Malayalam

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Malayalam
മലയാളം Malayāḷam
Malayalamname.svg
Malayalam in Malayalam script
Native toIndia
RegionKerala, Lakshadweep, Mahé (Puducherry)
EthnicityMalayali
Native speakers
38 million  (2007)[1]
Malayalam alphabet (Brahmic)
Malayalam Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Indian states: Kerala (State),[2] Lakshadweep (Territory), Puducherry (Territory)
Regulated byAcademy for Malayalam literature, Government of Kerala
Language codes
ISO 639-1ml
ISO 639-2mal
ISO 639-3mal
{{{mapalt}}}
Malayalam-speaking area
 
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Malayalam
മലയാളം Malayāḷam
Malayalamname.svg
Malayalam in Malayalam script
Native toIndia
RegionKerala, Lakshadweep, Mahé (Puducherry)
EthnicityMalayali
Native speakers
38 million  (2007)[1]
Malayalam alphabet (Brahmic)
Malayalam Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Indian states: Kerala (State),[2] Lakshadweep (Territory), Puducherry (Territory)
Regulated byAcademy for Malayalam literature, Government of Kerala
Language codes
ISO 639-1ml
ISO 639-2mal
ISO 639-3mal
{{{mapalt}}}
Malayalam-speaking area

Malayalam /mæləˈjɑːləm/[3] (മലയാളം, Malayāḷam ? [mɐləjaːɭəm]) is a language spoken in India, predominantly in the state of Kerala. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and was designated a Classical Language in India in 2013.[4] Malayalam has official language status in the state of Kerala and in the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry. It belongs to the Dravidian family of languages and is spoken by approximately 33 million people, according to the 2001 census. Malayalam is also spoken in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka; with more populace in the Nilgiris, Kanyakumari and Coimbatore districts of Tamil Nadu, and the Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu districts of Karnataka.[5][6][7]

Malayalam most likely originated from Middle Tamil (Sen-Tamil) in the 6th century.[8] An alternative theory proposes a split in even more ancient times.[8] Malayalam incorporated many elements from Sanskrit through the ages and today over eighty percent of the vocabulary of Malayalam in scholarly usage is from Sanskrit.[9] Before Malayalam came into being, Old Tamil was used in literature and courts of a region called Tamilakam, including present day Kerala state, a famous example being Silappatikaram. Silappatikaram was written by Chera prince Ilango Adigal from Cochin, and is considered a classic in Sangam literature. Modern Malayalam still preserves many words from the ancient Tamil vocabulary of Sangam literature. The earliest script used to write Malayalam was the Vattezhuttu script, and later the Kolezhuttu, which derived from it.[10] As Malayalam began to freely borrow words as well as the rules of grammar from Sanskrit, Grantha script was adopted for writing and came to be known as Arya Ezhuttu.[11] This developed into the modern Malayalam script.[12] Many medieval liturgical texts were written in an admixture of Sanskrit and early Malayalam, called Manipravalam.[13] The oldest literary work in Malayalam, distinct from the Tamil tradition, is dated from between the 9th and 11th centuries.[8] The first travelogue in any Indian language is in Malayalam, titled as Varthamanappusthakam written by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar in 1785.[14][15]

Due to its lineage deriving from both Sanskrit and Tamil, the Malayalam alphabet has the largest number of letters among the Indian languages.[16] Malayalam script includes letters capable of representing all the sounds of Sanskrit and all Dravidian languages.[17][18][19]

Etymology[edit]

The word Malayalam probably originated from the Malayalam/Tamil words mala meaning hill, and elam meaning region.[20] Malayalam thus translates as "hill region" and used to refer to the land itself (Chera Kingdom), and only later became the name of the language.[21] The language Malayalam is alternatively called Alealum, Malayalani, Malayali, Malean, Maliyad, and Mallealle.[22]

The word Malayalam originally meant only for the name of the region. "Malayanma" or "Malayayma" (meaning the language of the nation Malayalam) represented the language. With the emergence of modern Malayalam language, the name of the language started to be known by the name of the region. Hence now, the word "Malayanma" is considered by some to represent the olden Malayalam language. The language got the name Malayalam during the mid 19th century.[23]

Evolution[edit]

The Tamil Chera Dynasty of Kerala came to an end in Kerala in 1102. Kerala was the integral part of the Pandyan Kingdom and Tamil was the state language of Kerala until 1310. After the fall of Villavar Tamils in 1310 after the attack of Delhi Sultanate under Malik Kafur Kerala was dominated by Tulu-Nepalese people who were migrants from Ahichatra who used Sanskrit and Prakrit. Many subcastes of Tulu Bunt such as Nayara, Menava, Kuruba and Samantha appeared in Kerala.Samanthas became the Kings of this Matriarchal society.This led to the decline of Tamil in Kerala. Still the Indigenous language of Kerala Malayanma otherwise called Malayalam or Malayalam-Tamil or Malayala Thamozhi or Lingua Malabar Tamul continued to be used until 1820.

Kerala had three types of languages after this period

1) Malayanma or Malayalma or Malayalam-Tamil was the native Dravidian language of Kerala a form of Kodunthamil. Malayanma used little or no Sanskrit and used Tamil Prosody.[24] Ravikutti Pilla Por (1630 ad) Ananthapura Varnanam(1750)Vadakkan Pattu (17th century) display no Sanskrit and purely Dravidian language. Ramacharitham also resembles Malayanma but with more Tamil words. Malayanma was called Naana Moona in Travancore as it started with the letters Na Ma. Malayanma used Vatteluthu (Vatteluttu alphabet), Kolezhuthu or Tamil Script. Itty Achudan who compiled Hortus Malabaricus used Kolezhuthu to write it. Majority of the indigenous Dravidian Malayalees used Malayanma until the 19th century when British banned it. Malayanma was the language of indigenous Pillai(Vellala)feudal aristocracy and Panicker(Villavar) of ancient Chera Kingdom. Most of the Malayanma books were lost as the British banned Malayanma in 1820.

