Madagascar, the largest and most important of the African islands, situated in the Indian ocean, between lat. 11° 57' and 25° 42's., and lon. 43° 10' and 50° 25' E., separated from Africa by the Mozambique channel, which is in its narrowest part about 250 m. broad; length of the island, from Cape Amber in the north to Cape St. Mary in the south, about 1,030 m.; average breadth 225 m., greatest breadth (in the centre) about 350 m.; area estimated at 230,000 sq. m.; pop. about 5,000,-000. The E. coast, beginning at Cape Amber, follows a S. by E. course to Cape East or Ngoncy, lat. 15° 12', when it turns S. by W. and pursues a nearly straight course to lat. 25° S., after which it runs W. by S. to Cape St. Mary. On this coast are a number of good harbors. On the north is Diego Suarez, a bay with five large harbors, all well protected; next Port Luquez, a large inlet, and Port Le-ven; then Vohemare, protected by a coral reef, and with water deep enough for large ships; further S., in lat. 16°, is the bay of Antongil, so called from Antonio Gil, its discoverer, the largest inlet of the island. The river Tinga-bale, navigable for boats, enters this bay on the north, and opposite its mouth are several small islands.
Between Antongil bay and Foul point lies St. Mary's island, 31 m. long and 3 broad, belonging to France. Tamatave, lat. 18° 10', is the most frequented port on the E. coast. It has good anchorage, but ships are exposed to easterly winds in its harbor. S. of Tamatave there are no ports of consequence excepting Fort Dauphin, lat. 25°, where the French carry on a small trade. The W. coast is much more irregular in outline, being broken by numerous bays and capes. The principal bays between Capes Amber and St. Andrew are Ambarou or Chimpaiki, Passandava, Narin-da, Mazamba, and Bembatooka; the principal capes, St. Sebastian and Ambarata. On the N. side of Bembatooka bay is Majunga, a large town and the principal port of the island. A number of small islands lie along this coast, the largest of which is Nossi Be, belonging to France. From Cape St. Andrew to Cape St. Vincent, lat. 21° 55', the coast line is comparatively regular. S. of the latter cape are Murderer's bay and the bay of St. Augustin. - The N. E. portion of the island is quite mountainous, the chains (the central one of granitic formation) pursuing a direction generally from N. N. E. to S. S. W., and rising to a general level of 3,000 to 4,000 ft.
The highest summit is Ankaratra, which is estimated at from 6,500 to 12,000 ft. These mountain ranges are separated by sandy plains, or barren plateaus cleft by deep ravines. The granitic mountains end in lat. 22° S., and undulating plains stretch southward and westward to the coast. The S. region is of secondary formation, and has little fertility except along the infrequent watercourses. The only fertile region of any extent in the island is the E. slope of the northern mountain region, which is watered by frequent rains from the Indian ocean. It is covered by a narrow uninterrupted line of forests. The whole island may be divided into the E. and W. slopes, the former being from 30 to 80 m. wide, while the latter extends over three or four degrees, and is traversed by important rivers. The most remarkable river flowing E. is the Mananguru, which is obstructed by islets and rocks almost to its mouth. No river flowing E. is navigable even for the smallest pirogues more than 10 m. from its mouth. On the W. coast several rivers are navigable for 30 or 40 m. The Tsidsubu or Menabe is ascended by pirogues to the foot of the central range of mountains. The Betsibooka is said to be navigable by small vessels for 160 m. The Mangooka or St. Vincent's is also a navigable river.
The S. W. region has no rivers of importance. Madagascar is not rich in lakes. The largest are Itasa and Alaoutre, the latter 30 m. long. Along the E. coast is a series of fresh and salt lagoons formed by the overflow of the rivers or of the sea. The great salt lake of Mananpetsootse is about 20 m. long; it is very narrow and very salt, and contains no fish. There are many medicinal and warm springs, but they are not used on account of superstitious prejudices. - The climate is exceedingly diversified, both in temperature and salubrity. In the low lands and on the coast the heat is intense; but in the interior the mercury seldom rises above 85°, and on the mountain summits ice is sometimes formed. The rainy season continues from December to April. The coast region, with few exceptions, is extremely unhealthy to natives of the interior as well as to Europeans. The rank vegetation and stagnant water cause a deadly fever. This is also the case in many interior valleys, only Ankova and some elevated regions in the north being exempt from it. One elevated spot near Tananarivo is so unhealthy, that banishment to it is considered equivalent to condemnation to death. - Of the geology of the island few details are known.
