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date: 01 October 2022

Language Reform in 19th-Century Keralafree

Language Reform in 19th-Century Keralafree

  • Ellen AmbrosoneEllen AmbrosonePrinceton University


Refashioning of the regional languages of South India occurred from the end of the 18th century throughout the 19th century and culminated, though was not subsumed, in movements of linguistic nationalism in the middle of the 20th century. The premodern literary landscape of the Malabar coast was linguistically diverse, demonstrating influence from neighboring languages, languages associated with different religious traditions, and the languages of visitors who came for trade. India’s encounter with Europe and with colonialism reshaped ideas about caste, religion, tradition, and particularly language. As European missionaries began to arrive in Kerala, they deployed print technology to produce religious tracts, grammars, and pedagogical materials that facilitated their proselytizing and civilizing interests. The British also conducted in-depth philological studies of Indian languages as a way of learning about the population and justifying colonial rule.

As agents of change, Malayalis participated in the interconnected processes of language reform, which was devoted to restyling the language to suit modern tastes. Such reform included creating new print genres in an accessible Malayalam prose, establishing printing presses, revising curricula, and creating textbooks. The discourse on the modernization of Malayalam developed around questions about the history of the language, its literary landscape, and the role of the language as a medium of instruction in schools. Having looked to Tamil and Sanskrit in the past as models for grammatical and literary production, Malayalis who were engaged in language reform in the 19th century also began to look to English as a model for literary and pedagogical innovation. Though knowledge of English became important at this time, Malayalis also argued for the importance of learning Malayalam before any other language. Such arguments tempered the zeal for other languages, fostered the spread of education, and encouraged affective attachment to the language, thereby establishing the roots of protonationalism by the turn of the century.


  • Cultural
  • South Asia

Kerala and the Indian Ocean World

The Malabar coast of southwestern India, which is home to the modern state of Kerala, was a major point of maritime contact from ancient times forward.1 Documented in the rock edicts of Ashoka c. 3rd century bce, in Tamil Sangam literature, in the Greco-Roman Periplus, in the Celobotras of Pliny, and in the Kerobotras of Ptolemy, this region was dotted with coastal towns and ports, the most important of which was Muziris (near present-day Kodungallur).2 Trade in the region is also documented in the writings of Chinese and Arab travelers, as well as in later European works.3 Traders coming to Malabar were interested in spices from the region, particularly pepper. The region was an important hub for Indian Ocean trade, which created a cosmopolitan environment of cultural and polyglossic exchange by various ethnic and religious communities.

Language in Premodern Kerala

Phonologically, Malayalam is arguably one of the Dravidian languages most influenced by Sanskrit because it retains all the sounds from Sanskrit, in addition to the Dravidian ones. Malayalam also has a history of taking on lexical items from other languages, particularly Sanskrit, though it has also incorporated loan words from English, Pali, Prakrit, Urdu, Hindi, Persian, Chinese, Arabic, Syriac, Portuguese, and Dutch.4 The influence of Sanskrit, as well as the fact that Malayalam verbs are not inflected according to person, number, and gender, are two primary features of the language that distinguish it from the neighboring language of Tamil.5

Linguists and historians of Malayalam generally trace its history to copper plate inscriptions from the 9th century. The earliest are the Vazhapally [Vālapaḷḷi] inscriptions (c. 832) of the Chera King Rajasekhara Varman (r. 820–844) and the Terisapally [Tarissāpaḷḷi] inscriptions (c. 849) of the governor of Venad, Ayyan Atikal Tiruvatikal, under the reign of Chera King Sthanu Ravi Varman (r. 844–885).6 The language of these inscriptions demonstrates the linguistic complexity of the time, both grammatically and lexically, because they contain a mixture of words in Malayalam and Tamil and they were written in the vaṭṭeluttu script.7

The literary work usually noted as the earliest in Malayalam is the 12th-century Rāmacaritaṃ, which has been attributed to the poet Cīrāman and is considered part of the pāṭṭu (song) tradition.8 The Tirunilalmāla, which precedes the Rāmacaritaṃ by about a century, was discovered in 1980 and is also part of the pāṭṭu tradition.9 Often contrasted with pāṭṭu is maṇipravāḷaṃ (rubies and coral), and the first work in this genre is the Vaiśikatantraṃ, dated variously from the 11th to 13th centuries.10 The āccicaritaṃs (Uṇṇiyācicaritaṃ, Uṇṇiccirutēvīcartiraṃ, Uṇṇiyāṭicaritaṃ) are caṃpus that have been dated to the 13th century.11 The Uṇṇunīlisandeśaṃ (c. 14th century) is the only complete maṇipravāḷaṃ sandeśa kāvya from this period to have survived.12

With respect to grammatical works, the Līlātilakaṃ emerges in the 14th century and is a work in Sanskrit about maṇipravālaṃ. Though the linguistic trends of pāṭṭu and maṇipravāḷaṃ in literary composition coexisted in medieval Kerala and have been integral to modern literary histories for Malayalam, Rich Freeman points out the ways in which phonological, grammatical, lexical, thematic, and metrical features overlap in texts caring each designation.13 Despite these overlaps, poetical production that aligned itself with each tradition coexisted in premodern Kerala.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, one can see the influence of bhakti in the works of the Niranam [Niraṇaṃ] or Kannassan [Kaṇṇaśśan] poets in southern Kerala and of Cherusseri [Ceruśśēri], composer of the Kṛṣṇagātha, in northern Kerala.14 The “father of Malayalam,” Tunchattu Ezhuttachan [Tuñcattȧ Eluttacchan], flourished in the 16th century and created poetical works that synthesized the multilingual literary influences prevalent in the region.15 He popularized the kiḷipāṭṭu (parrot song) genre. Ezhuttachan is credited with creating a more accessible literary language by blending classical Sanskrit with popular speech. For example, he is said to have used Sanskrit words and long compounds, but rarely with Sanskrit-inflected endings.16 Ezhuttachan’s long-lasting influence on subsequent poetical production in premodern Kerala and his eminent position in cultural memory cannot be underestimated.17