Lingua Malabar Tamul was the Liturgical language of Christians after the Portuguese arrival. It is a form of Malayalam-Tamil written with either Portuguese script or Tamil Script. During the Portuguese and Dutch period thousands of books were printed in Lingua Malabar Tamul or Lingua Malabarica (Kerala language). Lingua Malabarica was printed at Quilon, Ambazhakkadu (Ambalacatta) near Angamaly and also Thalassery. Flos Sanctorum printed at Cochin in 1577 is still preserved at Copenhagen.[25] Ambalacatta near Angamaly, and also Cochin had the press during the Portuguese and Dutch periods where Lingua Malabar books were printed. Until 1820 Lingua Malabar Tamul continued to be the major language of Kerala. Keralas Christians never used Modern Malayalam or Sanskrit prior to the arrival of British missionaries in the 19th century. Portuguese organised a Tamil army under Vallikada Panicker in the 16th century. When these Tamils mixed with the Portuguese and Dutch a strong Cochin Mestizo or Mestico community evolved.[26] Though they initially used Portuguese alphabets to print Lingua Malabar they were using Tamil scripts latter.after Portuguese left in 1660 Syrian churches became dominant and Mestizos and their various subgroups (Toepass, Castizo,Lascar) disappeared. Still the Lingua Malabar Tamul continued to be printed in Ambalacatta and was in usage until 1820. Malayalam in that era signified either Malayanma or Lingua Malabar Tamul until the 19th century. Malabar(Malayalam) English dictionary printed in 1796 by Graham Shaw was a Tamil-English dictionary.[27]

3)Grantha Bhasa which was used exclusively by Namputhiri Brahmins of Kerala which contained 80 percent Sanskrit and few Malayalam words. Grantha Bhasa was used by migrants from Ahichatra which was written using a form of Tulu Script called Tigalari Script.Tulu-Grantha Bhasa had its origin at Karnataka where Sanskrit books were written using Tigalari alphabet. Grantha Bhasa was used exclusively by Nambuthiris who were less than 0.3 percent of the population. Mandara Ramayana written in Tulu language by Mandara Kesava Bhatta in the 15th century was closely related to the ADHYATHMA RAMAYANAM written by Ezhuthachan in the 16th century. Adhatyamia Ramayanam is the first book to use Tulu-Malayalam Script or Tigalari Script. Grantha-Malayalam books written by Nambuthiris in that era contained more than 80 percent Sanskrit and less than 20 percent Malayanma words. Grantha Bhasa used Sanskrit Grammar instead of Malayanma grammar.Grantha Bhasha had less than 10 books until the 19th century. The discovery that Sanskrit was closely related to German led missionaries of German origin such as Arnos Pathiri (Johann Ernst Hanxleden) to show interest in Grantha Bhasa.Johann Ernst Hanxleden wrote Grantha Bhasayude Vyaharanam in 1699 first ever Grammar book in Grantha Bhasa.

Tulu-Grantha Bhasa remained a minority language until the British made it the official language and started calling it Malayalam in the 19th century. The Church Mission Society established at Kottayam in 1815 started teaching Grantha Bhasa to Syrian Christians.In 1819 Benjamin Bailey (missionary) started mixing Malayanma with Granthabhasa and called it Middle Malayalam.Benjamin Bailey who was also a master of Tulu language made the first Tulu-Malayalam types(Tigalari)as used in Grantha Bhasa in 1819.The Malayalam Bible produced by Benjamin Bailey 1829 was overtly Sanskrit and was considered inconprehensible.[28] British established a Sanskrit college under Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara in 1830. When the efforts to make Sanskrit based Grantha Bhasa as liturgical language British-German missionaries such as Hermann Gundert added more of Dravidian words of Malayanma to the Grantha Bhasa and created the Modern Malayalam which use Tulu (Tigalari alphabet) to write Malayalam. Like Grantha Bhasa modern Malayalam uses Sanskrit Grammar instead of Malayanma Grammar.

The British manipulations gave Sanskrit a preeminent position in Kerala.Sanskrit or Modern Malayalam was never used by Christians of Kerala prior to British arrival.Thus by teaching Christians Sanskrit and Grantha Bhasa they could integrate Christians with the Namputhiris. Majority of the Malayanma speaking native Dravidian people of Kerala lost their language and Grammar when British never printed the Palm Leaf books written in Malayanma.

The origin of Malayalam, whether it was from a dialect of Tamil or an independent offshoot of the Proto Dravidian language, has been and continues to be an engaging pursuit among comparative historical linguists.[29] Robert Caldwell, in his book A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages, opines that Malayalam branched from Classical Tamil that over time gained a large amount of Sanskrit vocabulary and lost the personal terminations of verbs.[21] Either way, it is generally agreed that by the end of the 13th century a written form of the language emerged which was definitely different from Tamil.[29]

 
 
 
 
Proto-Dravidian
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Proto-South-Dravidian
 
Proto-South-Central Dravidian
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Proto-Tamil-Kannada
 
 
 
Proto-Telugu
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Proto-Tamil-Toda
 
Proto-Kannada
 
Proto-Telugu
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Proto-Tamil-Kodagu
 
Kannada
 
Telugu
 
 
 
 
 
 
Proto-Tamil-Malayalam
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Proto-Tamil
 
Malayalam
 
 
 
 
 
Tamil
This tree diagram depicts the genealogy of the primary Dravidian languages spoken
in South India.

