Malayalam is a Dravidian language with about 38 million speakers spoken
mainly in the south west of India, particularly in Kerala, the Laccadive
Islands and neighboring states, and also in Bahrain, Fiji, Israel, Malaysia,
Qatar, Singapore, UAE and the UK.
Malayalam was first written with the Vatteluttu alphabet (വട്ടെഴുത്ത്
Vaṭṭeḻuttŭ), which means 'round writing'
and developed from the Brahmi script. The
oldest known written text in Malayalam is known as the Vazhappalli or
Vazhappally inscription, is in the Vatteluttu alphabet and dates from
about 830 AD.
A version of the Grantha alphabet originally used in the Chola kingdom
was brought to the southwest of India in the 8th or 9th century and was
adapted to write the Malayalam and Tulu languages. By the early 13th
century it is thought that a systemised Malayalam alphabet had emerged.
Some changes were made to the alphabet over the following centuries, and
by the middle of the 19th century the Malayalam alphabet had attained its
As a result of the difficulties of printing Malayalam, a simplified
or reformed version of the script was introduced during the 1970s and
1980s. The main change involved writing consonants and diacritics separately
rather than as complex characters. These changes are not applied
consistently so the modern script is often a mixture of traditional
and simplified letters.
Malayalam is also regularly written with a version of the Arabic script
by Muslims in Singapore and Malaysia, and occasionally by Muslims in
Type of writing system: syllabic alphabet in which all consonants
have an inherent vowel. Diacritics, which can appear above, below, before
or after a consonant, are used to change the inherent vowel.
When they appear at the beginning of a syllable, vowels are written
as independent letters.
When certain consonants occur together, special conjunct symbols
are used which combine the essential parts of each letter.
Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines.
Used to write: Malayalam (മലയാളം),
a Dravidian language with about 38 million speakers spoken mainly in the
south west of India.
Malayalam alphabet (മലയാളലിപി)
Vowels (സ്വരങ്ങൾ svaram)
Vowel diacritics with ka
When combined with vowel diacritics some consonants change shape.
This doesn't happen in the simplified version of the script (in blue)
Consonants (വ്യഞ്ജനങ്ങൾ vyanjanam)
A chillu or chillaksharam represents pure consonants independently,
without help of a virama. Unlike a consonant represented by an ordinary
consonant letter, these consonants are never followed by an inherent vowel.
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