Concurrent with these literary trends was the development of performance arts in Kerala, which relied on the Sanskrit language to varying degrees. These art forms included kūṭiyāṭṭaṃ, kūttu, kṛṣṇanāṭṭaṃ, rāmanāṭṭaṃ, and kathakaḷi.18 Kathakaḷi, or story-play, is based on āṭṭakkathas or librettos, which combine Malayalam, maṇipravāḷaṃ, and Sanskrit.19 The performance art that followed kathakaḷi and that had the ability to reach the masses was Kunchan Nambiar’s [Kuñcan Nampyār] (1705–1770) tuḷḷal.20 Nambiar created humor in tuḷḷal by employing simple diction, neologisms, and slang.21

Names for the language are varied in premodern works and persist in the new print genres that emerge in the 19th century. The question of what to call the language is particularly complex in the case of Malayalam due to its historical relationship with Tamil. Prior to the 16th century, names for the language included simply tamil, its counterpart in Sanskritic registers bhāṣā, or the eponymous kēraḷabhāṣā (language of the Kēraḷas).22

To fully understand the literary landscape for Malayalam, it is also important to recognize the development of Arabi-Malayalam from the 17th century forward. Arabi-Malayalam is a literary language that combines the Arabic script with Malayalam words, grammar, and syntax, and its lexicon extends to Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Tamil. The first Arabi-Malayalam text on record is the Muhiyaddhīn Māla in 1607 by Qadi Muhammad of Calicut.23 Arabi-Malayalam was primarily used for Muslim religious instruction.24 Like other premodern Malayalam literature, Arabi-Malayalam works were meant to be recited aloud.

Christian communities in Kerala also have pāṭṭu traditions that have developed over time including mārggaṃkaḷi pāṭṭu, ṟampānpāṭṭu, and paḷḷipāṭṭu, among others. Documented by the 15th and 16th centuries, these songs narrated church history, the lives of important religious figures, and biblical themes. The songs were fashioned after vernacular epic poetry, and the vernacular was woven with Sanskrit, Tamil, and Syriac.25

On the eve of the 19th century, the linguistic complexity of the southwestern coast of India is evident in the inscriptions and literary efforts just outlined. Premodern literary culture in Kerala is marked by poets who composed in Sanskrit, as well as those who combined the most desirable features of both Tamil and Sanskrit with the regional language in order to craft versified works. Mappila Muslims too crafted works in a hybrid language, Arabi-Malayalam, to produce texts primarily for religious purposes. Christian communities also produced polyglossic works on religious themes.

Kerala’s Encounter with Europe

The Malabar coast has a long tradition of contact with visitors from other parts of the world who often came for the purposes of trade. Indeed, the first European to arrive on the Malabar coast was the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama in 1498. Aside from the Portuguese, the French, Dutch, and British came to the region with commercial interests. The interactions between visitors and the diverse religious communities of Kerala created a cosmopolitan environment that has received greater scholarly attention in the past decade.26

Aside from trade, Europeans came to Malabar for missionary purposes. Portuguese missionaries arrived at the end of the 15th century, British missionaries arrived in the first decade of the 19th century, and German missionaries arrived in the first half of the 19th century.

Though Europeans had been traveling to the southwestern coast for more than two centuries, it is with the slow consolidation of British rule in the 18th century that a deep philological interest in India’s languages began to emerge as an imperative to justifying foreign rule. Refashioning of the regional languages of India occurred in response to a variety of social and political impulses. Bernard Cohn’s scholarship on the construction of colonial forms of knowledge, as well as that of scholars expanding upon this work, have been critical for understanding the relationship between ideas regarding language and colonial rule. Practices such as the creation of the census, the development of mechanisms for collecting revenue, educational reform, and production of language learning aids facilitated the creation of language-based identities.27 Philological research on Indian languages was informed by post-Enlightenment principles of classification as a way of understanding phenomena. The comparative study of language also became a means of classifying peoples and thereby creating hierarchical relationships between nations, a topic that has been expertly discussed by Thomas Trautmann and others.28 Supported by the policies of first governor-general Warren Hastings (1732–1818), European Orientalists glorified the Indian languages of Sanskrit and Persian and created a scholarly community for their study (e.g., the Asiatic Society of Bengal), translations of Arabic and Sanskrit texts, and professorships for the study of Indian languages.29 At the same time, opposition to Hastings’ policies came from a community resolute in their position in the imagined hierarchy of nations. They were keen to bring Western European Enlightenment ideals and knowledge to an India that they perceived as backward and full of excess. The creation of knowledge about Indian languages that had become so important under Hastings’ rule actually provided the perceived evidence for such a position.30 The classical literature was considered repetitive and obscene, and to the extent that the regional language literatures were indebted to the genres of classical literature, they were deemed “underdeveloped” and in need of European knowledge and literary models to transmit Western thought.

Importantly, whether in service of missionary interests or colonial rule, the European focus on the languages of India was based on a sense of cultural superiority that drove philological efforts to transmit Western knowledge to the subcontinent. They sought to create pedagogical materials for the study of these languages, to know their histories, to foster translations into and from the vernacular languages, and to encourage the creation of new works based on English models.

