended from medieval Sri Lanka’s Elu Prakrit, Dhivehi traces its roots to the Vedic Sanskrit languages that were part of Old Indo-Aryan dialects. It was M. W. S. de Silva, a Sri Lankan philologist that first claimed that Dhivehi and Sinhalese branched out of the same mother tongue.
The earliest examples of Dhivehi are present in various coral stone engravings that date back to the 12th or 13th centuries with the oldest of such inscriptions being from the 7th century. The Maldivian script is similar to Arabic in that it is written from right to left unlike most Germanic languages.
Those based at Varu by Atmosphere or any other Maldives all-inclusive resort in the outer atolls will note the subtle differences between the dialects of Dhivehi spoken in various islands. The most striking dialects are found in Fuvahmulah, Huvadhu and Addu or the southernmost atolls.
Dhivehi in Use
Those who speak Dhivehi also use countless loan words from other languages in their everyday exchanges including a cross-section of English words. Locals who have had an English medium education will also mix both Dhivehi and English in everyday speech.