Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Malagasy, collective name of all the inhabitants of Madagascar, who possess linguistic unity to a remarkable extent, combined with considerable physical and social diversity. The substratum of the population is certainly Negro, intermingled in varying degrees with an intruding Malay element, which has everywhere imposed its Malayo-Polynesian speech on the African aborigines. These Malays arrived apparently from the Eastern Archipelago in remote prehistoric times, and possibly in more than one stream of migration, the last comers being the now dominant Hovas of the central plateau, who have best preserved the original Malay type. [Hovas.] This type is almost effaced amongst the Antankaranas, Betsimisarakas, Antaimoros, and other groups of the east coast, who are far more Negroid in appearance than the Sakalavas, Antifiherenanas, and Mahafalys of the west coast. There are also traces of contact with the Arabs; the Antaimaros even claim to have arrived from Mecca, and amongst them are still preserved some very old manuscripts written in Arabic characters. The Hovas and their southern neighbours, the Betsileos, have alone developed a fully-organised political system, and consequently amongst these European influences have made most progress in recent times. The Catholic, and especially the Protestant, missionaries have been very successful on the plateau, where thousands claim to be Christians, and where European arts and even letters are already widely diffused. But the eastern, the western, and the extreme southern groups are still in the tribal state and, for the most part, at a very low stage of culture. The mild disposition of the Malays, however, has had its effect upon these communities, so that nowhere in Madagascar are pagan rites associated with the sanguinary ordeals and other barbarous cruelties so prevalent in African heathendom. The Malagasy language, spoken with slight dialectic diversity by all the tribes, is a member of the widespread Malayo-Polynesian family, showing close affinities not only with Malay, but also with the forms current amongst the Sarnoan. Maori, and other South Sea islanders. It has been reduced to writing by the missionaries, under whose control the press of Antananarivo has issued numerous religious and popular works.