However, the named identity of this language appears to have come into existence only around the 16th century, when it was known as "Malayayma" or "Malayanma"; the words were also used to refer to the script and the region. The word "Malayalam" was coined in the later period, and the local people referred to their language as both "Tamil" and "Malayalam" until the colonial period. The generally held view is that Malayalam was the western coastal dialect of Tamil  and separated from Tamil sometime between the 9th and 13th centuries.
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Robert Caldwell , in his book " A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages" , opined that Malayalam branched from Classical Tamil and over time gained a large amount of Sanskrit vocabulary and lost the personal terminations of verbs. The Malayalam script began to diverge from the Tamil-Brahmi script in the 8th and 9th centuries.
And by the end of the 13th century a written form of the language emerged which was unique from the Tamil-Brahmi script that was used to write Tamil.
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Malayalam is similar to some Sri Lankan Tamil dialects , and the two are often mistaken by native Indian Tamil speakers. Malabar Thamozhi was a variant of Tamil which was the vernacular language of Kerala used by a majority of Malayalis until , when the British decided to change it to Grantha Malayalam, written with Tigalari script , used then by a minority of the Northern people.
Malayanma was written using different scripts, including Malayanma script, Vatteluttu alphabet , Kolezhuthu and Tamil script. Malayalam-Tamil, the Dravidian tongue used by the indigenous people of Kerala, was devoid of Sanskrit or Hindi words. It was also called Malabar Thamozhi. The first book to be printed in Lingua Malabar Tamul was Cartilha in , which used Portuguese letters to write the Malabar Thamozhi. Khristiani Vanakkam was printed at Cochin in by Henriques. Ravikutty Pilla Por, written in the 17th century, is the shining example of Malayanma literature.
Ananthapuri Varnanam, written in the s, was among the last of these Malayalam-Tamil books. Itty Achudan, the famed Ayurvedic physician, used Malayanma and Kolezhuttu to write Hortus Malabaricus in which was translated into Latin. In the 17th century, the Malayanma script was extensively used by the Catholics of Kerala. Samkshepa Vedartham, in Malayanma, was printed in Rome in Phillipose and published in After this period, the British banned Malayanma and most of the books written in Malayanma disappeared.
The British never supported or translated Malayanma books into Grantha Malayalam, which they chose to promote in the 19th century. Malayanma, the indigenous Dravidian tongue, and its great literary tradition were lost in history. Banapperumal established his capital at Valapattanam near Kannur. Banapperumal's son was Udayavarman Kolathiri , the first of the Kolathiri dynasty, which was the result of the Tulu invasion. Kerala was under the Pandyan Dynasty who encouraged Tamil writing. After the defeat of the Pandyan Dynasty in by Malik Kafur of the Delhi Sultanate , all the Tamil dynasties were replaced by Tulu Samantha dynasties under the overlordship of the Kolathiri Kingdom.
The Kolathiris and other matriarchal Tulu dynasties of Kerala ruled with the help of an army drawn from Ahichatra on the Indo-Neplaese border.
The Tigalari script , which was used to write the Tulu language in Karnataka, was beginning to be used to write the sanskritized Malayalam called Grantha Malayalam. It was used by the ruling Tulu-Nepalese elite of Kerala after Though Grantha Malayalam books appeared in the 16th century, Malayalam-Tamil or Malayanma continued to be the vernacular language of Kerala until the 19th century.
Two versions of Grantha Malayalam existed in that era. Grantha Bhasa Sanskrit language with few Malayalam words and Grantha Malayalam which had more Malayalam words and fewer Sanskrit words. The domination of Tulu-Nepalese rulers over Kerala gradually changed the local Malayalam-Tamil by mixing it with Sanskrit, Hindi and Nepalese loanwords. Johann Ernst Hanxleden was a German missionary who was the first ever European to write the grammar book for Grantha Malayalam called Grantha Bhasayuide Vyakaranam in the s. The discovery that Sanskrit was related to German made the German missionaries promote Sanskrit and Grantha Malayalam at the expense of Malayalam-Tamil.
In that era Christians were using the Malayalam-Tamil language, hence they did not participate in the printing of the first Malayalam Bible. In , Hermann Gundert published the first ever Malayalam newspaper called Rajyasamacharam from Thalassery. German and Dutch missionaries played a major role in the promotion of Grantha Malayalam in Kerala, leading to its adoption by Christians by the mid 19th century.
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. Dialects of Malayalam are distinguishable at regional and social levels,  including occupational and also communal differences. The salient features of many varieties of tribal speech e. According to the Dravidian Encyclopedia, the regional dialects of Malayalam can be divided into thirteen dialect areas.
According to Ethnologue, the dialects are: The community dialects are: 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 , has brought to light the existence of twelve major dialect areas for Malayalam, although the isoglosses are found to crisscross in many instances. 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.
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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.
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. It may be noted at this point that labels such as "Brahmin Dialect" and "Syrian Caste 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:. Malayalam has incorporated many elements from other languages over the years, the most notable of these being Sanskrit and later, English. Many medieval liturgical texts were written in an admixture of Sanskrit and early Malayalam, called Manipravalam. Malayalam has a substantially high amount of Sanskrit loanwords but these are seldom used.
Another Muslim dialect called Beary bashe is used in the extreme northern part of Kerala and the southern part of Karnataka. For a comprehensive list of loan words, see Loan words in Malayalam. Malayalam is a language spoken by the native people of southwestern India from Talapady to Kanyakumari. According to the Indian census of , there were 32,, speakers of Malayalam in Kerala, making up There were a further , 2.
The number of Malayalam speakers in Lakshadweep is 51,, which is only 0. In all, Malayalis made up 3. Of the total 34,, Malayalam speakers in India in , 33,, spoke the standard dialects, 19, spoke the Yerava dialect and 31, spoke non-standard regional variations like Eranadan. There were 7, Malayalam speakers in Australia in The New Zealand census reported 2, speakers. There is also a considerable Malayali population in the Persian Gulf regions, especially in Dubai and Doha.
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.
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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. Malayalam has a canonical word order of SOV subject—object—verb as do other Dravidian languages. Malayalam has 6  or 7  [ unreliable source? Verbs are conjugated for tense, mood and aspect, but not for person, gender or number except in archaic or poetic language.
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.
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.
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When words are adopted from Sanskrit, their endings are usually changed to conform to Malayalam norms:. Historically, several scripts were used to write Malayalam. Among these were the Vatteluttu, 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. Malayalam script consists of a total of characters.
This new script reduces the different letters for typesetting from to fewer than This was mainly done to include Malayalam in the keyboards of typewriters and computers. In a group named "Rachana Akshara Vedi" produced a set of free fonts containing the entire character repertoire of more than glyphs. This was announced and released along with a text editor in the same year at Thiruvananthapuram , the capital of Kerala.
Malayalam has been written in other scripts like Roman , Syriac    and Arabic.
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Suriyani Malayalam was used by Saint Thomas Christians also known as Nasranis until the 19th century. The earliest Malayalam inscription discovered until now is the Edakal-5 inscription ca. 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 Ramacharitam and Vaishikatantram , both from the 12th century.
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