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Shubhyatra >> Kerala Yatra >> Languages


Major Languages : Malayalam, English, Hindi
Official Language : Malayalam
Belongs to : Dravidian Family of Languages
Unique Feature : Most Sanskratised Language

Library  - Kerala
Man at a Library - Kerala

Language - It Is How They Speak

It is believed in India, that the way you speak emulates the background you are form. Kerala is no exception. In a land where the dawn breaks with the euphony of "Swamiye saranam, saranam Ayyappa" (Oh Lord Ayyappa, I surrender to thee), it is not unique that the voice of every individual will exude honey in tones and dialects. The sweetness of Malayalam augments because of two reasons; firstly that it originated as an offshoot of Tamil, the principal native language of neighbouring Tamil Nadu, and secondly that it is a palindrome, a magic in itself. Malayalam (/mala/- mountain + /aLam/-place in Tamil) as a composite phrase connotes the 'inhabitants of mountains'. This phrase, which once elucidated the geographical location of the region, was later replaced by Kerala.

Malayalam is probably the most sanskratised of all the languages, with a strong influence of the Dravidian forum. Although only 10% of Sanskrit words are used in the verbal language, the written language imbibes more than 40% of them, including direct borrowals and derivatives. Besides Sanskrit, one can also find many paronyms from Portuguese, Dutch, English, Arabic, Marathi and Persian absorbed which points to their rippleless influence on the culture. However, English is widely spoken and understood throughout the state (and sometime you can even see English subheads below Malayali hoardings in remotest of the villages).

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The Sweetness of The Language That Enthralls Its Visitors

Alphabets of Malayalam
The Malayalam Alphabet

Imagine a holiday vacation in a land where you will get enough tongue-twisters to bewilder your friends. Malayalam has a series of retroflex consonants (e.g., t, d, n; sounds pronounced by curling the tongue tip and sticking it against the roof of the palate), and grammatical categories such as tense, number, person, and case with suffixes in alpha. Try to memorise 3-4 words of Malayali origin and you can actually rock the table. Though the writing know-how dates its inception to the late 9th century, but Thunchathu Ramanujam Ezhuthachan is considered to be the father of Malayalam language, because of his literary work 'Adhyatma Ramayanam' and 'Mahabharatham', regional adaptations of the great Indian epics, which gave a distinct style of writing during the 16th century.

The whole concept of newspapers drastically changed with the arrival of printing in the 19th century. Dr. Herman Gundert, a German missionary, compiled the first Malayalam-English lexicon and is said to have started the first Malayalam newspaper. Today, the most circulated daily newspaper in India is in Malyalam and Kerala boasts of printing 170 daily papers, 235 weekly and over 600 monthly periodicals alone in Malayalam.

Soak In Malayalam

No doubt, Malayalam is extraordinarily rich in every genre of literature. In 1945, Prof. M.P. Paul and Karoor Neelkantha Pillai took awe-inspiring measures and set the substratum of the Sahitya Pravarthak Sahakarana Sangham (SPCS), the first ever cooperative society of literati in India. Established with the aim of catering Malayalam to the globe, this much adored institution also provided economic stability to the writers. Tourists can pick up Malayalam translation of many masterpiece of Indian or international literature, displayed as books or magazines in numerous book stalls dotting the state. Putting Kerala on the world tourist map has also promoted the language significantly. Malayalam, now, is presently taught in many universities outside India including some in the United States.

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Highlights of Kerala Language

Malayalam Language

The Genesis of Malayalam
Believed to be the most sanskratised language in the Dravidian territory, Malayalam is the official language of Kerala. Originated as an offshoot of Tamil, the principal native language of neighbouring Tamil Nadu, the word Malayalam is a palindrome, and so many of its words.

The Verbal Beauty
Try to grasp some of the tongue twisting names and you can rock the party. Despite their labyrinthine characters the words in Malayalam have a rhythmic beats in their nature which makes it fun to pronounce.

The English Extravaganza
Although Malayalam is the official language, but English is widely spoken throughout the state. It is not at all difficult to ask for a cup of tea, or water or anything else if you don't know Malayalam. Feel comfortable to visit the remotest of the areas, where also you can find hoardings with English subheadings!

Reflected Far Across The Seas
At every turn of this earth, you will find Malayalis creating new strands of fraternity everywhere. You will find them as far as Middle East and south-east Asia, like Indonesia and Malayasia. And hence it is not unusual that you might come across Malayalam in many developed countries. Even is presently taught in many universities outside India including some in the United States.

Get Some Books On Malayalam
You can shop for some interesting books translated in English from bookstalls dotting the state of Kerala. Get some books of O.V. Vijayan, Guru Gopinath, KP Padmanabha Menon and others for a complete holiday package.

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