Sorabe, or Sora-be, is an alphabet based on
Arabic formerly used to
Malagasy language (belonging to the Malayo-Polynesian
language family) and the
Antemoro Malagasy dialect in particular
dating from the 15th century.
Researchers are still hypothesizing about the origins of this
transcription system. "Sorabe" means literally "large writings" from
Arabic "sura" (writing) and Malagasy "be" (large). This denomination
might point to the existence of a previous writing system with smaller
Sanskrit origin used in
South East Asia
South East Asia as it is
evidenced in some Malagasy words.
Traditionally, a large number of researchers have speculated about the
fact that this writing system was introduced through commercial
contacts of Malagasy with Arab Muslims. However, more studies claim
that this writing scheme might have been possibly introduced by
Javanese Muslims. There are striking similarities between
"Sorabe" and "Pegon" writings (the Javanese version of
A couple hundred old manuscripts have survived to this day though the
oldest may have been written no earlier than the 17th century.
Those "Sorabe" are bound in leather and the texts are named after the
colour of the skin. Most of the texts contain magical formulas but
there are also some historical texts concerning the origin of some of
the tribes of the south east of Madagascar. These origins are traced
Mecca or the Prophet
Mohammed even though the practice of
nowhere seen in the texts.
Sorabe eventually spread across the island beginning in the 17th
century and, at the end of the 18th century, the
Andrianampoinimerina called for
Antemoro scribes to teach the children
of his court to read and write. This is how the future king Radama I
could read and write Sorabe from his childhood.
Nowadays Malagasy is written using a Latin alphabet, introduced in
3 See also
5 External links
Literal transcription of sora-be with the current Malagasy alphabet
‹ي› ou ‹ز›
‹ڊ› ou ‹رّ›
‹̣ط› ou ‹رّ›
‹ـِيَا› na ‹ـِيْا›
(in English) Adelaar K.A. & Himmelmann N. (2004), The Austronesian
Language of Asia and Madagascar, Routledge  .
(in French) Ferrand, Gabriel (1905). Les migrations musulmanes et
juives à Madagascar. Paris: Revue de l'histoire des religions.
MR Kasanga Fernand (1990), Fifindra-monina, Librairie FLM,
(in French) Simon P. (2006) La langue des ancêtres. Ny
Fitenin-drazana. Une périodisation du malgache des origines au XVe
siècle, L'Harmattan .
^ Kasanga Fernand (1990)
^ a b Ferrand, Gabriel (1905)
^ Adelaar K.A. & Himmelmann N. (2004)
^ Simon P. (2006)
La Case, les Sorabe, l'Histoire
Arabic in Madagascar, Kees Versteegh, Bulletin of the School of
Oriental and African Studies, 2001
East Barito: Who Were the
Malayo-Polynesian Migrants to Madagascar?
Tatar (İske imlâ