Languages

maldivian

The history of writing in Maldives can be traced back to over 1400 years. The oldest script, to be found, is on a block of coral with inscription on all four sides. These inscriptions, a mantra of Vajrayana Buddhism, are in the Southern Brahmi script of the Pallava period, 6th century AD.  Brahmi was an angular script, but it evolved into the rounded medieval Sinhala script (Maloney 1995). The original Maldives script, called Evala Akuru, finds its roots in the Brahmi script, dating the Mauryan times, which gave rise to both the Sinhala and Tamil scripts. Naseema Mohamed (2004) explains that in Maldives the Dhivehi alphabets, called akuru, have evolved over time with Eveyla, Dhives and Thaana being the main scripts. Until the late 18th century AD, Dhivehi was written in a script that had strong similarities to South Asian scripts such as Grantha, Elu and Vatteluttu. Although there were differences between earlier and later forms of the letters used in Maldivian writing, Dhivehi (Maldivians) called the old scripts Dhivehi or Dhives Akuru, literally meaning ‘letters of island people’.

The origin of the modern Divehi script, called Tana or Thaana, is difficult to pin point. Its establishment has been placed after the Portuguese interlude in the 16th century. The script is unique in its combination of features from both Arabic and Indian scripts. Divehi phonetic values have been given to Arabic numerals. While early Divehi scripts ran from left to right, Thaana runs from right to left. Naseema (2004) claims that with the rising trade and religious proximity with the Arabic world, and “the religious awareness of the time, and a desire to belong to the community of other Islamic nations, may have been one of the chief reasons for the change to Thaana.