Today is UN Mother Language Day. Time for a bit more Dhivehi tutorial. The country itself has an evocative etymology in native Dhivehi…
- The name Maldives may derive from the Malayalam words ‘maala’ (garland) and ‘dweepu’ (island) or the Tamil maalai (garland / evening) and theevu (island), or මාල දිවයින Maala Divaina (“Necklace Islands ) in Sinhala. The Maldivian people are called Dhivehin. The word Theevu (archaic Dheevu, related to Tamil தீவு dheevu) means “island”, and Dhives (Dhivehin) means “islanders” (i.e., Maldivians).”
The individual beads on that jewelled strand also take description names from the local tongue. The chart above illustrates a few of the most common topological terms…
- Thila – underwater pillar
- Giri – underwater pillar close to surface
- Faru – above water reef edge enclosing a lagoon
- Fushi – island
And there are a few other common terms you see constantly in dive site names…
- Bodu – “large”
- Kandu – “channel”
- Kuda – “little”
- Beyru – “outside”
- Rah – “island”
In fact, below is a list in order of the most popular terms by number of dive sites that include them…
- Thila – 328
- Faru – 181
- Kandu – 136
- Giri – 114
- Kuda – 78
- Fushi – 72
- Bodu – 61
- Beyru – 32
އެނމެ ބަހެހ އިނގުނ ނުފުދޭނެ (Enme baheh ingun nu-fudheyne)
- Q: On this so-dubbed “Blue Planet”, what is the earliest and most prevalent word for a colour in early ancient langages?
- A: Blue?
- Q: Buzzzz…A bit of a misleading set-up there, but linguists have actually found that the word for the color “blue” is almost universally the last color to enter a language.
As a result, researchers have even questioned if these earlier generations possibly even perceived colours differently to modern peoples. With the sea around and the sky above, such a conjecture certainly would have limited the descriptive capacity of people living in the Maldives. Fortunately, at leas today, the Dhivehi language does have a word for blue – “noo.”
Dhivehi Language Day today.
While the Maldives is renowned for romantic islands and underwater reefs, the unique reef bottomology (as opposed to “topology”) has also made it one of the world’s top surfing destination. Not for Hawaiian monsters waves, but for long, gently breaking ones (great for the increasing popular trick riding not to mention beginner learning).
One of the top surf spots is Fuvamulah. So much so that the wave richness has infiltrated their language. Like “snow” to Eskimos and “rice” to Japanese, the Maldivians on Fuvamulah have more words for “wave” than any other language. And like the Eskimos and Japanese, the wave words on not simple straight synonyms, but rather designations for subtle variations.
The Maldivian outlet Sun Online featured a superb piece on the subject titled “Fuvahmulah people could break record for most names for waves!”
“Fuvahmulah has just one and one quarter of miles of reef around the island – resulting in huge ocean waves battering the island unchecked. A wave is not just a wave to the people of Fuvahmulah, who assigned specific names to different types of waves (ralho) – based on their size and the current. This made it easier for the fishermen of the island in the olden days – as they knew just what to do when they heard the name of the type of wave they would be facing that day.”
Eighteen different words have been coined and examples include…
- hudhu ralho – waves that produce more white foam than regular waves
- kalho ralho – waves that break at the point where ocean and lagoon meet.
- vago ralho – waves that appear as if out of nowhere.
- beessaa ralho – waves that do not form curves but flow smoothly toward the beach.
- gunburaas ralho – the biggest waves that break on Bilhifeyshi Olhu
Greetings are always a curious part of any language. The Hawaiians have ‘aloha’ which means ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’ as does the Italians’ ‘ciao’. The English – as in what people in England speak – have an all purpose word ‘cheers’ which can not only be used as ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’, but also ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’.
Dhivehi is the native language of the Maldives islands and it has no direct translation for ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhivehi_language). Instead, islanders greet each other with a smile or the raising of the eyebrow and just ask "where are you going?" followed by "what for?" The tradition evoked for me one of the earliest ever Dilbert cartoons show above (featured in Dilbert’s ‘Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies’).