The Arrival of Missionaries, Print, and European Education in Kerala

The project of modernizing Malayalam is inseparable from the introduction of print technology into the region during the 16th century. As has been discussed in detail elsewhere, print was critical to the evangelizing efforts of Christian missionaries throughout South Asia.31

Portuguese missionaries arrived in Kerala at the end of the 15th century and officially established Roman Catholic churches in the beginning of the 16th century with the intent of converting the local population.32 When they arrived, they began to refer to the language that they encountered as “malayāyma” or “malayāṇma.” Jesuit missionary Henrique Henriques (1520–1600) established the Collegio do Saluador Press, the second printing press in India, in Kollam in 1578. Henriques is credited with producing the earliest printed book in Kerala in 1577, which was a Tamil translation of a catechism called Doctrina Christam and was titled Tampirāṉ Vaṇakkam.33 The second printing press in Kerala was established in the Kochi area in 1579 at the College of the Mother of God (Collegio da Madre de Deos). Interestingly, Henriques also set up another printing press at the Tamil Confessionary in 1580 in the Kochi area. The fourth printing press in Kerala, the Collegio de Vaipicota Press (also known as the Impresso no Collegio de Vaipicotta), was founded in 1604 by the Saint Thomas Christians and managed by archbishop Francisco Roz (1559–1624).34 The earliest texts in existence that demonstrate a systematic attempt by Europeans to craft a grammar of the language are from the 17th century.35 The earliest printed book in Malayalam types is Saṃkṣepavedārtthaṃ, a text written by Father Clement Pianius (1731–1782), which was printed in Rome and, like Tampirāṉ Vaṇakkam, is also in the question–answer format of a catechism.36

Regarding Protestant missions on the southwestern coast of India, the London Missionary Society (LMS), the Church Mission Society (CMS), and the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society had the greatest impact in Kerala. The earliest Protestant group to land in Kerala was the London Missionary Society in 1806 when Wilhelm Tobias Ringeltaube (1770–1815) arrived in Travancore.37 LMS missionaries were principally interested in establishing schools, and though they operated a press at Nagercoil (established in 1820), they did not produce philological texts for the study of the language. The CMS took steps toward establishing a mission in Travancore as early as 1806, but did not formally send a missionary to Kerala until the arrival of Thomas Norton in 1816.38 The impact of the CMS in Kerala from a philological perspective was significant. CMS missionary Benjamin Bailey (1791–1871) was responsible for establishing the mission at Kottayam, setting up a printing press in 1821, translating and publishing the Bible into Malayalam (New Testament in 1829; complete Bible in 1841), and producing two dictionaries during his time in India (1846, 1848).39

The Basel Evangelical Missionary Society established its headquarters in Mangalore in 1834 and concentrated its missionary efforts in the Malabar district of the Madras Ppresidency.40 The Basel Mission is responsible for establishing several schools in Malabar, as well as a printing press in Mangalore in 1842 that supported its extraordinary philological efforts. The Basel Mission also established presses in Thalassery and Illikkunnu. Hermann Gundert (1814–1893), Basel missionary and eminent philologist of Malayalam, produced not only an important dictionary for the language, but also the grammar Malayāḷabhāṣa Vyākaraṇaṃ (1851; edited and revised 1868) and many other works. An impressive digital archive on Gundert and the Basel mission can be found at The Gundert Portal, created by the Tübingen University Library. One can also find a collection of digitized images of South India on the Basel Mission Archives website.

The introduction of print into Kerala created significant changes in the written representation of the language with respect to script, spacing, and punctuation. Early Malayalam types created an effect similar to handwritten text, but as print became more commonplace, the types also became more standardized. In accordance with European languages, printed text in Malayalam also began to display separated words rather than a line of characters with no spacing between words. Perhaps one of the most challenging script and type-related concerns was how to represent the half-u sound in Malayalam, which came to be known as the candrakala. It was the Basel missionary Hermann Gundert who systematized the use of the candrakala in the middle of the 19th century.41

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the texts that missionaries printed in Malayalam were religious tracts, pedagogical materials, and didactic works with allegorical narratives. The promise of education was one of the central ways that missionaries reached the communities that they sought to convert, and these print genres were important aids in spreading their message. Missionary schools in Kerala were often the only option for lower caste communities to access education because of Kerala’s particularly extreme iteration of the caste system at the time.42 The missionary schools also provided a different curriculum than the traditional ones. Prior to the introduction of a European model, Brahmin or wealthy aristocratic children were educated by private tutors or in an eluttupaḷḷi (small village school). Students would learn to recite the Malayalam alphabet and to draw the alphabet by tracing the letters in sand or rice. Students also learned highly Sanskritic Malayalam verses that were often not immediately understood by the pupils. The child might also learn elementary Sanskrit vocabulary and grammar from the Amarakōśa[ṃ] and the Siddharūpa[ṃ], but they were not usually taught the grammar of Malayalam as an independent object of knowledge.43

As Malayalam grammars and didactic works began to proliferate, Malayalis too began to articulate new directions for the language and to produce varieties of new print genres that included not only grammars, but also novels, newspapers, literary journals, translations of premodern works, textbooks, and other works. The practice of creating these print genres in an accessible Malayalam prose was central to restyling the language to suit modern fashion.

Malayali Literati, the Printing Press, and the Modernization of Bhāṣa

One of the terms that is used by Malayalis in the 19th century to describe the modernization of language is bhāṣāpariṣkāraṃ.44 The two components of the compound word are bhāṣa, or “language,” which is often shorthand for the language of the region, and pariṣkāraṃ.45 Hermann Gundert, in his Malayalam-English Dictionary (1872), provided two definitions for pariṣkāraṃ, including (a) decoration and (b) cleansing of imperfections, both of which lean on the definition of the word’s Sanskrit root, pariṣkṛ (to adorn or perfect).46 Pariṣkāraṃ, both individually and in compound, was used by Malayali literati throughout the 19th century to connote a desire to modify and improve the language.47

The Malayali intellectuals who established printing presses, created new print genres, and fostered the development of bhāṣa in the 19th century were primarily Brahmins (Nambudiris, Gaudasarasvata Brahmins, and Tamil Brahmins), Ambalavasis, Nayars, Syrian Christians, and the Church Mission Society (CMS) Christians, all of whom were English and/or Sanskrit-educated professionals and intellectuals.

