Malayalam is a South Dravidian language spoken mainly in the Indian state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry by around 35 million people. It has an alphabet of its own, the Kolezhuthu or round writing. Kolezhuthu was widely used until the 18th century when it gave way to the current Vattezhutthu script. The modern Malayalam grammar is based on the book Kerala Panineeyam written by A. R. Raja Raja Varma in late 19th century CE.The first travelogue in any Indian language is the Malayalam Varthamanappusthakam, written by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar in 1785.
Malayalam has been widely used for centuries throughout Kerala. The Malayalam literature includes works from every era, including Ramacharitam, written in 12th century AD by Ulloor S Parameswara Iyer. Malayalam literature has also been significantly influenced by works from other parts of India and abroad, including the English language.
“Learn to Handwrite Malayalam Alphabets”
Robert Caldwell, in his 1856 book “A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages”, opined that literary Malayalam branched from Classical Tamil and over time gained a large amount of Sanskrit vocabulary and lost the personal terminations of verbs.As the language of scholarship and administration, Old-Tamil, which was written in Tamil-Brahmi and the Vatteluttu alphabet later, greatly influenced the early development of Malayalam as a literary language.
Scholars familiar with modern language history and comparative literature developed a new view regarding Malayalam. Today, everybody is in unison on including Malayalam along with Tamil, Kodak, and Kannada as belonging to the Dakshina Dravidian family. It’s true that Malayalam has close affinity with Tamil. It is because at one point in history Tamil and Malayalam had a common root. Malayalam’s evolution as an independent language is found in the records and proclamations of the 9th century. Probably in the course of four or five centuries (9th century to 13th century) Tamil and Malayalam became different languages. Though it was necessary to recreate the spoken language of the period, it never materialised. Among the four major Dravidian languages Malayalam happened to be the last to develop literary works of its own.
Malayalam is also used in some areas outside Kerala, such as Lakshadweep, Coimbatore and Gulf countries. There are several prominent poets and writers in Malayalam who have made great contributions to the language. Among them are Kumaran Asan, Ulloor S Parameswara Iyer, Vallathol Narayana Menon, Changampuzha Krishna Pillai and Edasseri Govindan Nair.
The language has achieved an international reach with its presence in countries like Australia, UK, USA and Canada where many people from Kerala have migrated to. Malayalam was even promoted by the rulers of Kerala in Travancore and Cochin since the late 18th century, who viewed it as a symbol of their cultural identity.
Like other Dravidian languages, Malayalam is agglutinative, i.e., it adds suffixes, one after another, to stems to form words and to express grammatical functions. There is no absolute limit on the length and extent of agglutination in Malayalam, sometimes resulting in very long words.
Malayalam has been an integral part of the culture in Southern India for centuries and continues to be popular among its speakers today. Its presence extends beyond just Kerala, with its usage steadily increasing in other parts of India and abroad. The language has seen great contribution from its poets and writers throughout history, making it one of the most vibrant languages spoken today.
Malayalam has two basic styles: a formal and an informal one. The formal style is used in most writing, in radio and TV programs, and in public speaking. Ethnologue identifies a number of regional dialects of Malayalam. Among them are Central Kerala, Kasargod, Kayavar, Malabar, Malayalam, Moplah (Mapilla), Nagari-Malayalam, Namboodiri, Nasrani, Nayar, North Kerala, Pulaya, South Kerala (Ethnologue). These regional dialects are characterized by differences in pronunciation and vocabulary.
The Malayalam language is a living example of the treasury of Indian culture and it is worth exploring for its richness and beauty. The influence of some other languages like Prakrit, Pali, Marathi, Hindi, Persian, Dutch and French can be seen in the course of its evolution and transformation. So, it is little wonder that many foreign words have become part and parcel of Malayalam.
“Learn to Handwrite Malayalam Alphabets”
There are also a number of social varieties depending on caste and religion. There are differences in the speech of Christians, Hindus, and Muslims within a single geographic area. For instance, among the Hindus, the speech of Brahmins differs from that of Nairs, and these, in turn, are distinct from the speech of Ezhava. Dialects spoken by Christians have more loan words from Portuguese, Latin, and English than other dialects. Dialects spoken by the Muslim population have many borrowings from Arabic and Urdu. At the same time, spoken Malayalam is rapidly becoming standardized due to the influence of mass education and the growing influence of mass media.
A simplified version of the script was introduced in the 1970-1980 to facilitate printing. The main change involved writing consonants and diacritics linearly rather than as complex characters. These changes are not applied consistently, so the modern script is often mixture of traditional and simplified characters.