The hills between the E. coast and the interior appear to consist of primary rocks; gneiss, granite, and quartz are found, and also basalt and large beds of clay. In other parts slate and limestone have been seen. Excellent iron abounds in the interior. In the mountainous district of Ankaratra volcanic rocks occupy an extensive area. Rock salt is an important article of inland trade, and it is said that there is coal on one of the affluents of the Betsibooka. - The botany of the island is exceedingly rich, and is yet mostly unexplored. Among the plants peculiar to it is the ravenala or "traveller's tree" (urania speciosa), so called because at all seasons its trunk, when an incision is made, yields a cool, sweet, and wholesome beverage. Its wood is used in the construction of dwellings, and for many domestic purposes. The zozoro (a papyrus) is also peculiar to the island. In the forests are found ebony and a species of mahogany. Other valuable trees are the filao; the baobab, which abounds on the W. coast; the ampaly, whose hard leaf is used to polish wooden ware; the avoha, from which coarse paper is made; the tapia edulis, on which the native silkworm is reared; the tamarind, the aviavy and other species of fig, the vakoa or screw pine, the dragon tree, and the bamboo.
The azaina is used for canoes, which are made by scooping out the trunk; it yields a great quantity of yellow juice, very adhesive, and used by the natives as glue. The voahena, which furnishes gum elastic, is abundant. Madagascar produces rice, which is the principal food of the people, tobacco, sugar, cotton, indigo, and various spices; also cocoa-nuts, breadfruit, plantains, bananas, yams, and a great variety of tropical and temperate fruits. The coffee plant has been introduced, and thrives well. Ten or twelve kinds of vegetable oil are made for home consumption. Domestic poultry of all kinds is reared in profusion. Cattle, both wild and tame,'are numerous, and are generally humped, as in India. Sheep and pigs are found in some districts. The sheep, like those of the Cape of Good Hope, have long legs and fat tails, and are covered with hair instead of wool. Horses have been recently introduced. In the forests are wild hogs, dogs, and cats, ounces or small leopards, monkeys, foxes, squirrels, and the curious animal called the aye-aye. (See Aye-Aye.) The rivers swarm with crocodiles, which are sometimes found 20 ft. long. They destroy cattle, and sometimes human beings.
The natives regard them with veneration, and dare not injure them even in self-defence. Serpents of great size are found, but few are venomous. From St. Mary's island to Antongil the coast abounds with excellent oysters. Fossil remains are found, among which are those of a colossal bird, the opyornis maximus; these consist of the bones of the foot, and fragments of eggs, six times as large as those of the ostrich. - It has been usual to consider Madagascar as one kingdom of 22 provinces, with Tananarivo, in the centre, for its capital; but this town is only the capital of Imerina in Ankova, the territory of the Hovas, the dominant tribe. The Hovas exercise no authority S. of their fort of Manza, and many tribes are practically and some absolutely independent. The Antandronis are subject to several petty chiefs of their own, who are continually at war with one another. The Madagascans are derived from a variety of stocks. The two great divisions of the people are into black and olive, the former occupying the western slope of the island, and the latter the eastern. The olive race is distinguished by a light, exquisitely formed person, fair complexion, and straight or curling hair; while the black race is of more robust form, and has woolly hair.
