Dhivehi Latin – the unofficial system for transliterating Dhivehi words into the Latin script. And what a clumsy system it is. Consider the following (which is also pointed out in the wikipedia article above):

  • “ee” is used for އީ when logically it should be “ii”
  • “oo” is used for އޫ when logically it should be “uu”
  • “ey” and “oa”also don’t make sense – they should be “ee” and “oo” respectively
  • “h” to represent a glottal stop (އް or ށް) doesn’t make sense and also makes text look ugly
  • “h” to represent geminated consonants (a more recent phenomenon) also makes text look ugly (consider “vehje” vs “vejje”)
  • The “h” in “th” and “dh” indicates soft (dental) sounds but in “lh” it indicates a retroflex sound
  • “Gn” is borrowed from Italian whereas all the others are from English. Logically, ޏ should be transliterated as “Ny” (sometimes it is)

I know you shouldn’t trust Wikipedia, but if you didn’t read the page, what basically happened was that the government decided that the official script of the Maldives should be changed to Latin. Whoever came up with the new system apparently had no clue about linguistics and decided to base it on English spelling conventions (which I have already pointed out are completely idiotic). And now we are stuck with a sub-par system that remains commonly used to this day.

An Alternative System

I propose a new system for transliterating Dhivehi words; one that works just as well as Thaana. Ideally, Thaana would be used ubiquitously, but we all know that’s not going to happen any time soon.

So here is “New Dhivehi Latin” or “Áletinu”:

Letters which remain unchanged:

ޖ ޕ ޔ ޓ ޒ ޑ ސ ގ ލ ފ މ ވ ކ ބ ރ ނ ހ remain Hh Nn Rr Bb Kk Vv Mm Ff Ll Gg Ss Dd Zz Tt Yy Pp and Jj respectively

Letters which are changed:

  • ށ becomes Xx – It is used this way in Maltese as well as Portuguese
  • ޅ becomes Łł – This letter is used in Polish but it represents a sound between l and w
  • އ does not require a letter as Latin is a true alphabet. Hence, vowels do not need to be “carried”
  • ދ becomes Ðð – This letter (“eth”) used to be a part of the English alphabet. It was used to represent a soft “d” as in “mother”. Now it is used in Icelandic and Faroese.
  • ތ becomes Þþ – This letter (“thorn”) also used to be a part of the English alphabet. It represented a soft “t” as in “thing”. Now it is only used in Icelandic.
  • ޏ becomes Ññ – Used in Spanish
  • ޗ becomes Cc – It is used this way in Italian and Malay, amongst others

Diacritics:

In the Latin script, vowel sounds are represented by letters instead of diacritics. An acute accent is used to lengthen vowels, but the accented vowels are still considered distinct letters. A macron could also be used, but I think the acute accent is more aesthetically pleasing. The vowel sounds are as follows:

  • އަ and އާ become Aa and Áá (or Āā)
  • އި and އީ become Ii and Íí (or Īī)
  • އު and އޫ become Uu and Úú (or Ūū)
  • އެ and އޭ become Ee and Éé (or Ēē)
  • އޮ and އޯ become Oo and Óó (or Ōō)
  • އައި becomes Ææ

The only remaining diacritic is the “sukun”. For most cases it would not be required because it is inherent in every consonant without a vowel following it. However, in the case of އް, the glottal stop will be represented with Qq. If there is a suffix beginning with a vowel after a word which ends in Q, it will remain but will be pronounced like a K. This is similar to the way the letter K is used in Malay.

Other sounds:

Prenasalised sounds represented with “hus noonu” in Thaana will be represented by ‘mb, ‘nð, ‘ng, and ‘nd.

The special sounds which occur when ތ ނ ށ take “sukun” will be transliterated as though those sounds do not occur.

Geminate (doubled) consonants will be transliterated either by doubling the consonant, or by using Qq (in the same way އް is used).

Arabic Letters:

Most of these letters are modified in the same way that the equivalent Thaana letters were modified. Some, however, are based on the pronunciation of the Arabic letters.

  • ޙ Ħħ
  • ޚ Ĥĥ
  • ޜ Ŕŕ or Žž
  • ޢ ‘ or Øø or Ůů
  • ޣ Ġġ
  • ޥ Ww
  • ޛ Ďď or Żż
  • ޘ Šš or Ťť
  • ޠ Ţţ
  • ޡ Ŧŧ
  • ޤ Ĝĝ
  • ޝ Ŝŝ
  • ޞ Şş
  • ޟ Śś

Admittedly, some simple combinations like “kh” or “gh” could be used instead, but I think it is important to have a one-to-one correspondence. (Or as close to that as possible)

Sample words and phrases:

Now to put the new system to use. Many words remain unchanged from the old system and some words may have two possible spellings because of the flexibility in the rules shown earlier. Nonetheless, any text written this way can easily be understood once the use of X, Þ and Q are known.

