Words to use when speaking to or about a woman in Malagasy
The official Malagasy language has no gender. Just like in English, objects are neutral; a car, a house, the sun, etc, are all neutral, as opposed to some languages where, in French for example, “car” and “house” are feminine and “sun” and “knife” are masculine. That spares the Malagasy women from the joke saying that in French, all bad things are feminine.
However, unlike in English where there is “he”, “she”, and “it”, in Malagasy it is always “izy”. So far, it seems fine, but some details start appearing from here. In English, “you” is always used when addressing a woman and a man. Such is not the case in Malagasy, addressing a woman may take different forms depending on the formality of the language and the relationships between the interlocutors. Indry/ndry, ianao, ialahy, ity/ty, itena/tena can all be used when speaking to a woman.
To take some examples from this chart, a man talking to a stranger man will use “ianao” [ɪanaw], but it is very awkward when a man says “indry” [ɪndrɪ] or [ndrɪ] to another man. Likewise, a woman does not address another woman and uses “ialahy” [ɪɑlɑ] or “ise” [ɪsɛ].
“Ise” and “ialahy” ary usually for men, “ialahy” has the word “lahy” (male) in it but it is not uncommon to see lovers, spouses, siblings, and cousins using “ise” or “ialahy” when talking between them. It is acceptable when a girl addresses her boyfriend using “indry”.
There is a slight difference in plural. To address a group of men, one can use “ialahy isany”(familiar) [ɪɑlɑ isan] or currently [laysan] and “ianareo” (formal); speaking to a group of women, it will just be “ianareo” [ɪanarɛw].
- Woman/women: vehivavy
- Female: vavy
- Ladies (as in “Ladies and Gentlemen!’): Itompokovavy, or andriambavinalitra
§ Ladies and Gentlemen: Itompokovavy sy Itompkolahy
§ Good morning ladies: Arahaba ry andriambavilanitra
- Late …(deceased woman): Itompokovavy (yes, same as above)
- Madam (Mrs.): Ramatoa
- Mother: Reny
- Mom: Neny
- Grandmother: Renibe, Nenibe
- Grandma: bebe
- Aunt: nenitoa, neniraivo, nenifara (toa for oldest, aivo for the middle, fara for the youngest). But nenitoa can be used for all of them.
- Sister: rahavavy (sister of a woman), anabavy (sister of a man), masera (religious)
- Sister-in-law: zaobavy
- Older sister: zoky vavy
- Younger sister: zandry vavy
- Queen: Mpanjaka vavy
- Baby girl: zazavavy kely
- Child girl: ankizy vavy
- Teenager/young lady: tovovavy
- Old woman: vavy antitra
- Girlfriend: sipa