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"Malayalam“- One language Multiple Variations    



One of the 22  scheduled languages of India is Malayalam. Kerala State’s official language is Malayalam. It is also the official language of the union territories of Lakshadweep.  Malayalam is the spoken language of 35.9 million people. The word “Malai” means mountain. The word “alam” means mountainous region.  


From Snaskrit, Malayalam has borrowed hundreds of nouns, verbs etc. Examples for such words are “nakham” [nail], “bharya” [wife], “mukham” [face] etc. May be you are familiar with dialects of Malayalam in Southern Kerala, Central as well as Northern parts of Kerala. There are many sub variations to the main category too.  


In 1974, in a dialect survey of Malayalam by Subramanian, 12 dialect areas of Malayalam are identified. They are as South Travancore, Central Travancore, West Vempanad, North Travancore, Cochin, South Malabar, South Eastern Palghat, North West Palghat, Central Malabar, Wayanad, North Malabar and Kasargod. 


The region near to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka show the influence of Tamil and Kannada. Similarly many words in Tamil is spoken in Trivandrum and its adjacent areas. Do you know that the Northern dialects of Malayalam have Kannada influence? Yes, it is. Lots of English words like lorry, pencil, watch, paper, room etc are now part of Malayalam vocabulary.  


An example for phonetic replacement is given below. 

Ila-ela of Malayalam word means “leaf” in English. For the word “kitakka”, its English equivalent is “bed”. It can also be “ketakka”. Two groups living in Northern Kerala and that of living in Southern Kerala have different cultural differences, difference in their speech etc.  


The words in two areas of Kerala have different meanings. As an example, in Southern Kerala, the term “Omaykka” is used for the English word namely “papaya”. The raw papaya can be used to prepare different dishes while the fruit papaya can be used in fruit salads, fruit juice or you can eat the fruit without including any other ingredients. It has a good medicinal value too. Papaya is known as “Kamos” in the Malabar area.  


In some parts of Kerala, for “groundnut” it is called as “kappalanti” in Malayalam while in other parts it is known as “nilakkatala”. In Kerala, depends upon the caste and region, the people can be divided into three groups namely Brahmin, Non-Brahmin and Harijan. Nairs and Ezhavas come under Non-Brahmin category. The pulayas and parayas are sub castes of Harijan. There will be slight variations in the spoken language of people with different castes of Kerala.  


The tribal people in Kerala speak some form of Malayalam language. Tribal language is a non-literary language. Tribal people of Kerala can be divided into three groups namely Northern, Central and southern tribes of Kerala. As an example, a tribe of Kerala namely “mannans” is in forest areas of Idukki, Devikolam, Todupuzha.  


To reach common people who wish to hear the radio programs in Malayalam language, the Government took necessary steps to do so. Educative programs as well as Entertainments programs are there now through radio and Television for the Malayalam speaking people . The website link namely helps you to know more about “Malayalam“- One language Multiple Variations. 








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