Eminent poet and historian of Malayalam literature Ulloor S. Paramesvarayyan (commonly known as “Ulloor”) [Uḷḷūr Es. Paramēśvarayyar] (1877–1949), in his Kēraḷasāhityacaritraṃ (1955), provided critical information about the historical agents of change at this time, as well as the organized efforts to modernize the language. For example, he recorded the efforts of Kandathil Verghese Mappila [Kaṇṭattil Varugīs Māppiḷa] (1857–1904), founder of the Malayalam newspaper Malayāḷa Manōrama and the literary journal Bhāṣāpōṣiṇi (The development of bhāṣa).48 In 1891, Mappila inaugurated a literary society under the name “Kavi Samājaṃ” (The association of poets) that was renamed the “Bhāṣāpōṣiṇi Sabha” (The society for the development of bhāṣa) within the same year.49 The objectives of the Bhāṣāpōṣiṇi Sabha included bringing uniformity to poetry and prose in Malayalam, producing prose books in good style that would benefit the people, and collecting, preserving, proofing, and publishing older works. In order to achieve these aims, the group agreed to produce a journal that would contain reviews of new books and discussions about modernizing the language, to hold an assembly in each major place in Kerala no less than once a year, to give an award to individuals who produce new books that were beneficial and in excellent style, to make every effort to print and publish these works, and to promote the establishment of schools, newspapers, and printing presses.50

To the extent that these initiatives depended on print technology, Malayali-owned printing presses in existence prior to 1835, after which obstacles to Indians owning printing presses were repealed, were concentrated in the two princely states of Travancore and Cochin.51 The Travancore Government Press was established in 1834 and the Cochin Government Press in 1846. Also of note were the Vidyavilasam Press (1861) and the Spectator Press (c. 1880s), which were established in Kozhikode and printed many of the early novels in Malayalam. One of two major literary journals of the time, Bhāṣāpōṣiṇi, was printed at the Kottayam Manorama Press (1889) in the princely state of Travancore.52 The other major literary journal of the time, Vidyāvinōdini, was initially printed at the Kerala Kalpamudram Press (1864) and was later transferred to the Vidyavinodini Press (c. 1890s).

Muslims in Kerala were producing printed works in Arabi-Malayalam in the latter part of the 19th century, but did not actively collaborate with the literati already noted in the discourse on the modernization of Malayalam until the early 20th century. The first Malayalam translation of the Qur’an was done in 1870 by Mayan Kutty Elava.53 Some also consider Cahār Darvesȧ (1883) to be the first Arabi-Malayalam novel.54 The first Muslim journal in Malayalam was a weekly started by Sayyid Sanaullah Makti Tangal [Sayyidȧ Sanā Ullā Makti Taṅṅaḷ] (1847–1912) called Satya Prakāṣaṃ in 1899.55 The person credited with bringing the Mappila Muslim community into the discourse on language was Vakkom Moulavi [Vakkaṃ Maulavi] (1873–1932), who chose to write in Malayalam rather than Arabi-Malayalam in the early part of the 20th century.56

The Discourse on Language Reform: Tamil in Relation to the Vernacular Language

Malayalam’s relationship to the neighboring language of Tamil is a topic that receives substantial treatment in European philological works and Malayalam grammars produced during the 19th century. F. W. Ellis (1777–1819) introduced the idea that malayālma was a dialect of the “parent language” centamil.57 The familial metaphor in which Malayalam is described as either the daughter or sister of Tamil was repeated by other European philologists of the time as well.58 In 1841, Reverend Joseph Peet proposed that Malayalam did not derive from Sanskrit or Tamil, suggesting instead that its origins were distinct.59 This claim, along with the image of the Triveni Sangam that Kovunni Nedungadi [Kōvunni Neṭuṅṅāṭi] (1830–1889) invoked in the opening shloka of his Kēraḷa Kaumudi (1878), laid important groundwork for fluvial metaphors about the origins of Malayalam. Nedungadi’s verse proved to be quite controversial at the time, not because it proposed rivers of linguistic influence on the development of the language, but because some interpreted it to mean that he thought the origins of kēraḷabhāṣā could be traced to Sanskrit.60 When the grammar is read as a whole, scholars agree that this accusation proves to be unfair.61 In 1916, when A. R. Rajaraja Varma [E. Ār. Rājarājavarmma] (1863–1918) published the second edition of his important Kēraḷapāṇinīyaṃ, he argued strongly that though Malayalam was heavily influenced by Sanskrit, its foundation was in Tamil.62 While the Dravidian origin of Malayalam has long been established, scholars still debate its precise relationship to Tamil.

The Discourse on Language Reform: Sanskrit in Relation to the Vernacular Language

Both from a literary and linguistic perspective, one of the central ways that Malayalis argued for the need to modernize the language at this time was to claim that for too long they had been relying on Sanskrit as a model for literary output. On a literary level, this manifested in arguments for new prose-based print genres such as the novel and the newspaper. Appu Nedungadi [Appu Neṭuṅṅāṭi] (1866–1934), the author of the first Malayalam novel Kundalatā (1887), advanced this argument in the preface to his novel, suggesting that Malayalis had been repeating the old stories from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Nalacaritam simply because novels in malayāḷabhāṣa did not exist.63 In the literary journals of the time, there was also abundant discussion on how to craft good prose, whether and how Sanskrit alaṅkāras should be employed in Malayalam literature, and how many Sanskrit words were too many Sanskrit words in a work.64 Importantly, the boundaries of what was “Sanskrit” in these discussions and what was part of Malayalam literary tradition became very complex. These discussions demonstrated a desire to tease out how the practices of premodern Malayalam literary composition may or may not map onto the modern tastes that literati were imagining for the future of the language.

