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Malayalam script

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


A major member of the group of southern Indian scripts, the Malayalam system evolved in the eighth century ce out of the grantha script which in turn has its origin in the southern variety of Brāhmī. It is used primarily in Kerala for the Malayalam language, but also for some other languages such as neighbouring Konkani. Following the common Indian pattern, it is a syllabic alphabet consisting of independent V graphemes and C graphemes with inherent a , other Vs being expressed by diacritic satellites placed around the basic C graphs ( table 3 ). Graphically, Malayalam is one of the more complex systems with contextually conditioned alternating letter shapes and many complex ligatures. For example, in pre-consonantal position the graph for r ( a ) is reduced to a superscript dot. Geminate Cs are written as ligatures, some horizontal, some vertical. The V muting virāma is a circle open at the top which is placed on the right shoulder of the C graph, but some Cs take a different mark. A circle placed to the right of a grapheme indicates nasalization, and two such circles placed above one another in the same position a glottal stop. Malayalam is written from left to right on horizontal lines. Reading Meenakshisundaran 1966; Masica 1991. Table 3 The Malayalam syllabic alphabet ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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