This first set consists of normal words without any special sukun sounds (including doubled consonants):

  • Aharen – އަހަރެން
  • Kalé – ކަލޭ
  • Musału – މުސަޅު
  • Ha’nguráma – ހަނގުރާމަ
  • Ðaþuru – ދަތުރު
  • Cakasga’ndu – ޗަކަސްގަނޑު
  • Gółi – ގޯޅި
  • Náðevenñá – ނާދެވެންޏާ
  • Þarukárí – ތަރުކާރީ
  • Łá’mbu – ޅާނބު
  • Ðæþa – ދައިތަ
  • Fæ – ފައި

This next set consists of words with އް and ށް. In this system, the root word remains unchanged when adding suffixes. This is solely for the purpose of having interesting/exotic looking words. Thaana appears to be inconsistent in this respect, for example, the word ރޮށި can become either ރޮއްޓެއް or ރޮށްޓެއް. The former is used in the examples below.

  • Rax – ރަށް
  • Raxeq – ރަށެއް
  • Raxaqax (Not Raxakax) – ރަށަކަށް
  • Raxaqun (Not Raxakun) – ރަށަކުން
  • Raxeqga (Not Raxegga) – ރަށެއްގަ
  • Boq – ބޮއް
  • Boqax (Not Bokax) – ބޮކަށް
  • Boqeq (Not Bokeq) – ބޮކެއް
  • Boqaqax (Not Bokakax) – ބޮކަކަށް
  • Roxi – ރޮށި
  • Roxteq (Not Rotteq or Roqteq) – ރޮއްޓެއް
  • Foxi – ފޮށި
  • Foxteq (Not Fotteq or Foqteq) – ފޮއްޓެއް
  • Foxteqga (Not Fottegga) – ފޮއްޓެއްގަ
  • Foxtaqax (Not Fottakax or Foqtakax) – ފޮއްޓަކަށް
  • Maxax – މަށަށް (sometimes spelt މަށައް)
  • Maxaqax – މަށަކަށް

The next set consists of words with ތް. It can be seen that just as in Thaana, the pronunciation changes instead of the spelling. In the current system, something like “iy” would be used.

  • Hiþ (Not Hiy) – ހިތް
  • Hiþuga – ހިތުގަ
  • Muþ (Not Muiy) – މުތް
  • Muþþaq – މުތްތައް
  • Máþ – މާތް
  • Máþkalá’nge – މާތްކަލާނގެ
  • Baþ – ބަތް
  • Baþax – ބަތަށް
  • Ðaþpila – ދަތްޕިލަ
  • Vaþga’ndu – ވަތްގަނޑު

This set consists of words with doubled consonants which occur in the words themselves and not as a result of suffixes. In most cases, the consonant is repeated. However, in the case of a doubled ތ, a Q must be used to indicate އް. This is to make sure there is no confusion between words like ދައްތަ (sister) and ދަތްތަ (teeth?). It would be possible to use Q for all cases, but this would not be as aesthetically pleasing. In cases where މ is doubled, M is used rather than N.

  • Bappa (Not Baqpa) – ބައްޕަ
  • Mamma (Not Manma) – މަންމަ
  • Ðaqþa (Not Ðaþþa) – ދައްތަ
  • Vettun – ވެއްޓުން
  • Lavvan – ލައްވަން
  • Jessun – ޖެއްސުން
  • Addú – އައްޑޫ
  • Maccangółi – މައްޗަންގޯޅި
  • Máfannu – މާފަންނު
  • Fuvammulaq (Or Fuvaqmulaq since this is technically a compound word) – ފުވައްމުލައް
  • Labba – ލައްބަ
  • Ellá – އެއްލާ

The final set of words are those of Arabic origin which use Arabic letters. In this system, just as in Thaana, it is not always necessary to use them.

  • Ŝukuriyyá – ޝުކުރިއްޔާ
  • Ĥiðumaþ (Or Hiðumaþ) – ޚިދުމަތް
  • Ġází (Or Gází) – ޣާޒީ
  • Šaĝáfaþu (Or Sagáfaþu) – ޘަޤާފަތު
  • Ramaśán – ރަމަޟާން
  • Ĝuruán (Or Guruán) – ޤުރުއާން
  • Waţan (Or Vaþan) – ޥަޠަން
  • ‘ilmu (Or Ůilmu or Øilmu) – ޢިލްމު

Some text samples (from random Wikipedia pages and the like):

  • Hurihá insánunves ufanvaní ðarajaái ħaĝĝuþaqugai minivankamái hamahamakan libigenvá baeqge goþugaeve. Emíhunnax heyo visnumái, heyo buððíge báru libigenveeve. Aði emíhun ekaku anekaká meðu mu’ámaláþ kuranvání uĥuvaþþerikamuge rúħeqgaeve.
  • I’ngirési bahakí I’ngirésiviláþugai þaraggí vegen æ baheqeve. Mibas nisbaþvaní huła’ngu Almání basþaquge ‘áiláaxeve.
  • Haððunmaccakí Ðivehirájjége aþołeqeve. Miaþoługe kuríge veriraxakí hiþaðú kamugai viyas miaþoługe verikan miháru kuraní fonaðúgaeve.
  • Majíðiyyá skúlakí Málégai biná kurevunu sarukáruge emme furaþama skúleve.

It kind of looks like a mixture of Icelandic and Kalaallisut

Conclusion

This new system is not as good as Thaana and it is not meant to be a replacement. It is, however, much better than the current semi-official system, from a linguistic perspective and (I daresay) aesthetically. The whole point of making this system is to show that there is a better way of writing Dhivehi in the absence of a Thaana keyboard and that transliteration does not have to be based on English spelling. There is still a long way to go before this system is accepted, even at an unofficial level – not that I expect it to be accepted at all.

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