On a linguistic level, this argument manifested as a desire to capture Malayalam in prose without the overuse of Sanskrit, both lexically and grammatically. For example, O. Chandumenon, the author of the second Malayalam novel, Indulekhā (1889), expressed in his preface that he wrote in the way that Malayalis spoke Malayalam words and did not try to use proper Sanskrit forms (i.e., tatsama Sanskrit words).65 Those writing in the literary journals of the time also suggested that Sanskrit indeclinables and inflected forms should not be included in Malayalam prose.66 It was within the discussions of how to craft good poetry and prose that literati wrestled with how much grammatical and lexical influence Sanskrit should have on modern bhāṣa. On one hand, overuse of Sanskrit was considered undesirable for the progress of bhāṣa. Yet, on the other hand, there was a reluctance to artificially cleanse Malayalam of the presence of Sanskrit. This tension distinguished Malayalam from the discourse on language reform as it developed for neighboring languages, perhaps because the retention of Sanskrit sounds and vocabulary also came to distinguish Malayalam from other South Indian languages.67

The Discourse on Language Reform: English in Relation to the Vernacular Language

In a related way, as Malayalis discussed how to restyle the language, they looked to English for inspiration, both as a literary and historical model to emulate. C. D. David [Si. Ḍi. Ḍēviḍ] (1860–1920), teacher, editor, and intellectual, wrote in Vidyāvinōdini that English was “the storehouse of knowledge and the queen of languages,” and that “it is a pitiable thing that our language has not achieved the state that other languages have up to now.” He wrote:

It is because [we] do not have books in malayāḷabhāṣa that delight the mind and that discuss every topic that people should know about, as there are in other languages like English, that [we] do not consider it among the group of important languages. Only once [we] are without this defect will the illiterate state of the people and the poverty of our language shift [. . .]. It is not possible to think that we can remedy this defect, which has existed for a long time, through a single person or through the passage of time. It was through the steady effort of 400 years by these countrymen that the English language attained such greatness.68

The glorification of English also manifested in the early novels of the time, including Indulekhā (1889) by O. Chandumenon, which tells the story of a young woman who is the perfect hybrid of a young Sanskrit-educated Nayar lady and one who is educated in English. Moreover, her English-educated love interest gets a desirable job in government service. The notion that English education was a catalyst to success was directly addressed by Chandumenon in a lengthy epilogue to the first edition of his novel where he championed the cause of educating women in English.69 English education was also valorized in the first low-caste novel in Malayalam, Sarasvatīvijayaṃ (1892), by Potteri Kunnambu [Pōttēri Kuññaṃpu] (1857–1919). In it, he suggested that English education (by way of conversion to Christianity) was a way to uplift one’s circumstances.70

However, the desire to emulate English literary models and labors did not garner uncomplicated adoration. After the great success of Indulekhā, Kizhekkepattu Ramankutty Menon [Kilakkēppāṭṭu Rāmankuṭṭi Mēnōn] (1858–1894) published the satirical Paraṅṅōṭīpariṇayaṃ (1892) in which the author created a hilarious heroine who learns English, reads the newspaper, and is disrespectful to her family. Her intended husband sees through the superficial excitement over Parangodikutty’s English education and offers a lengthy contrasting account that questions the utility of English learning for Malayali men and women. He describes what happens to young men who are educated in English, explaining that they go off to Madras, begin to forget Malayalam, and then start speaking in an “English-Malayalam” that is difficult for both English and Malayalis to understand.71 While English learning presented Malayalis with many opportunities for employment and prestige, it coexisted with a fear that Malayalam would be neglected. In a sense, along with the promise of English education was the fear that it would breed the same neglect for Malayalam that a perceived preoccupation with Sanskrit did. So at the same time that English education was on the rise, so too was a campaign to promote Malayalam education.

Social and Educational Reform in Kerala

While it is true that the conscious refashioning of language by Malayalis during the 19th century was primarily an elite endeavor, it coincided with social reform movements to disrupt severe caste inequalities and corruption in government administration, to institute land reforms, and to increase access to education. For example, the Malayali Memorial of 1891 was a petition signed by more than 10,000 people of differing castes to the Maharaja of Travancore pleading that new rules be put in place to enact fair representation in government appointments.72 Efforts by Narayana Guru (1856?–1928) to resist discrimination by upper castes also occurred at the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century. Protestant missionaries attempted to work against the caste system too by offering Malayalis English and vernacular education, as well as industrial training, based on notions of development and progress and in the hopes of conversion.73 For Dalit communities, missionary schools that emphasized reading the scriptures may have been the only available education.74 As literacy in the region and the popularization of print grew, members of lower castes also used new print genres to narrate their experiences and concerns in Malayalam, as was the case with Potteri Kunnambu’s Sarasvatīvijayaṃ (1892). Kunnambu was from the Tiyya caste and was a champion for Pulayas in Malabar. The novel itself celebrates English education as a gateway to escaping caste discrimination. In addition to the novel, Kunnambu also wrote about caste in the journals of the time, including Kēraḷapatrika, Kēraḷasañcāri, and Bhāṣāpōṣiṇi.75

Perceived benefits of English education aside, in terms of the modernization of Malayalam, literati in the 19th century argued that the zeal for English education drew people away from bhāṣāpariṣkāraṃ. Despite differences in caste and religious community, Malayali intellectuals recognized and argued for the value of regional knowledge that came from formal study of the vernacular language before any other. Importantly, Arunima notes the social and professional connections that formed between literati across caste and religious lines and was indicative of their “shared concern—of engaging with the experience of modernity that was shaping, and often confusing, them.”76 The journals of the time evinced a shared interest in promoting education in Malayalam as a way of resisting isolated learning of Sanskrit and/or and English. Government programs for education in Malayalam began in the princely state of Travancore and gradually spread to Cochin. At the end of the 19th century, nongovernmental Malayalam education operated in British Malabar too.77 As the desire for education grew, Malayalis formed textbook committees, produced pedagogical materials, and revised curricula to impart students with the ability to read and write Malayalam. This contrasted with earlier educational models that emphasized memorization, premodern poetry, and vocational training based on one’s religion and caste standing.78 The arguments for and processes of promoting Malayalam education across Travancore, Cochin, and Malabar helped to establish protonationalist roots and demonstrated a nascent affective attachment to language, though a full-fledged linguistic nationalism did not emerge until the 20th century.

