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Culture of kerala  >>  Languages of Kerala

Malayalam and English are the most commonly spoken languages of Kerala. The official language of Kerala is Malayalam. However, English is also widely spoken. Tamil and different adivasi languages are also spoken by the ethnic minorities of the state. The native people of Pallakad and border regions communicate in Tamil. Many of the inhabitants of northern Kerala speak Marathi and Konkani language.

Malayalam belongs to the Dravidian family of languages. Its growth and vocabulary are influenced by the historical events. Malayalam is one of the 22 official languages in India. It is spoken by about 37 million people. A

native of Kerala whose mother tongue is Malayalam, is known as a Malayali. The language is also widely spoken in Mahe, Lakshdweep, South Canara and Kodagu.

Besides Tamil and Sanskrit, Pali is another language that has great influence on the Malayalam language. Malayalam began to develop its own unique character around the 10th century. It has a rich modern literature. It has taken the words from Sanskrit and used them with Malayali alterations or additions. Present day Malayalam consists of 51 letters, among which 16 are short/long vowels, and the remaining are the consonants. Malayalam language has a script of its own. In 1981, the script was modified to adapt Malayalam for the keyboard. At present, there are 90 letters for the typeset. The variations in the Malayali language can be found, depending on the geography, community and social structure. Malayalam used in the literature is predominantly influenced by Sanskrit.

Malayalam literature is very ancient. Since the 19th century, Malayalam literature has been showing tremendous growth. Original poetry, prose, novels, lyrics and play have greatly flourished. Kumaran Asan, Vallathol Narayana Menon and Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer, are credited with giving Malayalam poetry a more lyrical mode of expression. Kundalata, written by T. M. Appu Netunnati in 1887, and Indulekha, written by Chantu Menon in 1889, were among the first novels written in this language. Other popular novelists include Appan Tampuran, C. P. Achyuta Menon, Ambati Narayana Potuval, Vennayil Kunniraman Nayanar and V. K. Kunnan Menon. Vaikkom Mohammad Bashir is another very popular name in the Malayalam literature. Some of the famous Malayali poets are G. Sankara Kurup, N. Balamaniyamma, Kumaran Asan, Vallathol Narayana Menon, Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer, K. K. Raja and Changampuzha Krishna Pillai.

In the second half of the 20th century, Jnanpith award winners such as S. K. Pottekkatt, M. T. Vasudevan Nair and G. Sankara Kurup have contributed towards making Malayalam literature what it is today. The writers like O.V. Vijayan, Arundhati Roy and M. Mukundan have given international recognition to Kerala in the literary field. 'The God of Small Things,' the semi-autobiographical novel of Arundhati Roy, is a bestselling and critically acclaimed book.

The vocabulary of the Syriac Christians in Kerala is influenced by Syriac, Portuguese, English and Latin. The Muslim communities use Malayali with the additions from Urdu and Arabic.


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