The earliest known poem in Malayalam, Ramacharitam, dated to the 12th century A.D., was completed before the introduction of the Sanskrit alphabet. It shows the same phase of the language as in Jewish and Nasrani Sasanas (dated to mid‑8th century A.D.).[21] But the period of the earliest available literary document cannot be the sole criterion used to determine the antiquity of a language. In its early literature, Malayalam has songs, Pattu, for various subjects and occasions, such as harvesting, love songs, heroes, gods, etc. A form of writing called Campu emerged from the 14th century onwards. It mixed poetry with prose and used a vocabulary strongly influenced by Sanskrit, with themes from epics and Puranas.[29]

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan was the first to substitute Grantha-Malayalam script for the Tamil Vattezhuttu. Ezhuthachan, regarded as the father of the modern Malayalam language, undertook an elaborate translation of the ancient Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata into Malayalam. His Adhyatma Ramayana and Mahabharata are still read with religious reverence by the Malayalam-speaking Hindu community. Kunchan Nambiar, the founder of Tullal, was a prolific literary figure of the 18th century.

The British printed Malabar English Dictionary by Graham Shaw in 1779 was still in the form of a Tamil-English Dictionary.[30]

The Syrian Christians of Kerala started to learn the Tulu-Grantha Bhasha of Nambudiris under the British Tutelage. Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar wrote the first Malayalam travelogue called Varthamanappusthakam in 1789.

Dr.Hermann Gundert, (1814 – 1893), a German missionary and scholar played a distinguishable role in the development of Malayalam literature. His major works are Keralolpathi (1843), Pazhancholmala (1845), Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam(1851), Paathamala (1860) the first Malayalam school text book, Kerala pazhama(1868), the first Malayalam dictionary (1872), Malayalarajyam(1879)-Geography of Kerala, Rajya Samacharam (1847 June) the first Malayalam news paper, Paschimodayam (1879)-Magazine.[31] He lived in Thalassery for around 20 years. He learned the language from well established local teachers Ooracheri Gurukkanmar from Chokli, a village near Thalassery and consulted them in works. He also translated The Holy Bible into Malayalam.[32][33]

Together with Tamil, Toda, Kannada and Tulu, Malayalam belongs to the southern group of Dravidian languages. Some believe Proto-Tamil, the common stock of ancient Tamil and Malayalam, diverged over a period of four or five centuries from the 9th century on, resulting in the emergence of Malayalam as a language distinct from Proto-Tamil. As the language of scholarship and administration, Proto-Tamil, which was written in Tamil-Brahmi script and Vatteluttu later, greatly influenced the early development of Malayalam. The first printed book in Kerala was Doctrina Christam, written by Henrique Henriques in Lingua Malabar Tamul. It was transliterated and translated into Malayalam, and printed by the Portuguese in 1578.[34][35]

In 1821 the Church Mission Society (CMS) at Kottayam started printing books in Malayalam when Benjamin Bailey, an Anglican priest, made the first Malayalam types. In addition, he contributed to standardizing the prose.[36] Hermann Gundert from Stuttgart, Germany, started the first Malayalam newspaper, Rajya Samacaram in 1847 at Talasseri. It was printed at Basel Mission.[37]

History[edit]

Language[edit]

Cover page of Nasranikal okkekkum ariyendunna samkshepavedartham which is the first book to be printed in Malayalam in 1772.

Malayalam is spoken mostly in the state of Kerala and adjoining areas. As "Mala" (Chera) means "mountain", the word "Malayaalam" obviously refers to either people or the language of the mountainous region. Rama-charitam, which was composed in the 14th century A.D., may be said to have inaugurated Malayalam literature just as Naniah's Mahabharatam did for Telugu. The fact is that dialectical and local peculiarities had already developed and stamped themselves in local songs and ballads. But these linguistic variations were at last gathered together and made to give a coloring to a sustained literary work, the Rama-charitam, thereby giving the new language a justification and a new lease on life.

Malayalam as a distinct language arose due to Political and Geographical isolation, the impact of Christianity and Islam, and the arrival of the Namboodiri Brahmins a little over a thousand years ago, all created conditions favorable to the development of the local dialect Malayalam. The Namboodiri grafted a good deal of Sanskrit onto the local dialect and influenced its physiognomy. Popular and religious songs were composed first.

Thunchathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan

The Malayalam language, with the introduction of a new type of devotional literature, underwent a metamorphosis, both in form and content, and it is generally held that modernity in Malayalam language and literature commenced at this period. This change was brought about by Thunchathu Ezhuthachan (16th century) who is known as the father of modern Malayalam. Till this time Malayalam indicated two different courses of development depending on its relationship with either Sanskrit or Tamil.

The earliest literary work in Malayalam now available is a prose commentary on Chanakya's Arthasastra, ascribed to the 13th century. The poetical works called Vaisikatantram are also believed to belong to the early 14th century. These works come under a special category known as Manipravalam, literally the combination of two languages, the language of Kerala and Sanskrit. A grammar and rhetoric in this hybrid style was written sometime in the 14th century in Sanskrit and the work, called the Lilatikalam, is the main source of information for a student of literary and linguistic history.

According to this book, the Manipravalam and Pattu styles of literary compositions were in vogue during this period. "Pattu" means "song" and more or less represents the pure Malayalam school of poetry. From the definition of the Pattu style given in the Lilatikalam, it can be surmised that the language of Kerala during this period was more or less in line with Tamil, but this has misled many people to believe incorrectly that Malayalam was itself Tamil during this period and before.

The latest research shows that Malayalam as a separate spoken language in Kerala began showing independent lines of development from its parental tongue Tamil, preserving the idiosyncrasies of the earliest Dravidian tongue, which only in due course gave birth to the literary form of Tamil, namely Sen Tamil and Malayalam, the spoken form of which is prevalent in Kerala. However, till the 13th century there is no hard evidence to show that the language of Kerala had a literary tradition except in folk songs.

The literary tradition consisted of three early Manipravalam Champus, a few Sandesa Kavyas and innumerable amorous compositions on the courtesans of Kerala, which throb with literary beauty and poetical fancies, combined with a relishing touch of realism about them with regard to the then social conditions. Many prose works in the form of commentaries upon Puranic episodes form the bulk of the classical works in Malayalam.