Other Language Reform Movements in South India

At the same time that language reform was occurring for Malayalam, so too did it occur for neighboring South Indian languages, including Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu.79 Significant studies of language reform and linguistic nationalism have been conducted for Tamil and Telugu, but such a study remains a desideratum for Kannada. Importantly, Malayalam demonstrates notable differences from the narratives for Tamil and Telugu. For example, like Tamil and Telugu, Kerala also had a language-based nationalist movement. However, the extreme cases of violence in the name of language that occurred for Tamil and Telugu during the time of state formation do not have similar analogues in the case of Malayalam. Instead, Kerala was consumed with communal discord along caste and class lines in the middle of the 20th century. Similarly, though Malayalam was personified in the female figure of Kairaḷi, she has not been deified and revered in the same way that Tamil and Telugu have as Tamilttāy and Telugu Talli, respectively.

Discussion of the Literature

As this article suggests, much of the historiography on Malayalam in the 19th century can be grasped by looking at philological works and journals of the time. The discourse on the origins of the language centered on the question of whether Malayalam derived from Tamil or Sanskrit or developed independently of both. The first Malayalam history of the language from this period is the Malayāḷabhāṣacaritraṃ (1881) by P. Govindapilla [Pi. Gōvindapiḷḷa] (1849–1897). Though the title implies that the text is a history of Malayalam, it is actually a history of Malayalam and Sanskrit literature produced in Kerala. In fact, despite the linguistic diversity of the region, Govindapilla’s work excludes literary production in English, Arabic, and Tamil.80

The literary historical approach to tracing changes in the language continued into the 20th century as scholars debated questions about the genres produced during the premodern period and their relationships to other languages. For example, K. M. George postulated that Malayalam literature developed along three “streams”—the Tamil stream, the Sanskrit stream, and the indigenous stream, which was composed of folk poetry in pacca Malayalam.81 Noticeably absent from many literary histories of Malayalam is a narrative about the ways in which the Kerala Muslims contributed to the literary landscape in Kerala. Overviews of Malayalam literary history, in contrast to studies focused specifically on Mappila literature, have generally either excluded Arabi-Malayalam or treated it very briefly.82

The study of language reform and linguistic nationalisms in India developed in the wake of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983). For South India, scholars such as Sumathi Ramaswamy (1997) and Lisa Mitchell (2009) looked at cases of violence in the name of language for Tamil and Telugu, respectively, in order to understand affective attachment to language. For Kerala, scholars such as Dilip Menon, G. Arunima, Udaya Kumar, and the author of this article have provided scholarship critical to understanding the relationships between community identities, communalism, and language reform in the 19th century. Importantly, Dilip Menon’s work on the novel Sarasvatīvijayaṃ articulates the ways in which this low-caste novel did not align with a nationalist agenda.

Much scholarship remains to be done on the historical transformations to Malayalam language and literature in the 19th and 20th centuries. A narrative that brings together the linguistic and religious diversity of the Malabar coast in the 19th century would provide a clearer picture of how ideas regarding language traveled between agents of change at this time. A detailed study of linguistic nationalism at the time of state formation, as well as of efforts in the 21st century to acquire the classical language designation for Malayalam, achieved in 2013, also remain desiderata.

Primary Sources

There is no comprehensive bibliography of Malayalam literature from the 19th century that one could use to find available primary sources related to language reform. An excellent starting point is Ulloor S. Paramesvarayyan’s Kēraḷasāhityacaritraṃ (1955), which provides critical information about Malayali intellectuals of the time and their works, as well as historical information about the efforts to modernize the language. Scholars will also find the Catalogue of Malayalam Books in the British Museum, with an Appendix Listing the Books in Brahui, Gondi, Kui, Malto, Oraon (Kurukh), Toda, and Tudu (1971) helpful. A. Indira’s Keṭāviḷakkȧ: Malayāḷattile Ādyakāla Māsikāparicayaṃ (2012) offers a robust list of Malayalam journals from 1876 to 1948. This title is helpful to the scholar because it progresses chronologically, providing the title for each journal, dates of publication, editor, an image of the journal, its subject matter, and an excerpt. For Muslim sources, the bibliographies of L.R.S. Lakshmi (2012), Jose Abraham (2014), and Roland Miller (2015) are essential. One may also seek out the collection of Arabi-Malayalam manuscripts and lithographs at the British Library, as well as the Endangered Archives Programme’s Digitising Arabic Manuscripts in Mattool, North Kerala (EAP1390). For a detailed list of early Malayalam novels, see Ambrosone (2016). The National Bibliography of Indian Literature:1901–1953 (NBIL) (1962–1974) is a selective bibliography and can be searched on the Digital South Asia Library, along with several other databases, including the International Union List of South Asian Newspapers and Gazettes.

