In this project, I will conduct a historical comparison of Malagasy languages, both within the group and also with other related languages.
Madagascar being an "enclave" of Austronesian-speaking people in the Indian Ocean, the Malagasy language(s) attracted historical linguists' attention as early as the 17th century. It is commonly accepted today that Malagasy is most closely related to languages spoken in Southeast Borneo in Indonesia, implying that the Malagasy people originated from that area. However, there are still many aspects regarding the development of Malagasy that are not known. For example, the internal (genetic) relationship among Malagasy languages is not clear, and there has been no comparative work so far focusing on morphosyntactic aspects of the languages.
The goal of this project is to reconstruct some morphosyntactic features (in particular, its pronominal system, verb derivational system and sentence structures) of Proto-Malagasy, and show how different varieties developed within the group from this system. The result will be compared also with previously proposed scenarios as to morphosyntactic developments in Austronesian languages, providing an assessment of both the reconstruction of Proto-Malagasy and that of Proto-Austronesian.
The project is expected to contribute toward a better understanding of the history of the languages and people of Madagascar. It is envisioned that the outcomes will eventually lead to the formulation of a hypothesis as to population movements to and within Madagascar, including the possible area where the first settlement of the speakers of an Austronesian language occurred.