Besides these two great ethnological divisions, the population is distinguished into four political or geographical sections: the Hovas, the Sakalavas, the Betsileos, and the Betsimasarakas. The Hovas have within the present century made themselves the dominant tribe. In person they are generally below the middle stature; their complexion is a light olive; their features are rather flat than prominent; their lips occasionally thick and projecting, but often thin as in the Caucasian race; their hair is black, but soft, fine, and straight or curling; their eyes are hazel, and their figures erect and well proportioned. They are remarkably active, but have less bodily strength than the black tribes. The Sakalavas during the last century were the dominant nation, and held the Hovas in subjection. Physically they are the finest race in Madagascar. They are tall and robust, and their limbs well formed, muscular, and strong. Their features are regular, their eyes dark, and their hair black, shining, and crisped or curly. Their complexion is blacker than that of any other people in the island. In war they are bold, energetic, and resolute; in peace they are indolent, and much addicted to sorcery and other superstitious practices.
They are friendly to Europeans, evince a strong desire for improvement, and are said to exhibit ample proofs of mental powers capable under proper culture of the highest attainments. They are more numerous than the Hovas, and occupy the western coast. The Betsileos are low in stature, slender in figure, erect and nimble in their movements. Their color is dark, though some are of light copper complexion. Their lips are thick, their eyes hazel, and their hair black, long, and curling. They are a modest and unassuming people, inferior to the Hovas in energy and enterprise, but peaceful and laborious cultivators of the soil. The Betsimasarakas are taller than the Betsileos, and next to the Hovas are the fairest people in the island. Their hair, though not always black, is generally frizzly. They are peculiarly distinguished for cleanliness in their houses and apparel, but are reputed to be of lower morals than any other portion of the people. On the E. coast a small part of the population is descended from the Arabs, who for centuries have traded to Madagascar. - The Hovas, having adopted Christianity under the lead of Queen Rasoherina II., abandoned many of their heathen customs and superstitions, which however still have a footing in many parts of the island.
Among these are infanticide, the victims being chiefly those born on days or at hours pronounced unlucky, and polygamy, which was limited only by the restriction of all except the king to 12 wives, and with it an almost unlimited liberty of divorce on the part of the husband. Circumcision was practised, but rather as a political than a religious ceremony, being regarded in some respects as an initiation into the rank, privileges, and obligations of manhood and citizenship, and in some sense as a transfer of the subjects from the jurisdiction of the parent to that of the king. The rite was performed on a large number of boys at once by order of the sovereign, and at a time fixed by him. Slavery was introduced in Madagascar at a very early period, and still exists, although nominally abolished. Captives taken in battle and tribes conquered in war were reduced to bondage, and their descendants generally still remain in that state. Free persons also sometimes become slaves by their own act, by selling themselves when reduced to poverty. A father may also sell his children into slavery in certain cases. Many are made slaves by the sentence of the judges or the edict of the sovereign.
Slavery is considered the heaviest penalty of the law, and is attended with confiscation of property and the enslaving of the criminal's wives and children. Some of the nobles have many hundred slaves. The master has absolute power, except that death can only be inflicted by order of the king. Between the slaves and the freemen there is an intermediate class, composed chiefly of those who labor for the government, especially those employed in felling timber or in burning charcoal. In one of the great forests near Tananarivo, the woodcutters, called the "twelve hundred," though their number is nearer 2,000, are employed through life in felling and preparing for building or other purposes timber for the government. They build their huts and rear their families in the recesses of the forest, and cultivate enough land to yield them a scanty subsistence. Their male children are woodcutters from their birth, and labor at their vocation without any pay; and were any of them to abandon their occupation, they would be treated as criminals or deserters.
The smiths or general workers in iron, the gunsmiths and spear makers, carpenters, tailors, and all other workmen employed by the king of the Hovas, are expected to labor for life without wages, and to provide for the support of themselves and their families. The Bezanozano, a class inhabiting the eastern districts, are required to carry all goods for that sovereign from the coast to his capital, a distance of 300 m., without pay. - The Madagascans are generally remarkably hospitable. Whenever a stranger enters a village, a present is brought him of whatever refreshment the place affords. If he approaches a house, he is cordially invited to enter, and treated with the utmost attention and civility. Vegetables of all kinds are abundant, and cattle and poultry are plentiful and cheap. Locusts, of which large swarms appear in the spring and summer, form an important article of food. They are gathered in baskets by the women and children, and after the legs and wings have been picked off they are partially boiled, and then dried in the sun. The silkworm also in its chrysalis state is cooked and eaten in some provinces. But the most general article of support is rice, which is native to the island.
