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Etymology[edit]The word Malayalam probably originated from the Malayalam/Tamil w

ords mala meaning hill, and elam meaning region.[20] Malayalam thus translates a
s "hill region" and used to refer to the land itself (Chera Kingdom), and only l
ater became the name of the language.[21] The language Malayalam is alternativel
y 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 l
anguage. With the emergence of modern Malayalam language, the name of the langua
ge 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 110
2. Kerala was the integral part of the Pandyan Kingdom and Tamil was the state l
anguage of Kerala until 1310. After the fall of Villavar Tamils in 1310 after th
e attack of Delhi Sultanate under Malik Kafur Kerala was dominated by Tulu-Nepal
ese people who were migrants from Ahichatra who used Sanskrit and Prakrit.Many s
ubcastes of Tulu Bunt such as Nayara, Menava, Kuruba and Samantha appeared in Ke
rala.Samanthas became the Kings of this Matriarchal society.This led to the decl
ine of Tamil in Kerala. Still the Indigenous language of Kerala Malayanma otherw
ise called Malayalam or Malayalam-Tamil or Malayala Thamozhi or Lingua Malabar T
amul 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 o
f Kerala a form of Kodunthamil. Malayanma used little or no Sanskrit and used Ta
mil Prosody.[24] Ravikutti Pilla Por (1630 ad) Ananthapura Varnanam(1750)Vadakka
n Pattu (17th century) display no Sanskrit and purely Dravidian language. Ramach
aritham 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 c
ompiled Hortus Malabaricus used Kolezhuthu to write it. Majority of the indigeno
us Dravidian Malayalees used Malayanma until 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 l
ost as the British banned Malayanma in 1820.
Lingua Malabar Tamul was the Liturgical language of Christians after the Portugu
ese arrival. It is a form of Malayalam-Tamil written with either Portuguese scri
pt or Tamil Script. During the Portuguese and Dutch period thousands of books we
re printed in Lingua Malabar Tamul or Lingua Malabarica (Kerala language). Lingu
a 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 Brit
ish missionaries in the 19th century. Portuguese organised a Tamil army under Va
llikada Panicker in the 16th century. When these Tamils mixed with the Portugues
e and Dutch a strong Cochin Mestizo or Mestico community evolved.[26] Though the
y initially used Portuguese alphabets to print Lingua Malabar they were using Ta
mil 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 i
n usage until 1820.Malayalam in that era signified either Malayanma or Lingua Ma
labar Tamul until 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 whic
h 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 bo
oks were written using Tigalari alphabet. Grantha Bhasa was used exclusively by
Nambuthiris who were less than 0.3 percent of the population. Mandara Ramayana w
ritten 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 mor
e than 80 percent Sanskrit and less than 20 percent Malayanma words. Grantha Bha
sa used Sanskrit Grammar instead of Malayanma grammar.Grantha Bhasha had less th
an 10 books until the 19th century. The discovery that Sanskrit was closely rela
ted to German led missionaries of German origin such as Arnos Pathiri (Johann Er
nst Hanxleden) to show interest in Grantha Bhasa.Johann Ernst Hanxleden wrote Gr
antha Bhasayude Vyaharanam in 1699 first ever Grammar book in Grantha Bhasa.
Tulu-Grantha Bhasa remained a minority language until the British made it the of
ficial 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 Malayan
ma 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 wa
s overtly Sanskrit and was considered inconprehensible.[28] British established
a Sanskrit college under Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara in 1830. When the effort
s to make Sanskrit based Grantha Bhasa as liturgical language British-German mis
sionaries such as Hermann Gundert added more of Dravidian words of Malayanma to
the Grantha Bhasa and created the Modern Malayalam which use Tulu (Tigalari alph
abet) to write Malayalam. Like Grantha Bhasa modern Malayalam uses Sanskrit Gram
mar 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 arr
ival.Thus by teaching Christians Sanskrit and Grantha Bhasa they could integrate
Christians with the Namputhiris. Majority of the Malayanma speaking native Drav
idian people of Kerala lost their language and Grammar when British never printe
d the Palm Leaf books written in Malayanma.
The origin of Malayalam, whether it was from a dialect of Tamil or an independen
t offshoot of the Proto Dravidian language, has been and continues to be an enga
ging pursuit among comparative historical linguists.[29] Robert Caldwell, in his
book A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Languages opines th
at Malayalam branched from Classical Tamil that over time gained a large amount
of Sanskrit vocabulary and lost the personal terminations of verbs.[21] Either w
ay, it is generally agreed that by the end of 13th century a written form of the
language emerged which was definitely different from Tamil.[29]

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


This tree diagram depicts the genealogy of the primary Dravidian languages spoke
in South India.The earliest known poem in Malayalam, Ramacharitam, dated to 12th
century A.D., was completed before the introduction of the Sanskrit alphabet. I
t shows the same phase of the language as in Jewish and Nasrani Sasanas (dated t
o mid-8th century A.D.).[21] But the period of the earliest available literary d
ocument cannot be the sole criterion used to determine the antiquity of a langua
ge. In its early literature, Malayalam has songs, Pattu, for various subjects an
d occasions, such as harvesting, love songs, heroes, gods, etc. A form of writin
g 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 a
nd 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 b
y 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 Namb
udiris under the British Tutelage. Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar wrote the first Ma
layalam travelogue called Varthamanappusthakam in 1789.
Dr.Hermann Gundert, (1814 1893), a German missionary and scholar played a distin
guishable role in the development of Malayalam literature. His major works are K
eralolpathi (1843), Pazhancholmala (1845), Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam(1851), Paa
thamala (1860) the first Malayalam school text book, Kerala pazhama(1868), the f
irst Malayalam dictionary (1872), Malayalarajyam(1879)-Geography of Kerala, Rajy
a Samacharam (1847 June) the first Malayalam news paper, Paschimodayam (1879)-Ma
gazine.[31] He lived in Thalassery for around 20 years. He learned the language
from well established local teachers Ooracheri Gurukkanmar from Chokli, a villag
e 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 g
roup of Dravidian languages. Some believe Proto-Tamil, the common stock of ancie
nt Tamil and Malayalam, diverged over a period of four or five centuries from th
e 9th century on, resulting in the emergence of Malayalam as a language distinct
from Proto-Tamil. As the language of scholarship and administration, Proto-Tami
l, which was written in Tamil-Brahmi script and Vatteluttu later, greatly influe
nced the early development of Malayalam. The first printed book in Kerala was Do
ctrina Christam, written by Henrique Henriques in Lingua Malabar Tamul. It was t
ransliterated and translated into Malayalam, and printed by the Portuguese in 15
In 1821 the Church Mission Society (CMS) at Kottayam started printing books in M
alayalam when Benjamin Bailey, an Anglican priest, made the first Malayalam type
s. In addition, he contributed to standardizing the prose.[36] Hermann Gundert f
rom Stuttgart, Germany, started the first Malayalam newspaper, Rajya Samacaram i
n 1847 at Talasseri. It was printed at Basel Mission.[37]