Further Reading

  • Ahmed, C. N., and Ke. Ke. Muhammad Abdulkarīṃ. Mahattāya Māppiḷa Sāhitya Pāramparyaṃ. Kozhikode, India: Ahammad, Muhammad Abdulkarīṃ, 1978.
  • Arunima, G.Glimpses from a Writer’s World: O. Chandu Menon, His Contemporaries, and Their Times.” Studies in History 20 (2004): 189–214.
  • Arunima, G.Imagining Communities–Differently: Print, Language, and the (Public Sphere) in Colonial Kerala.” Indian Economic and Social History Review 43, no. 1 (March 2006): 63–76.
  • Arunima, G.Writing Culture: Of Modernity and the Malayalam Novel.” Studies in History 13 (1997): 271–290.
  • Blackburn, Stuart. Print, Folklore, and Nationalism in Colonial South India. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003.
  • Chaitanya, Krishna. A History of Malayalam Literature. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1971.
  • Das, Sisir Kumar. A History of Indian Literature. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1991.
  • Freeman, Rich. “Caught in Translation: Ideologies of Literary Language in Kerala’s Maṇipravālam.” In Bilingual Discourse and Cross-Cultural Fertilisation: Sanskrit and Tamil in Medieval India. Edited by Whitney Cox and Vincenzo Vergiani, 199–239. Pondicherry, India: Institut Français de Pondicherry, 2013.
  • Freeman, Rich. “Genre and Society: The Literary Culture of Premodern Kerala.” In Literary Cultures in History. Edited by Sheldon Pollock, 437–502. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.
  • Freeman, Rich. “Rubies and Coral: The Lapidary Crafting of Language in Kerala.” Journal of Asian Studies 57, no. 1 (February 1998): 38–65.
  • Frenz, Albrect, and Scaria Zacharia, eds. Dr. Hermann Gundert and the Malayalam Language. Changanassery, India: Centre for Kerala Studies, 1993.
  • George, K. M. A Survey of Malayalam Literature. London: Asia Publishing House, 1968.
  • George, K. M. Western Influence on Malayalam Language and Literature. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1972.
  • Indira, A. Keṭāviḷakkȧ: Malayāḷattile Ādyakāla Māsikāparicayaṃ. Thrissur, India: Kēraḷa Sāhitya Akkādami, 2012.
  • Iruṃpayaṃ, Jōrj. Malayāḷanōval: Pattoṃpatāṃ Nūrrāṇṭil. Kottayam, India: Sāhityapravarttaka Sahakaraṇasaṅghaṃ, 1984.
  • Kumar, Udaya. “Seeing and Reading.” In Early Novels in India. Edited by Meenakshi Mukherjee, 161–192. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2002.
  • Kumar, Udaya. “Shaping a Literary Space: Early Literary Histories in Malayalam and Normative Uses of the Past.” In Literature and Nationalist Ideology: Writing Histories of Modern South Asian Languages. Edited by Hans Harder, 19–50. New Delhi: Social Sciences Press, 2010.
  • Menon, Dilip. “A Place Elsewhere.” In India’s Literary History: Essays on the Nineteenth Century. Edited by Stuart Blackburn and Vasudha Dalmia, 483–515. New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004.
  • Menon, Dilip. “Caste and Colonial Modernity: Reading Sarasvativijayam.” Studies in History 13, no. 2 (August 1997): 291–312.
  • Menon, Dilip. Caste, Nationalism and Communism in South India: Malabar 1900–1948. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  • Menon, Dilip. “No, Not the Nation: Lower Caste Malayalam Novels of the Nineteenth Century.” In Early Novels in India. Edited by Meenakshi Mukherjee, 41–72. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2002.
  • Miller, Roland E. Mappila Muslims of Kerala: A Study in Islamic Trends. 2nd rev. ed. Madras: Orient Longman, 1992.
  • Mitchell, Lisa. Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India: The Making of a Mother Tongue. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.
  • Mitchell, Lisa. “Parallel Languages, Parallel Cultures: Language as a New Foundation for the Reorganization of Knowledge and Practice in Southern India.” Indian Economic Social History Review 42, no. 4 (December 2005): 445–467.
  • Paramēśvarayyar, Uḷḷūr Es. Kēraḷasāhityacaritr̲aṃ. Tiruvanantapuraṃ, India: Tiruvitāṅkūr Sarvakalāśālā Pr̄asiddīkaraṅavakuppȧ, 1957.
  • Ramaswamy, Sumathi. Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India: 1891–1970. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997.


  • 1. In this section, Mahmood Kooria’s formulation of Malabar is followed in its precolonial sense rather than the smaller area that constitutes the administrative district under the Madras pPresidency. Precolonial Malabar denotes the area “from the southern end of Konkan, or Goan, coast or Mt. D’eli in the north to Cape Comorin in the south.” Mahmood Kooria, “Introduction: Situating Malabar in the Indian Ocean,” in Malabar in the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism in a Maritime Historical Region, ed. Mahmood Kooria and Michael Naylor Pearson (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2018), xv.

  • 2. K. K. Nair, By Sweat and Sword: Trade, Diplomacy and War in Kerala through the Ages (New Delhi: Manohar, 2013), 26; and V. Selvakumar, “Ancient Ports of Kerala: An Overview,” in Imperial Rome, Indian Ocean Regions and Muziris: New Perspectives on Maritime Trade, ed. K. S. Matthew (New York: Routledge, 2017), 269–270.

  • 3. Nair, By Sweat and Sword, 26.

  • 4. R. E. Asher and T. C. Kumari, Malayalam (London: Routledge, 1997), xxiv−xxv.

  • 5. Asher and Kumari, Malayalam, xxiv.

  • 6. K. Ramachandran Nair, “Medieval Malayalam Literature,” in Medieval Indian Literature: An Anthology, vol. 1, Surveys and Selections, ed. K. Ayyappa Paniker (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1997), 299; and A. Sreedhara Menon, A Survey of Kerala History (Chennai, India: S. Viswanathan, 2006), 43–45 and 132–133. For images, see T. A. Gopinatha Rao, Travancore Archaeological Series, vol. 2, Tamil and Vetteluttu Inscriptions on Stone and Copper-plates (Madras: Law Printing House, 1916).

  • 7. Krishna Chaitanya, A History of Malayalam Literature (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1971), 16.

  • 8. According to Ulloor, Cīrāman is a tadbhava of “Śrīrāman.” His opinion is that the poet is Vira Rama Varma (also known as Maṇikaṇṭha Rama Varma), who reigned in Travancore from 1195 to 1208 ad. Ulloor also notes that the first part of the Rāmacaritaṃ was first published in 1917. See Uḷḷūr Es. Paramēśvarayyar, Kēraḷasāhityacaritraṃ, vol. 1, Onnāṃ Vālyaṃ (Thiruvananthapuraṃ, India: Kēraḷa Sarvvakalāśālā Prasiddhīkaraṇavakuppŭ, 1957), 253; the distinctions between paṭṭu and maṇipravāḷaṃ have to do with each movement’s reliance on Tamil and Sanskrit phonology, lexicology, grammatical, thematic, and metrical features. For more on the distinctions, see Rich Freeman, “Rubies and Coral: The Lapidary Crafting of Language,” Journal of Asian Studies 57, no. 1 (February 1998): 38–65.