Next to it, the most valuable kinds of food are maize, manioc, arrowroot, which is the principal food of the Sakalavas, and several varieties of yam, together with a number of European vegetables which have been introduced. In 1872 several parties of English subjects began to plant cotton in the S. part of the island, having brought seed from the Feejee islands. They employed Madras coolies, as labor in Madagascar cannot be relied on. Parties from Mauritius have planted sugar cane and built mills for making sugar; but the crop is exported to Mauritius for refining. Coffee also has been planted by foreigners in several parts of the island, with good success. The government fosters all such enterprises, and makes free grants of land for cultivation to any extent desired. A lichen used in dyeing grows on the bark of the thorny shrubs of the S. W. region, and constitutes its chief commercial wealth. The natives weave cotton and silk into handsome fabrics on looms of the rudest description. They also make beautiful carpets. The Madagascans are temperate in drinking, and water is almost the universal beverage, though a distilled spirit called toaka is occasionally used as a luxury.
Ardent spirits are prohibited in Tananarivo, and drunkenness is almost unknown except at the seaports frequented by Europeans. Tobacco is extensively cultivated, but is not smoked; it is mixed with other herbs and made into snuff, which is taken, not into the nose, but into the mouth. The rongona or native hemp is smoked in reed pipes. The favorite amusements are fishing, hunting wild cattle, bull baiting, cock fighting, and a game called katra, somewhat resembling draughts. The people are extremely fond of music, both vocal and instrumental, though they have not made much progress in either. They have, besides the drum, two native instruments of music, the valiha and the lokanga. The former is a bamboo having eight small slips cut from its rind between two of its joints, and then by means of small pieces of wood, used as bridges in a violin, elevated about a quarter of an inch. The player holds the instrument before him, and uses both hands in twitching the cords. The music is soft and plaintive; the tunes are few, short, and monotonous. The lokanga is made of a piece of wood notched at one end so as to form three or four rests for the cord or string. One string is stretched upon it and attached to the head of a hollowed calabash. The music is feeble and dull.
The women sing in chorus with much skill and effect, and the villagers often assemble and pass the evening in singing and dancing. The houses of the better class are built of wood, and so well put together that they are perfectly firm, although joined without nails. They are oblong, invariably placed N. and S., with the door to the W. They often have verandas, but no chimneys, though the climate of the highlands is often cold enough for fires in the evening. The roof is covered with rushes, and rises to an extreme height, and ornamented poles at the gables indicate the owner's rank. The rich have many such houses. The poorer dwellings are built of bamboo, rushes, or clay, and are colored pink or yellow. The villages are surrounded by deep ditches, unless placed on inaccessible heights. The usual vehicle of travel is the tacon, a light palanquin borne upon the shoulders of four Bezanozanos or carriers. - The dress is uniform and simple. It consists generally of two and at most of three garments, chiefly of hemp or cotton, varied among the slaves and poorer classes by a cloth inferior to either of these, and manufactured from the bark of the rofia, the banana, and some other trees; and among the rich by silk or foreign cassimere and broadcloths.
The salaka, a piece of cloth about a yard in width and two yards long, is fastened round the loins, passing under the body, and having the extremities in front reaching to the knees. The women wear a cloth called kitamby, of the same materials as the salaka, but considerably broader. It is worn round the person immediately below the breast, and reaches nearly to the feet. But the most important and characteristic garment is the lamba or mantle, which varies in dimensions and quality with the rank and circumstances of the wearer. It is worn by both sexes and all classes, both adults and children; for adults it is usually three or four yards in length and two or three in breadth. The royal lamba, which is held in the highest estimation, is of fine scarlet English broadcloth, bordered and richly ornamented with gold lace; it is worn by the king on sacred festivals and state occasions. The use of a dress entirely scarlet is the exclusive privilege of the king, to whom is restricted also the distinction of using a scarlet umbrella. The lamba is worn by all classes over the shoulders, whence its folds hang loosely, reaching nearly to the ankles, the ends being drawn together in front of the wearer.
