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Malayalam: Language from the land of backwaters

Brief Description

It shows a remarkable sense of diversity through variations in intonation patterns, vocabulary, and distribution of grammatical and phonological elements observable along a variety of parameters, like region, community, occupation, social stratum, style and register. Malayalam borrows has borrowed thousands of nouns, hundreds of verbs, indeclinables and items of basic vocabulary from Sanskrit.

Malayalam now consists of 53 letters including 20 long and short vowels and 33 consonants. The traditional style of writing has undergone considerable metamorphosis in keeping with the demands of typing ease, reducing the different letters for typeset from over 900 letters to less than 90 distinct letters.

Regions where spoken

Malayalam is the language spoken predominantly in the state of Kerala, in southern India. It is one of the 23 official languages of India, spoken by around 37 million people. A native speaker of Malayalam is called a 'Malayali'. Malayalam is also spoken in Lakshadweep, Mah (Mayyazhi), Kodagu (Coorg) and areas of Tamil Nadu bordering Kerala.

Development & Spread

With Tamil, Toda, Kota and Kannada, Malayalam belongs to the southern group of Dravidian languages. Its affinity to Tamil is most striking. Proto-Tamil Malayalam, the common stock of Tamil and Malayalam apparently diverged over a period of four or five centuries from the ninth century, resulting in the emergence of Malayalam as a language distinct from Tamil. As the language of scholarship and administration, Tamil greatly influenced the early development of Malayalam. Later, the irresistible inroads, the Namboothiris made into the cultural life of Kerala, the trade relationships with Arabs and the invasion of Kerala by the Portuguese, establishing vassal states accelerated the assimilation of many Romance, Semitic and Indo-Aryan features into Malayalam at different levels spoken by different castes and religious communities like Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus.


The Malayalam script is an abugida of the Brahmic family, used to write the Malayalam language. From the Brahmi script, the Grantha script emerged as one of the earliest Southern scripts. It further evolved to the Malayalam script. Malayalam script covers all alphabets of Sanskrit as well as special Dravidian letters.

Important Writers or Works

Malayalam poetry to the late twentieth century portrays varying degrees of the fusion of the three different strands. The oldest examples of Pattu and Manipravalam respectively are Ramacharitam and Vaishikatantram, both of the twelfth century. The earliest extant prose work in the language is a commentary in simple Malayalam, Bhashakautaliyam (12th century) on Chanakya's Arthasastra. Adhyathmaramayanam by Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan is one of the most important works in Malayalam Literature. Malayalam prose of different periods exhibits various levels of influence from different languages such as Tamil, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali, Hebrew, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Portuguese, Dutch, French and English. Although this may be true, Malayalam is strikingly similar to Tamil, akin to the similarity between modern Dutch and German. Modern literature is rich in poetry, fiction, drama, biography, and literary criticism.

Other details

There are variety of popular fonts used in Hindi typing; Unicode, Baraha fonts etc.

Source: www.bhashaindia.com , www.kerala.gov.in

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