The Pattu (a sutra devoted to define this pattern is termed a pattu) school also has major works like the Ramacharitam (12th century), and the Bhagavad Gita (14th century) by a set of poets belonging to one family called the Kannassas. Some of them like Ramacharitam have a close resemblance to the Tamil language during this period. This is to be attributed to the influence of Tamil works on native poets belonging to areas that lie close to the Tamil country.

It was during the 16th and 17th centuries that later Champu kavyas were written. Their specialty was that they contained both Sanskritic and indigenous elements of poetry to an equal degree, and in that manner were unique.

Unnayi Varyar, whose Nalacharitan Attakkatha is popular even today, was the most prominent poet of the 18th century among not only the Kathakali writers, but also among the classical poets of Kerala. He is often referred to as the Kalidasa of Kerala. Although Kathakali is a dance drama and its literary form should more or less be modeled after the drama, there is nothing more in common between an Attakkatha and Sanskrit drama.

That is to say, the principles of dramaturgy to be observed in writing a particular type of Sanskrit drama are completely ignored by an author of Attakkatha. Delineation of a particular rasa is an inevitable feature with Sanskrit drama, whereas in an Attakkatha all the predominant rasas are given full treatment, and consequently the theme of an Attakkatha often loses its integrity and artistic unity when viewed as a literary work.

Any Attakkatha fulfills its objective if it affords a variety of scenes depicting different types of characters, and each scene would have its own hero with the rasa associated with that character. When that hero is portrayed he is given utmost importance, to the utter neglect of the main sentiment (rasa) of the theme in general. However, the purpose of Attakkatha is not to present a theme with a well-knit emotional plot as its central point, but to present all approved types of characters already set to suit the technique of the art of Kathakali.

The major literary output of the century was in the form of local plays composed for the art of kathakali, the dance dramas of Kerala also known as Attakkatha. It seems the Gitagovinda of Jayadeva provided a model for this type of literary composition. The verses in Sanskrit narrate the story and the dialogue is composed in imitation of songs in the Gitagovinda, set to music in appropriate ragas in the classical Karnataka style.

Besides the Raja of Kottarakkara and Unnayi Varyar referred to above, nearly a hundred plays were composed during this century by poets belonging to all categories and subscribing to all standards, such as Irayimman Tampi and Ashvati Raja, to mention just two.

Devotional literature in Malayalam found its heyday during the early phase of this period. Ezhuthachan referred to above gave emphasis to the Bhakti cult. The Jnanappana by Puntanam Nambudiri is a unique work in the branch of philosophical poetry. Written in simple language, it is a sincere approach to the advaita philosophy of Vedanta.

It was during this period that Christian missionaries made their contribution to Malayalam by compiling dictionaries in the language, translating the Bible into simple prose and translating verses on Biblical themes. Due to these foreigners, a revolution in prose writing was effected, freeing it completely from the bondage of the pedantic Sanskrit style. Books on astronomy, astrology, mathematics and medicine were written by scholars in Sanskrit.

It took nearly two centuries for a salutary blending of the scholarly Sanskrit and popular styles to bring Malayalam prose to its present form, enriched in its vocabulary by Sanskrit but at the same time flexible, pliable and effective as to popular parlance.

As regards literature, the leading figures were Irayimman Thampi and Vidwan Koithampuran, both poets of the royal court. Their works abound in a beautiful and happy blending of music and poetry. The former is surely the most musical poet of Kerala and his beautiful lullaby commencing with the line Omana Ttinkalkitavo has earned him an everlasting name. But the prime reason why he is held in such high esteem in Malayalam is the contribution he has made to Kathakali literature by his three works, namely the Dakshayagam, the Kichakavadham and the Uttara-svayamvaram. The latter's Kathakali work Ravana Vijayam has made him immortal in literature.

Impact of English education[edit]

The progress of literature in the Cochin and Malabar areas during this period was influenced by the advancement of English education in these regions. The educational activities of the missionaries belonging to the Basel Mission deserve special mention. It was under their auspices that Dr Gundert, a German missionary of exceptional linguistic talents, produced by his own personal effort the Malayalam–English Dictionary, which even today remains an authoritative work. A priest George Mathan wrote the first authoritative grammar book in Malayalam titled Malayanmayude Vyakaranam. Thanks to the efforts of kings like Swathi Thirunal and to the assistance given by him to the Church Mission and London Mission Societies, a number of schools were started.

Prose literature[edit]

The establishment of the Madras University in 1857 marks an important event in the cultural history of Kerala. It is from here that a generation of scholars well versed in Western literature and with the capacity to enrich their own language by adopting Western literary trends came into being. Prose was the first branch to receive an impetus by its contact with English. Though there was no shortage of prose in Malayalam, it was not along Western lines. It was left to the farsighted policy of the Maharaja of Travancore (1861 to 1880) to start a scheme for the preparation of textbooks for use by schools in the state. Kerala Varma V, a scholar in Sanskrit, Malayalam and English was appointed Chairman of the Committee formed to prepare textbooks. He wrote several books suited for various standards.

The growth of journalism, too, helped in the development of prose. Initiated by missionaries for the purpose of religious propaganda, journalism was taken up by local scholars who started newspapers and journals for literary and political activities.

Short Stories[edit]

Vengayil Kunhiraman Nayanar, (1861-1914)from Thalassery was the author of first Malayalam short story, Vasanavikriti. After him innumerable world class literature works by was born in Malayalam.