By the men it is adjusted so as to hang principally over the left shoulder; by the women, over the right. - The Madagascans are remarkably fond of peddling and of frequenting public markets, which are held every day in the week in the neighborhood of the large towns, and at which vast multitudes assemble. Foreign commerce has long been carried on with the Arabs from Muscat and Zanzibar, and with traders from the W. coast of India, who bring raw silk, cotton cloth, gunpowder, trinkets, and other articles to the N. W. ports, particularly to Majunga, in the bay of Bembatooka. American vessels going up the Mozambique channel or from Tamatave to Zanzibar usually stop there to exchange cotton sheetings, hardware, furniture, gunpowder, and firearms for hides, rice, ebony, beeswax, and gum copal. There is also a trade with Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope. The commerce of the E. coast is mostly at Tamatave, where a United States consular agent is accredited. In 1872 6 steamers and 99 sailing vessels, of an aggregate of 35,055 tons, entered this port; the total value of imports was $377,361 90, of exports, $382,066 02. The principal imports were cotton sheetings, calico prints, crockery, rum, shoes, salt, and hardware; principal exports, India rubber, beeves and swine, hides, beeswax, arrowroot, gum copal, and rabannes, a kind of coarse matting.
The trade in India rubber began in 1869-'7O, and in 1872 the export from Tamatave alone amounted to 449,591 lbs. The customs duties are 10 Per cent. in kind on all imports and 10 Per cent. in money on exports. The money in use is mostly French silver, the current piastre or dollar being the five-franc piece. - The government of the Hovas is a despotism, modified and tempered by customs and usages which have the force of law. Of late years, however, the military force at the command of the sovereign has so much increased, that there is little or no practical check upon the royal authority. The succession to the crown is hereditary in the royal family, but not in the direct line of descent, for the reigning sovereign designates his successor at pleasure. Females are not excluded from the throne. The nobles or andriambaventi, who rank next to the members of the royal family, fulfil the functions of judges. Their number is not fixed, but usually there are about 12 residing at the capital. The officers of the army constitute also a powerful and well organized aristocracy.
Rank among them is conferred by number from 1 up to 13. A colonel, for example, is a noble of the 9th honor, a general of the 11th, and a field marshal of the 13th. The army is large, well armed, and disciplined in the European manner. The revenues of the government arise from taxes, duties and customs, fines, and confiscations. They are not large, but the property belonging to the crown is considerable, and the practice of using the services of the subjects without paying for them precludes in a great measure the necessity of a large money revenue. - The native religion of the Madagascans is not very clearly understood. They have a vague belief in a supreme God, whom they call Andria-manitra, "the prince of heaven," and in an evil principle; but the people worship 12 or 15 principal idols, belonging respectively to different tribes or classes, of whom they are supposed to be the guardians or tutelar gods. Four of these are superior to the others, and are considered public and national. The two greatest idols, Rakelimalaza and Ramahavaly, were kept each at small villages about 7 m. from Tananarivo, where they were lodged in houses resembling the common dwellings of the people, there being no temples, and no priests except the men who have charge of the idols.
In September, 18G9, both were publicly destroyed by order of the government, in order to convince the pagan masses, who demanded the return of the queen to the native religion, that their gods were powerless. The worship of the dead is also a part of their religion. The Madagascans are much addicted to divination, which they practise according to certain definite rules, with the help of beans, rice, straw, sand, or any other object that can be easily counted or divided. They also cast nativities and foretell fortunate days by the moon and its phases. Trial by ordeal until very recently prevailed extensively among them, principally by causing the accused to drink a decoction of a poisonous fruit called the tangena, a small dose of which acts as an emetic, while a large dose is generally fatal. By skilfully managing the size of the dose, those who administer it have it in their power to decide the result. - The Madagascans have no records of their history, but from their traditions and usages there is reason to believe that none of the races now existing in the island were its primitive inhabitants.
An extinct race called the Vazimba seem to have preceded the present population; nothing is known of them except that they dwelt in the interior, and at a remote period were conquered by invaders and in time exterminated. The existence of the island was first made known to Europeans by Marco Polo in the 13th century; he did not visit it, but gathered in Asia some vague idea of its extent and position. It was discovered in 1506 by Lorenzo Almeida, son of the first Portuguese viceroy of India. The Portuguese not long afterward made a settlement on the banks of the river Franchere in the province of Anosy, but their colony was soon massacred by the natives. The French in 1642 made an attempt to possess themselves of Madagascar, and settled a colony in Anosy. Several expeditions were subsequently sent thither, and for some years the French had considerable influence in the southern provinces, and claimed sovereignty over the whole country; but the climate and wars with the natives eventually compelled them to abandon the island. In 1644 the English had a fort at St. Augustin's bay, with a garrison of 200 men, of whom one fourth died of fever in two years, and the settlement was soon broken up.
For a considerable period Madagascar was not molested by Europeans, till the close of the 17th century, when it became a favorite resort of pirates, who in time, under the lead of a Frenchman named Misson, formed a settlement and a sort of commonwealth, which they called Libertalia, on the N. E. coast. After committing great depredations, these buccaneers were suppressed by powerful naval forces sent against them by several European governments. About 1745 the French East India company took possession of the island of St. Mary's on the E. coast, and made a settlement there, and in 1768 they established another colony at Fort Dauphin at the S. E. extremity of Madagascar. In 1774 the celebrated Hungarian adventurer, Count Beniowsky, attempted to conquer Madagascar, and for a time met with considerable success; but his plans were frustrated by his violent death in 1786. (See Beniowsky.) At the beginning of the present century Madagascar was divided into a number of independent states, one of the most powerful of which was the kingdom of Imerina, a subdivision of An-kova, the country peopled by the Hovas. In 1808 Radama (born in 1792), the descendant of a long line of kings, ascended the throne of Imerina on the death of his father Impoina. This able and ambitious monarch was visited in 1816 by British agents, whom he received with great favor.
He formed a treaty with them in 1817, by which the slave trade was abolished on condition of an annual supply of ammunition and arms from the British government, which also sent men to instruct the native soldiers in military tactics. "With the arms and discipline thus obtained, Radama was in a few years enabled to subdue the whole island. In 1818 the London missionary society sent a number of missionaries, accompanied by artisans to instruct the people. The native language was reduced to writing, a grammar prepared, and the Bible translated and printed. In the course of ten years about 15,000 of the natives had learned to read, and a large number were converted to Christianity. Mr. Has-tie, an Irishman sent by the British government as its agent, resided several years at the capital, where he had great influence. His counsels, which all tended to promote civilization, had much weight with Radama, who was strongly imbued with love of truth and justice, and was humane and gentle in character. The king gave all the encouragement in his power to the missionaries, and great advances were made in civilizing the kingdom. Infanticide and other cruel customs were abolished, and rapid progress was made in the useful arts and in education.
The premature death of Radama in 1828 put a stop to the advance of Madagascar. He was succeeded by his widow, Rana-valona, who exerted herself to undo his work. The schools were closed and the missionaries driven from the island in 1835. The influence of the idol-keepers and of the supporters of divination and other superstitions was restored to its former supremacy. The profession of Christianity by any of the natives was prohibited, and violent persecution of the native Christians commenced, in which many suffered martyrdom with heroic fortitude. The French were expelled from their settlements on the E. coast by Radama in 1825, and again by the queen's troops in 1831. In 1845 the English and French cruisers in those seas undertook to humble the Hovas, and, after fruitless conferences and attempts at negotiation, bombarded and burned Tamatave, and landed to attack the fort, but were repulsed with considerable loss. From this period all amicable intercourse between the French and English and the Madagascans ceased for eight years, till in 1853 commercial relations were renewed by the payment of an indemnity to the queen of the island.
