April 24, 2017
The Malayalam (മലയാളം) language's name originated from nature. Mala means mountain and Alam means land or place. Malayalam belongs to the Dravidian family of languages and is spoken by approximately 38 million people across the world. Among the four Dravidian languages, Malayalam was one of the last evolved languages and was derived from Tamil, which is one of the oldest languages known to the world.
The majority of speakers come from the south Indian state of Kerala and from the Lakshadweep Islands (Laccadives) from the west coast of India. It is also spoken in the neighboring states of Tamil, Nadu and Karnataka. It is one of the 22 recognized languages in India and was also designated as the Classical Language of India in 2013. Records show that the oldest written record of Malayalam is the vazhappaLLi inscription from 830 A.D.
The Malayalam script, known as kolezhuthu (Rod-Script), is derived from the ancient Grandha script. The language includes 53 characters with 37 consonants and 16 long and short vowels. However, a new style of writing was introduced in 1981, which helped reduce the number of characters radically. It is very easy for "Malayalees" (speakers of Malayalam) to speak, read, write or understand this language, but it is difficult for an NRI (non-resident Indian) to understand due to a different script and style of writing.
Malayalam is the primary language for only one state of India, but it has various dialects among the native speakers. The differences are easily evident in accent or vocabulary and differ due to religion, community and status.
As with many other world languages, Malayalam borrows some of its vocabulary from other languages. Its vocabulary has several words borrowed from Sanskrit, English and Portuguese.
There is a saying in India that you will find a person from Kerala in almost every corner of the world and due to the same reason, the language has found its way abroad. Many universities around the world teach Malayalam, including in the United States.
Malayalam Quick Facts
When written in English, this is the only language that turns out to be a palindrome (a word that reads the same backward as forward).
It is the 8th most spoken language in India.
The most circulated daily regional newspaper in India is in Malayalam. Kerala alone prints 170 daily papers, 235 weekly and over 550 monthly periodicals.
14 districts in Kerala have different dialects and people sometimes find it difficult to understand their own language due to these dialects.
Many visitors to India travel to Kerala, which is known as "God's country". This phrase will not disappoint you when you see the amazing mountains, lakes and scenic beauty. Learning a little Malayalam will help you communicate with the people who live in this beautiful place. Start with a Namaskaram (hello) and always end with a Nanni (thank you).
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Malayalam language, member of the South Dravidian subgroup of the Dravidian language family. Malayalam is spoken mainly in India, where it is the official language of the state of Kerala and the union territory of Lakshadweep. It is also spoken by bilingual communities in contiguous parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In the early 21st century, Malayalam was spoken by more than 35 million people.
Malayalam has three important regional dialects and a number of smaller ones. There is some difference in dialect along social, particularly caste, lines. As a result of these factors, the Malayalam language has developed diglossia, a distinction between the formal, literary language and colloquial forms of speech.
Malayalam evolved either from a western dialect of Tamil or from the branch of Proto-Dravidian from which modern Tamil also evolved. The earliest record of the language is an inscription dated to approximately 830 ce. An early and extensive influx of Sanskrit words influenced the Malayalam script. Known as Koleluttu (“Rod Script”), it is derived from the Grantha script, which in turn is derived from Brahmi. Koleluttu has letters to represent the entire corpus of sounds from both Dravidian and Sanskrit.
Like the Dravidian languages generally, Malayalam has a series of retroflex consonants (/ḍ/, /ṇ/, and /ṭ/) made by curling the tip of the tongue back to the roof of the mouth. It uses subject–object–verb word order and has a nominative-accusative case-marking pattern. Its pronominal system has “natural” gender, a form that marks the gender of humans masculine or feminine while designating all nonhuman nouns as neuter. Inflection is generally marked via suffixation. Unlike other Dravidian languages, Malayalam inflects its finite verb only for tense—not for person, number, or gender.
The earliest extant literary work in Malayalam is Ramacharitam, an epic poem written in the late 12th or early 13th century. In the subsequent centuries, besides a popular pattu (“song”) literature, there flourished a literature of mainly erotic poetry composed in the manipravalam (“ruby coral”) style, an admixture of Malayalam and Sanskrit.