Novels[edit]

With his work Kundalatha in 1887, Appu Nedungadi marks the origin of prose fiction in Malayalam. Other talented writers were Chandu Menon, the author of Indulekha, a great social novel, in 1889 and another called Sarada. Also there was C V Raman Pillai, who wrote the historical novel Marttandavarma in 1890 as well as works like Dharmaraja, and Ramaraja Bahadur.[citation needed]

Drama and poetry[edit]

Shakuntala writes to Dushyanta. Painting by Raja Ravi Varma. The poetry was translated by Kerala Varma as Abhijnanasakuntalam

In poetry there were two main trends, one represented by Venmani Nampoodiris(venmani Poets) and the other by Kerala Varma. The latter's poetry was modeled on the old Manipravalam style abounding in Sanskrit words and terms, but it had a charm of its own when adapted to express new ideas in that masterly way characteristic of himself. His translation of Kalidasa's Abhijnanasakuntalam in 1882 marks an important event in the history of Malayalam drama and poetry. Also Kerala Varma's Mayura-sandesam is a Sandesakavya (messenger poem) written after the manner of Kalidasa's Meghadutam. Though it cannot be compared with the original, it was still one of the most popularly acclaimed poems in Malayalam.

One of the notable features of the early decades of the 20th century was the great interest taken by writers in translating works from Sanskrit and English into Malayalam. Kalidasa's Meghaduta and Kumarasambhava by A. R. Raja Raja Varma and the Raghuvamsa by K. N. Menon must be mentioned. One of the most successful of the later translators was C. S. Subramaniam Potti who set a good model by his translation of the Durgesanandini of Bankim Chandra from an English version of it.

1905 to 1947[edit]

Novels[edit]

The early decades of the 20th century saw the beginning of a period of rapid development of all branches of Malayalam literature. A good number of authors familiar with the latest trends in English literature came forward to contribute to the enrichment of their mother tongue. Their efforts were directed more to the development of prose than poetry.

It is interesting to note that a number of Bengali novels were translated during this period. C. S. S. Potti, mentioned above, also brought out the Lake of Palms of R. C. Dutt under the title Thala Pushkarani, Kapalakundala by V. K. Thampi and Visha Vruksham by T. C. Kalyani Amma were also translations of novels by Bankimochandra Chatterji.

Among the original novels written at that time only a few are worth mentioning, such as Bhootha Rayar by Appan Thampuran, Keraleswaran by Raman Nambeesan and Cheraman Perumal by K. K. Menon. Although a large number of social novels were produced during this period, only a few are remembered, such as Snehalatha by Kannan Menon, Hemalatha by T. K. Velu Pillai and Kambola-balika by N. K. Krishna Pillai. But by far the most inspiring work of that time was Aphante Makal by M. B. Namboodiri, who directed his literary talents towards the abolition of old worn-out customs and manners which had for years been the bane of the community.

Short stories came into being. With the advent of E. V. Krishna Pillai, certain marks of novelty became noticeable in the short story. His Keleesoudham proved his capacity to write with considerable emotional appeal.

Social dramas[edit]

C. V. Raman Pillai was a pioneer in prose dramas. He had a particular knack for writing dramas in a lighter vein. His Kurupillakalari of 1909 marks the appearance of the first original Malayalam prose drama. It is a satirical drama intended to ridicule the Malayali official classes who started imitating Western fashion and etiquette. There were other authors, less well-known, who wrote in this vein.[citation needed]

Poetry – the Romantic impact[edit]

Kumaran Asan's celebrated poem, Vina Poovu (The Fallen Flower) depicts in a symbolic manner the tragedy of human life in a moving and thought-provoking manner. Vallathol's Bandhanasthanaya Aniruddhan, which demonstrates an exceptionally brilliant power of imagination and deep emotional faculties, depicts a situation from the Puranic story of Usha and Aniruddha. Ulloor S. P. Iyer was another veteran who joined the new school. He wrote a series of poems like Oru Mazhathulli in which he excelled as a romantic poet.

The three more or less contemporary poets Kumaran Asan, Vallathol Narayana Menon and Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer considerably enriched Malayalam poetry. Some of their works reflect social and political movements of that time. Asan wrote about untouchability in Kerala; Ullor's writings reflect his deep devotion and admiration for the great moral and spiritual values, which he believed were the real assets of ancient social life of India. They were known as the trio of Malayalam poetry. After them there were others like K. K. Nair and K. M. Panikkar who contributed to the growth of poetry.

Under the guidance of A. Balakrishna Pillai, a progressive school of authors appeared in almost all branches of literature, such as the novel, the short story, the drama, and criticism.

Post-independence period[edit]

Malayalam is one of the 22 official languages of India. The Kerala Official Language (Legislation) Act, 1969, declares Malayalam the official language of Kerala.[38][39]

Malayalam in Malayalam script was introduced as the official language of Lakshadweep during the British Raj. Malayalam has official language status in the district of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep.[40] Malayalam serves as a link language on the islands including the Mahl-dominated Minicoy Island.

Malayalam also has official language status in the Mahe District of the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Dialects[edit]

Dialects of Malayalam are distinguishable at regional and social levels,[41] including occupational and also communal differences. The salient features of many varieties of tribal speech (e.g., the speech of Muthuvans, Malayarayas, Malai Ulladas, Kanikkars, Kadars, Paliyars, Kurumas, and Vedas) and those of the various dialects of Dalits (a.k.a. "Harijans"), Brahmins, Nairs, Ezhavas, Syrian Christians (Nasrani), Latin Christians, Muslims, fishermen and many of the occupational terms common to different sections of Malayalees have been identified.[42]

It may be noted at this point that labels such as "Brahmin Dialect" and "Harijan Dialect" refer to overall patterns constituted by the sub-dialects spoken by the subcastes or sub-groups of each such caste. The most outstanding features of the major communal dialects of Malayalam are summarized below:

Lexical items with phonological features reminiscent of Sanskrit (e.g., viddhi, meaning "fool"), bhosku ("lie"), musku ("impudence"), dustu ("impurity"), and eebhyan and sumbhan (both meaning "good-for-nothing fellow") abound in this dialect.

The dialect of the educated stratum among the Nairs resembles the Brahmin dialect in many respects. The amount of Sanskrit influence, however, is found to be steadily decreasing as one descends along the parameter of education.

