Language

Maldivians speak a language that is unique to the country.

 'Maldives' or 'Dhivehiraaje' in Thaana
‘Maldives’ or ‘Dhivehiraaje’ in Thaana

Dhivehi, spoken only in the islands of Maldives has its roots in Sanskrit, and according to some researchers Elu, an ancient form of Sinhala, spoken in Sri Lanka. It belongs to the Indro-Indian group of languages and depicts strong affinities with the major languages of the region. Following the advent of Islam in the 12th Century, the language has borrowed liberally from the Arabic language, and more recently with the introduction of English medium education, the influence of English on the development of Dhivehi language in modern times is no less significant.

As the islands of the Maldives are widely dispersed, spoken Dhivehi can vary widely in vocabulary and pronunciation between atolls as well as islands, with the southern most islands having the most significantly distinct dialect.

Dhivehi script, known as Thaana, is written from right to left, similar to the Arabic language to easier accommodate the writing of Arabic words which is frequently used in Dhivehi. This new script was invented in the 16th century, following the liberation of the country from the Portuguese.

There are 24 letters in the Thaana alphabet and 11 separate vowel sounds, which are placed either above or below the alphabet letter designating the sound.