In 1846 the queen's son, then 17 years of age, embraced Christianity, and through his influence Christian doctrines were more widely spread than ever; but in 1849 a fresh persecution broke out, and more than 2,000 persons were arrested and punished for their faith, some of them with death. In 1857 a conspiracy organized by French emissaries for the overthrow of the queen's government led to another persecution of the Christians, in which 2,000 persons were put to death. In 1861 Ranavalona died, and was succeeded by her son Radama II., who proclaimed liberty to all religions, released the Christian captives, and forbade sorcery and the ordeal by poison. The English missionaries returned, and Christianity made rapid progress. On May 12, 1863, he was murdered and his widow Raso-herina made sovereign. She was a heathen, and the patron of the idols, but preserved liberty of worship. In 1867 a large church was erected in memory of the Christian martyrs. Rasoherina died April 1, 1868, and was succeeded by her sister, who took the name of Rasoherina IT. She publicly professed Christianity on Feb. 20, 1869, and has exerted her influence for the advancement of education.
Three printing presses are established at her capital, and during 1869 36,243 books were issued, and in the first six months of 1870 81,000 tracts, Bibles, Testaments, and other books. In 1871 about 150 schools were in operation, attended by more than 6,000 pupils. The number of nominal Christians in Madagascar is estimated at 300,000, and with the favor of the sovereign and the higher classes it is rapidly increasing. About 60,-000 are church members, most of them in connection with the London missionary society, and adopting congregational principles. In 1874 the church of England placed a bishop at the head of its mission there. The Wes-leyans and Friends also support missionaries in the island. The number of Roman Catholics is estimated at 10,000. - The Madagascan language, or Malagasy, belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian family. (See Malayo-Polynesian Races and Languages.) There are several dialects, of which the Ankova dialect, spoken by the Hovas of the interior, the Betsimisa-raka, spoken in the east, and the Sakalava, in the west and northwest of the island, are the most important and best known. The consonantal system is like that of the Malayan languages, with the exception of t, which is sounded somewhat like tr, and of d, which is generally changed into ts or z.
A Malayan k is commonly replaced by h, and y by z; thus, Malay kayu, wood, is changed in Malagasy into hazo. There are no special case forms properly so called. The nominative is indicated by its position before the subject verb; the genitive either by prefixing the particles na, ni to the possessor, or by placing the thing possessed before the possessor or in conjunction with a possessive pronoun; the accusative is determined by its position only, and the other cases by placing before the noun certain particles mostly of an adverbial character. The construction of the singular and plural number is that peculiar to the Malayo-Polynesian family. The pure pronominal forms are aho, izaho for the first person singular, plural inclusive isikia, plural exclusive isahay; hianao for the second person singular, plural hianareo; and izy for the third person in both numbers. The pronominal suffixes are -ho for the first person singular, plural -nay; -nao for the second person singular, plural -nareo; and -ny for the third person in both numbers. A verb with man is transitive, with mi intransitive; as manresse, to conquer, miresse, to be conquered; manhina, to humble another, mihina, to humble oneself; and intransitives may commonly be used also in a passive sense.
The particle maka gives to verbs a causative or potential meaning; as mahateia, to be capable of loving, maha faty, to make dead or kill. Verbs with mana suggest the continuance of an action; as dio, clean, mandio, to cleanse, mana-dio, to be cleaning. Haro, to mix, changes into manaro for the present, nanaro for the preterite, and hanaro for the future active; and into miharo for the present, niharo for the preterite, and hiharo for the future passive. These tenses are formed by the addition of the particle na, which assimilates with the verb. - See the Rev. William Ellis, "History of Madagascar" (2 vols., London, 1838), "Three Visits to Madagascar" (1858), and " The Martyr Church" (1870); Ida Pfeiffer, "A Visit to Madagascar" (London, 1861); L. McLeod, "Madagascar and its People" (London, 1865); S. P. Oliver, "Madagascar and the Malagasy" (London, 1866); and J. Sibree, "Madagascar and its People" (London, 1870).