One of the striking features differentiating the Nair dialect from the Ezhava dialect is the phonetic quality of the word-final: an enunciative vowel unusually transcribed as "U". In the Nair dialect it is a mid-central unrounded vowel whereas in the Ezhava dialect it is often heard as a lower high back unrounded vowel.

The Harijan dialect comprises overall features of many sub-dialects such as the Pulaya dialect and the Paraya dialect. It is devoid of "S", "Y" and aspiration. The lack of complex consonant clusters is another characteristic feature of the Harijan dialect. Pronominal terminations appended to finite verbal forms are preserved by certain varieties of Harijan speech.

The Syrian Christian dialect of Malayalam is quite close to the Nair dialect, especially in phonology. The speech of the educated section among Syrian Christians and that of those who are close to the church are peculiar in having a number of assimilated as well as unassimilated loan words from English and Syriac. The few loan words which have found their way into the Christian dialect are assimilated in many cases through the process of de-aspiration.

The Latin Christian dialect of Malayalam is close to fishermen dialect. It is also influenced by Latin, Portuguese and English.

The Muslim dialect shows maximum divergence from the literary Standard Dialect of Malayalam. It is very much influenced by Arabic and Urdu rather than by Sanskrit or by English. The retroflex continuant 'ZHA' of the Literary Dialect is realized in the Muslim dialect as the palatal 'YA'.

As regards the geographical dialects of Malayalam, surveys conducted so far by the Department of Linguistics, University of Kerala restricted the focus of attention during a given study on one specific caste so as to avoid mixing up of more than one variable such as communal and geographical factors. Thus for examples, the survey of the Ezhava dialect of Malayalam, results of which have been published by the Department in 1974, has brought to light the existence of twelve major dialect areas for Malayalam, although the isoglosses are found to crisscross in many instances. They are following:

  1. South Travancore
  2. Central Travancore
  3. North Travancore
  4. West Vempanad
  5. Kochi
  6. South Malabar
  7. South Eastern Palghat
  8. North Western
  9. Central Malabar
  10. Wayanad
  11. North Malabar
  12. The Peak Dialect

Sub-dialect regions, which could be marked off, were found to be thirty. This number is reported to tally approximately with the number of principalities that existed during the pre-British period in Kerala. In a few instances at least, as in the case of Venad, Karappuram, Nileswaram and Kumbala, the known boundaries of old principalities are found to coincide with those of certain dialects or sub-dialects that retain their individuality even today. This seems to reveal the significance of political divisions in Kerala in bringing about dialect difference.

Divergence among dialects of Malayalam embrace almost all aspects of language such as phonetics, phonology, grammar and vocabulary. Differences between any two given dialects can be quantified in terms of the presence or absence of specific units at each level of the language. To cite a single example of language variation along the geographical parameter, it may be noted that there are as many as seventy seven different expressions employed by the Ezhavas and spread over various geographical points just to refer to a single item, namely, the flower bunch of coconut. 'Kola' is the expression attested in most of the panchayats in the Palakkad, Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram districts of Kerala, whereas 'kolachil' occurs most predominantly in Kannur and Kochi and 'klannil' in Alappuzha and Kollam. 'Kozhinnul' and 'kulannilu' are the forms most common in Trissur and Kottayam respectively. In addition to these forms most widely spread among the areas specified above, there are dozens of other forms such as 'kotumpu' (Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram), 'katirpu' (Kottayam), krali(Pathanamthitta),pattachi, gnannil (Kollam), 'pochata' (Palakkad) etc. referring to the same item.

Geographic distribution and population[edit]

According to the Indian census of 2011, there were 32,299,239 speakers of Malayalam in Kerala, making up 93.2% of the total number of Malayalam speakers in India, and 96.74% of the total population of the state. There were a further 701,673 (2.1% of the total number) in Karnataka, 557,705 (1.7%) in Tamil Nadu, and 406,358 (1.2%) in Maharashtra. The number of Malayalam speakers in Lakshadweep is 51,100, which is only 0.15% of the total number, but is as much as about 84% of the population of Lakshadweep. In all, Malayalis made up 3.22% of the total Indian population in 2011. Of the total 34,713,130 Malayalam speakers in India in 2011, 33,015,420 spoke the standard dialects, 19,643 spoke the Yerava dialect and 31,329 spoke non-standard regional variations like Eranadan.[43] As per the 1991 census data, 28.85% of all Malayalam speakers in India spoke a second language and 19.64% of the total knew three or more languages.

Large numbers of Malayalis have settled in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai (Bombay), Pune and Chennai (Madras). A large number of Malayalis have also emigrated to the Middle East, the United States, and Europe. There were 179,860 speakers of Malayalam in the United States, according to the 2000 census, with the highest concentrations in Bergen County, New Jersey and Rockland County, New York.[44] There were 7,093 Malayalam speakers in Australia in 2006.[45] The 2001 Canadian census reported 7,070 people who listed Malayalam as their mother tongue. The 2006 New Zealand census reported 2,139 speakers.[46] 134 Malayalam speaking households were reported in 1956 in Fiji. There is also a considerable Malayali population in the Persian Gulf regions, especially in Dubai.

Development of literature[edit]

Main article: Malayalam literature

The earliest written record resembling Malayalam is the Vazhappalli inscription (ca. 830 CE).[47] The early literature of Malayalam comprised three types of composition: Malayalam Nada, Tamil Nada and Sanskrit Nada.

Malayalam poetry to the late 20th century betrays varying degrees of the fusion of the three different strands. The oldest examples of Pattu and Manipravalam, respectively, are Ramacaritam and Vaishikatantram, both from the 12th century.[49]

The earliest extant prose work in the language is a commentary in simple Malayalam, Bhashakautalyam (12th century) on Chanakya's Arthasastra. Adhyatmaramayanam by Tuncattu Ramanujan Ezhuttaccan (known as the father of the Malayalam language) who was born in Tirur, one of the most important works in Malayalam literature. Unnunili Sandesam[50] written in the 14th century is amongst the oldest literary works in Malayalam language.

By the end of the 18th century some of the Christian missionaries from Kerala started writing in Malayalam but mostly travelogues, dictionaries and religious books. Varthamanappusthakam (1778), written by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar[51] is considered to be the first travelogue in an Indian language. Church Mission Society in association with the Syriac Orthodox Church started a seminary at Kottayam in 1819 and also started a press which printed Malayalam books in the 19th century. Malayalam and Sanskrit were increasingly studied by Christians of Kottayam and Pathanamthitta. By the end of the 19th century Malayalam replaced Syriac as language of Liturgy in the Syrian Christian churches.

Phonology[edit]

[52] For the consonants and vowels, the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbol is given, followed by the Malayalam character and the ISO 15919 transliteration.

Vowels[edit]

The first letter in Malayalam
 ShortLong
FrontCentralBackFrontCentralBack
Close/i/ ഇ i/ɨ̆/ * ŭ/u/ ഉ u/iː/ ഈ ī /uː/ ഊ ū
Mid/e/ എ e/ə/ * a/o/ ഒ o/eː/ ഏ ē /oː/ ഓ ō
Open /a/ അ a  /aː/ ആ ā 

Malayalam has also borrowed the Sanskrit diphthongs of /äu/ (represented in Malayalam as ഔ, au) and /ai/ (represented in Malayalam as ഐ, ai), although these mostly occur only in Sanskrit loanwords. Traditionally (as in Sanskrit), four vocalic consonants (usually pronounced in Malayalam as consonants followed by the saṁvr̥tōkāram, which is not officially a vowel, and not as actual vocalic consonants) have been classified as vowels: vocalic r (ഋ, /rɨ̆/, ), long vocalic r (ൠ, /rɨː/, r̥̄), vocalic l (ഌ, /lɨ̆/, ) and long vocalic l (ൡ, /lɨː/, l̥̄). Except for the first, the other three have been omitted from the current script used in Kerala as there are no words in current Malayalam that use them.

Consonants[edit]

LabialDentalAlveolarRetroflexPalatalVelarGlottal
Nasalmmnnɳɲñŋ
Stopplainppbbtdt * ʈɖt͡ʃcd͡ʒjkkɡg
aspiratedphbht̪ʰthd̪ʱdhʈʰṭhɖʱḍht͡ʃʰchd͡ʒʱjhkhɡʱgh
Fricativef ഫ* fsʂɕśhh
Approximantcentralʋvɻjy
lateralllɭ
Rhoticɾʲrr

Number system and other symbols[edit]

PrasleshamCorresponds to Devanagari avagraha, used when a Sanskrit phrase containing an avagraha is written in Malayalam script. The symbol indicates the elision of the word-initial vowel a after a word that ends in ā, ē, or ō, and is transliterated as an apostrophe ('), or sometimes as a colon + and apostrophe (:').
(Malayalamപ്രശ്ലേഷം, praślēṣam ?)
Malayalam date markUsed in an abbreviation of a date.
DandaArchaic punctuation marks.
Double danda

Malayalam numbers and fractions are written as follows. These are archaic and no longer commonly used. Note that there is a confusion about the glyph of Malayalam digit zero. The correct form is oval-shaped, but occasionally the glyph for ¼ () is erroneously shown as the glyph for 0.

0123456789101001000¼½¾
൦

Grammar[edit]

Malayalam has a canonical word order of SOV (subject–object–verb) as do other Dravidian languages.[53] Both adjectives and possessive pronouns precede the nouns they modify. Malayalam has 6[54] or 7[55] grammatical cases. Verbs are conjugated for tense, mood and aspect, but not for person, gender or number except in archaic or poetic language.

Nouns[edit]

The declensional paradigms for some common nouns and pronouns are given below. As Malayalam is an agglutinative language, it is difficult to delineate the cases strictly and determine how many there are, although seven or eight is the generally accepted number. Alveolar plosives and nasals (although the modern Malayalam script does not distinguish the latter from the dental nasal) are underlined for clarity, following the convention of the National Library at Kolkata romanization.

Personal pronouns[edit]

Vocative forms are given in parentheses after the nominative, as the only pronominal vocatives that are used are the third person ones, which only occur in compounds.

SingularPlural
CaseFirst personSecond personThird person (masculine)Third person (feminine)First person (exclusive)First person (inclusive)Second personThird Person
Nominativeñjanavan (voc. avanē)avaḷ (voc. avaḷē)ñaṅṅaḷnām/ nammaḷniṅṅaḷavar (voc. avarē)
Accusativeenneninneavaneavaḷeñaṅṅaḷenammeniṅṅaḷeavare
Genitiveente (also en, ennuṭe)ninte (also nin, ninnuṭe)avante (also avanuṭe)avaḷuṭeñaṅṅaḷuṭe (also ñaṅṅuṭe)nammuṭeniṅṅaḷuṭeavaruṭe
Dativeenikkuninakkuavanuavaḷkkuñaṅṅaḷkkunamukkuniṅṅaḷkkuavarkku
Instrumentalennālninnālavanālavaḷālñaṅṅaḷāl (also ñaṅṅāl)nammālniṅṅaḷāl (also niṅṅāl)avarāl
Locativeennil (also eṅkal)ninnil (also niṅkal)avanil (also avaṅkal)avaḷil (also avaḷkal)ñaṅṅaḷilnammilniṅṅaḷilavaril (also avarkal)
Sociativeennōṭuninnōṭuavanōṭuavaḷōṭuñaṅṅaḷōṭunammōṭuniṅṅaḷōṭuavarōṭu

Other nouns[edit]

The following are examples of some of the most common declension patterns.

WordTreeElephantHumanDog
CaseSingularPluralSingularPluralSingularPluralSingularPlural
Nominativemarammaraṅṅkaḷānaānakaḷmanuṣyanmanuṣyarpaṭṭipaṭṭikaḷ
Vocativemaramēmaraṅṅaḷēānēānakaḷēmanuṣyāmanuṣyarēpaṭṭīpaṭṭikaḷē
Accusativemarattemaraṅṅaḷeānayeānakaḷemanuṣyanemanuṣyarepaṭṭiyepaṭṭikaḷe
Genitivemarathintemaraṅṅaḷuṭeānayuṭeānakaḷuṭemanuṣyantemanuṣyaruṭepaṭṭiyuṭepaṭṭikaḷuṭe
Dativemarathinumaraṅṅaḷkkuānaykkuānakaḷkkumanuṣyanumanuṣyarkkupaṭṭiykkupaṭṭikaḷkku
Instrumentalmarathālmaraṅṅaḷālānayālānakaḷālmanuṣyanālmanuṣyarālpaṭṭiyālpaṭṭikaḷāl
Locativemarathilmaraṅṅaḷilānayilānakaḷilmanuṣyanilmanuṣyarilpaṭṭiyilpaṭṭikaḷil
Sociativemarathōṭumaraṅṅaḷōṭuānayōṭuānakaḷōṭumanuṣyanōṭumanuṣyarōṭupaṭṭiyōṭupaṭṭikaḷōṭu

Words adopted from Sanskrit[edit]

When words are adopted from Sanskrit, their endings are usually changed to conform to Malayalam norms:

Nouns[edit]

Writing system[edit]

A public notice board written using Malayalam script. The Malayalam language possesses official recognition in the state of Kerala, and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry
A Malayalam translation of the Qurʾān in Arabi Malayalam script

Historically, several scripts were used to write Malayalam. Among these scripts were Vattezhuthu, Kolezhuthu and Malayanma scripts. But it was the Grantha script, another Southern Brahmi variation, which gave rise to the modern Malayalam script. 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 script consists of a total of 578 characters. The script contains 52 letters including 16 vowels and 36 consonants, which forms 576 syllabic characters, and contains two additional diacritic characters named anusvāra and visarga.[58][59] The earlier style of writing has been superseded by a new style as of 1981. This new script reduces the different letters for typesetting from 900 to fewer than 90. This was mainly done to include Malayalam in the keyboards of typewriters and computers.

In 1999 a group named "Rachana Akshara Vedi" produced a set of free fonts containing the entire character repertoire of more than 900 glyphs. This was announced and released along with a text editor in the same year at Thiruvananthapuram, the capital 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.

Malayalam has been written in other scripts like Roman, Syriac[60][61][62] and Arabic. Suriyani Malayalam was used by Saint Thomas Christians (also known as Nasranis) until the 19th century.[60][61][62] Arabic scripts particularly were taught in madrasahs in Kerala and the Lakshadweep Islands.[63][64]

External influences[edit]

Variations in intonation patterns, vocabulary, and distribution of grammatical and phonological elements are observable along the parameters of region, religion, community, occupation, social stratum, style and register. The influence of Sanskrit was very prominent in formal Malayalam used in literature. Malayalam has a substantially high amount of Sanskrit loan words for which it pays interest but seldom used.[65] Loan words and influences also from Hebrew, Syriac and Ladino abound in the Jewish Malayalam dialects, as well as English, Portuguese, Syriac and Greek in the Christian dialects, while Arabic and Persian elements predominate in the Muslim dialects. The Muslim dialect known as Mappila Malayalam is used in the Malabar region of Kerala. Another Muslim dialect called Beary bashe is used in the extreme northern part of Kerala and the southern part of Karnataka.

The regional dialects of Malayalam can be divided into thirteen dialect areas.[66] They are as follows:

South TravancoreCentral TravancoreWest Vempanad
North TravancoreKochi (Cochin)South Malabar
South Eastern PalghatNorth Western PalghatCentral Malabar
WayanadNorth MalabarKasaragod
Lakshadweep

According to Ethnologue, the dialects are:[22]

Malabar, Nagari-Malayalam, South Kerala, Central Kerala, North Kerala, Kayavar, Namboodiri, Nair, Moplah (Mapilla), Pulaya, Nasrani, and Kasargod.

The community dialects are: Namboodiri, Nair, Moplah (Mapilla), Pulaya, and Nasrani.[22]

Whereas both the Namboothiri and Nair dialects have a common nature, the Mapilla dialect is among the most divergent of dialects, differing considerably from literary Malayalam.[22]

For a comprehensive list of loan words, see Loan words in Malayalam.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
  2. ^ Official languages, UNESCO, retrieved 2007-05-10 
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. ^ "‘Classical’ status for Malayalam". Thiruvananthapuram, India: The Hindu. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "Dakshina Kannada District: Dakshin Kannada also called South Canara - coastal district of Karnataka state". Karnatakavision.com. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  6. ^ "Kodagu-Kerala association is ancient". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 26 November 2008. 
  7. ^ "Virajpet Kannada Sahitya Sammelan on January 19". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 9 December 2008. 
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  9. ^ Malayalam literary survey, Volume 27. Kēraḷa Sāhitya Akkādami. 2005. It is roughly estimated that a stunning eighty percentage of the vocabulary of the scholarly usage of the languages like Malayalam of the Dravidian stock is constituted by Sanskrit 
  10. ^ "(C. Radhakrishnan) Grantha, Vattezhuthu, Kolezhuthu, Malayanma, Devanagiri, Brahmi and Tamil alphabets". C-radhakrishnan.info. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  11. ^ Epigraphy - Grantha Script Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology
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  13. ^ Manipravalam The Information & Public Relations Department, Government of Kerala.
  14. ^ Menon, A. Sreedhara (2008). The legacy of Kerala (1st DCB ed. ed.). Kottayam, Kerala: D C Books. ISBN 9788126421572. 
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  28. ^ Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century Front Cover Timothy C. Tennent Kregel Academic, 2010 P.307
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  50. ^ http://www.encyclo.co.uk/define/Unnuneeli%20Sandesam
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]