Malayalam language

Note: Malayalam is not the Malay language, which is spoken in Malaysia.

Malayalam (മലയാളം) is the major language of the state of Kerala, in southern India. It is one of the 22 official languages of India, spoken by around 30 million people. A person who speaks Malayalam is called a "Malayali" (or rarely, a "Keralite").

Malayalam (മലയാളം)
Spoken in: India
Region: Kerala, Lakshadweep Islands, and neighboring states
Total speakers: 35.7 million
Ranking: 29
Genetic classification: Dravidian


Official status
Official language of: Kerala State and Lakshadweep territory, India
Regulated by: --
Language codes
ISO 639-1ml
ISO 639-2mal
See also: LanguageList of languages

It belongs to the family of Dravidian languages. Both the language and its writing system are closely related to Tamil. Malayalam has a script of its own.



With Tamil, Kota, Kodagu and Kannada, Malayalam belongs to the southern group of Dravidian languages. Its affinity to Tamil is the most striking. Proto-Tamil Malayalam, the common stock of Tamil and Malayalam apparently disintegrated over a period of four of five centuries from the ninth century on, 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 Brahmins made into the cultural life of Kerala accelerated the assimilation of many Indo-Aryan features into Malayalam at different levels. Still the pure dravidian form of malayalam called Kodum Malayalam is spoken in the parts of Kerala.

Development of literature

The earliest written record of Malayalam is the vazhappalli inscription (ca. 830 AD). The early literature of Malayalam comprised three types of composition:

  • Classical songs known as /Pattu/ of the Tamil tradition
  • Manipravalam/ of the Sanskrit tradition, which permitted a generous interspersing of Sanskrit with Malayalam
  • The folk song rich in native elements

Malayalam poetry to the late twentieth century betrays varying degrees of the fusion of the three different strands. The oldest examples of /paTTu/ and maniprvAlam respectively are /rAmacharitam/ and /vaishikatantram/, both of the twelveth century.

The earliest extant prose work in the language is a commentary in simple Malayalam, Bhashakautaliyam (12th century) on Chanakya's Arthasastra. Malayalam prose of different periods exhibit various levels of influence from different languages such as Tamil, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali, Hebrew, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Portuguese, Dutch, French and English. Modern literature is rich in poetry, fiction, drama, biography, and literary criticism.

The script

In the early ninth century /vattezhuthu/ (round writing) traceable through the Grantha script, to the pan-Indian Brahmi script, gave rise to the Malayalam writing system. It is syllabic in the sense that the sequence of graphic elements means that syllables have to be read as units, though in this system the elements representing individual vowels and consonants are for the most part readily identifiable. In the 1960s Malayalam dispensed with many special letters representing less frequent conjunct consonants and combinations of the vowel /u/ with different consonants.

Malayalam now consists of 53 letters including 20 long and short vowels and the rest consonants. The earlier style of writing is now substituted with a new style from 1981. This new script reduces the different letters for typeset from 900 to less than 90. This was mainly done to include Malayalam in the keyboards of typewriters and computers.

In 1999 a group called Rachana Akshara Vedhi, led by Chitrajakumar and K.H. Hussein, produced a set of free fonts containing the entire character repertoire of more than 900 glyphs. This was announced and released along with an editor in the same year at Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala. In 2004, the fonts were released under the GNU GPL license by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation at the Cochin University of Science and Technology in Kochi, Kerala.

Language variation and external influence

Variations in intonation patterns, vocabulary, and distribution of grammatical and phonological elements are observable along the parameters of region, community, occupation, social stratum, style and register. Influence of Sanskrit is most prominent in the high caste dialects and least in the Harijan dialects like most other Indian languages. Loan words from English, Syriac, Latin, and Portuguese abound in the Christian dialects and those from Arabic and Urdu in the muslim dialects. Malayalam has borrowed from Sanskrit thousands of nouns, hundreds of verbs and some indeclinables. Some items of basic vocabulary also have found their way into Malayalam from Sanskrit. Like other parts of India, Sanskrit was considered as the aristocratic and scholastic language, similar to Latin in Europe.

European languages, mainly English and Portuguese, stands only second to Sanskrit in its influence in Malayalam. Many of of individual lexical items and many idiomatic expressions in modern Malayalam are of European origin.

Planning and development

As the language of administration and as the medium of instruction in schools and colleges, Malayalam is coming into its own. A scientific register in the language is slowly evolving. Remarkably liberal in their attitudes, Malayalis have always welcomed other languages to coexist with their own and the interaction of these with Malayalam has helped its development in different respects.


Malayalam is the longest language name in English which is a palindrome.

See also

External links


de:Malayalam eo:Malajala lingvo fr:Malayalam hi:मलयालम id:Bahasa Malayalam ml:മലയാളം ms:Bahasa Malayalam nl:Malayalam nn:Malayalam pl:Język malajalam sa:मलयाळम्‌ sl:Malajalščina sv:Malayalam ta:மலையாளம்


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools