Malayalam first appeared in writing in the vazhappalli inscription which dates from about 830 AD. In the early thirteenth century the Malayalam script began to develop from a script known as vattezhuthu (round writing), a descendant of the Brahmi script.
As a result of the difficulties of printing Malayalam, a simplified or reformed version of the script was introduced during the 1970s and 1980s. The main change involved writing consonants and diacritics separately rather than as complex characters. These changes are not applied consistently applied so the modern script is often mixture of traditional and simplified characteres
Malayalam is also regularly written with a version of the Arabic script by Muslims in Singapore and Malaysia, and occasionally by Muslims in Kerala.
- This is a syllabic alphabet in which all consonants have an inherent vowel. Diacritics, which can appear above, below, before or after the consonant they belong to, are used to change the inherent vowel.
- When they appear the the beginning of a syllable, vowels are written as independent letters.
- When certain consonants occur together, special conjunct symbols are used which combine the essential parts of each letter.
Used to write:
Malayalam, a Dravidian language with about 35 million speakers. It is spoken mainly in the south west of India, particularly in Kerala, the Laccadive Islands and neighboring states, and also in Bahrain, Fiji, Israel, Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore, UAE and the UK.
Vowel diacritics with ka
When combined with vowel diacritics some consonants change shape. This doesn't happen in the simplified version of the script (in blue)
A selection of conjunct consonants
The simplified versions are shown in blue.
Manuṣyarellāvarum tulyāvakāśan̄n̄aḷōṭum antassōṭum svātantryattōtumkūṭi janiccavarāṇ. Anyōnyam bhrātrubāvattoṭe perumāṛuvānāṇa manuṣyannu vivēkabuddhiyum manaṣṣākṣiyum siddhamāyirikkunnat.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)