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Malayalam (/ˌmæləˈjɑːləm/;[7] മലയാളം, Malayāḷam, IPA: [mɐlɐjaːɭɐm] ) is a Dravidian language spoken in the Indian state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé district) by the Malayali people. It is one of 22 scheduled languages of India. Malayalam was designated a "Classical Language of India" in 2013.[8][9] Malayalam has official language status in Kerala and Puducherry (Mahé),[10][11][12] and is also the primary spoken language of Lakshadweep and is spoken by 34 million people in India.[2] Malayalam is also spoken by linguistic minorities in the neighbouring states; with a significant number of speakers in the Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada districts of Karnataka, and Kanyakumari and Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. It is also spoken by the Malayali Diaspora worldwide, especially in the Persian Gulf countries, due to the large populations of Malayali expatriates there. They are a significant population in each city in India including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune etc. Malayalam is closely related to the Tamil language.

Quick facts: Malayalam, Pronunciation, Native to, Reg...
Malayalam in Malayalam script
Pronunciation[mɐlɐjaːɭɐm]; pronunciation
Native toIndia
RegionKerala with border communities in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, Lakshadweep and Mahé (Puducherry)
SpeakersL1: 37 million (2011)[1][2][3][4]
L2: 700,000[3]
Early forms
Official status
Official language in
Flag_of_India.svg India
Regulated byKerala Sahitya Akademi, Government of Kerala
Language codes
ISO 639-1ml
ISO 639-2mal
ISO 639-3mal
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Table info: Part of a series on, Constitutionally recogni...
Part of a series on
Constitutionally recognised languages of India
22 Official Languages of the Indian Republic
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CountryMalayāḷa Nāṭu
A Malayalam speaker, recorded in South Africa

The origin of Malayalam remains a matter of dispute among scholars. The mainstream view holds that Malayalam descends from early Middle Tamil and separated from it sometime around the c.9th century CE.[13] A second view argues for the development of the two languages out of "Proto-Dravidian" or "Proto-Tamil-Malayalam" in the prehistoric era,[14] although this is generally rejected by historical linguists.[15] It is generally agreed that the Quilon Syrian copper plates of 849/850 CE is the oldest available inscription written in Old Malayalam. The oldest extant literary work in Malayalam distinct from the Tamil tradition is Ramacharitam (late 12th or early 13th century).[16]

The earliest script used to write Malayalam was the Vatteluttu script.[17] The current Malayalam script is based on the Vatteluttu script, which was extended with Grantha script letters to adopt Indo-Aryan loanwords.[17][18] It bears high similarity with the Tigalari script, a historical script that was used to write the Tulu language in South Canara, and Sanskrit in the adjacent Malabar region.[19] The modern Malayalam grammar is based on the book Kerala Panineeyam written by A. R. Raja Raja Varma in late 19th century CE.[20] The first travelogue in any Indian language is the Malayalam Varthamanappusthakam, written by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar in 1785.[21][22]

Robert Caldwell describes the extent of Malayalam in the 19th century as extending from the vicinity of Kumbla in the north where it supersedes with Tulu to Kanyakumari in the south, where it begins to be superseded by Tamil,[23] besides the inhabited islands of Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea.

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