  • 9. Rich Freeman, “Genre and Society: The Literary Culture of Premodern Kerala,” in Literary Cultures in History, ed. Sheldon Pollock (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003), 458.

  • 10. Freeman, “Rubies and Coral.”

  • 11. V. Aravindakshan, “The Literary Tradition of Kerala,” in Essays on the Cultural Formation of Kerala: Literature, Art, Architecture, Music, Theatre and Cinema, ed. P. J. Cherian (Thiruvananthapuram, India: Kerala State Gazetteers Department, 1999), 71; and Freeman, “Rubies and Coral,” 43n6.

  • 12. Freeman, “Genre and Society,” 470.

  • 13. Freeman, “Genre and Society,” 464.

  • 14. Aravindakshan, “Literary Tradition,” 72.

  • 15. K. Ayyappa Paniker, A Short History of Malayalam Literature (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi), 31.

  • 16. Aravindakshan, “Literary Tradition,” 75.

  • 17. Chaitanya, A History of Malayalam Literature.

  • 18. The antiquity of kūṭiyāṭṭaṃ and kūttu can be traced back to at least the 10th century; Kṛṣṇanāṭṭaṃ and rāmanāṭṭaṃ precede kathakaḷi, which can be traced to the 17th and 18th centuries.

  • 19. Freeman, “Genre and Society,” 485.

  • 20. Kunchan Nambiar was from an ambalavasi caste and wrote tuḷḷal poems for performance. The poems featured well-known epic and Puranic stories, but were also infused with social commentary meant to mock contemporary life. Known for its colloquial language, humor, and accessibility to an unspecialized audience, Nambiar’s poems are said to have inspired the Venmani poets who started the pacca Malayalam movement. See K. S. Narayan Pillai, “Humour and Wit (Malayalam),” in Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature, ed. Amaresh Datta (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1988), 2:1608.

  • 21. Chaitanya, A History of Malayalam Literature, 113.

  • 22. Freeman, “Genre and Society,” 441–442. See also Freeman, “Rubies and Coral,” 39.

  • 23. Roland E. Miller, Mappila Muslim Culture: How a Historic Muslim Community in India Has Blended Tradition and Modernity (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015), 322.

  • 24. Miller, Mappila Muslim Culture, 322.

  • 25. Chummar Choondal, Kerala Folk Literature (Thrissur, India: Kerala Folklore Academy, 1980), 39–40.

  • 26. For an interesting examination of primary sources in the languages of the region at this time, see Kooria and Pearson, eds., Malabar in the Indian Ocean.

  • 27. Lisa Mitchell, Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India: The Making of a Mother Tongue (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 20.

  • 28. See Bernard Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996); Thomas Trautmann, Aryans and British India (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997); and Gauri Viswanathan, Masks of Conquest (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989).

  • 29. Martin Moir and Lynn Zastoupil, The Great Indian Education Debate: Documents Relating to the Orientalist-Anglicist Controversy, 1781–1843 (London: Routledge, 1999).

  • 30. Viswanathan, Masks of Conquest, 6 and 30.

  • 31. See Stuart H. Blackburn, Print, Folklore, and Nationalism in Colonial South India (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003). For a detailed timeline of the emergence of printing presses on the Malabar coast and elsewhere in India, see Chapakhana, a digital humanities project by Ulrike Stark of the University of Chicago.

  • 32. Corinne Dempsey, Kerala Christian Sainthood: Collisions of Culture and Worldview in South India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 5–6.

  • 33. Blackburn, Print, Folklore, and Nationalism, 32–33. For images, see Karthik Madhavan, “Tamil Saw Its First Book in 1578,” The Hindu, June 21, 2010.

  • 34. Ulrike Stark, “Chapakhana”(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago). Chapakhana visualizes the emergence of the printing press in India across space and time. For more on the shifts and divisions in Saint Thomas Christianity after the arrival of the Portuguese, see the introduction in Dempsey, Kerala Christian Sainthood.

  • 35. Reference to a grammar of Malayalam by Johann Hanxleden in the Carmelite Archives in Rome can be found in the introduction to his Grammatica Grandonica. See Toon Van Hal and Christophe Vielle, eds., Grammatica Grandonica: The Sanskrit Grammar of Johann Ernst Hanxleden S. J. (1681–1732) (Potsdam, Germany: Universitätsverlag Potsdam, 2013), 7.

  • 36. Sujit Mukherjee, A Dictionary of Indian Literature (Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman, 1998), 345. Also see Jisha Surya, “First Book Printed in Malayalam Goes Online,” Times of India, August 28, 2013.

  • 37. Stephen Neill, A History of Christianity in India: 1707–1858 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 223–225.

  • 38. K. V. Eapen, Church Missionary Society and Education in Kerala (Kottayam, India: Kollett Publication, 1985), 15–17.

  • 39. Eapen, Church Missionary Society, 18–19 and 205–210.

  • 40. Alex Thomas, A History of the First Cross-Cultural Mission of the Mar Thoma Church, 1910–2000 (New Delhi: Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2007), 59–60.

  • 41. Albrect Frenz and Scaria Zacharia, eds., Dr. Hermann Gundert and the Malayalam Language (Changanassery, India: Centre for Kerala Studies, 1993), 169.

  • 42. Caste pollution in premodern Kerala occurred not only through physical contact, but also by proximity between individuals of different castes.

  • 43. Ananda Evelyn Wood, Knowledge Before Printing and After: The Indian Tradition in Changing Kerala (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1985). See also Ananda Evelyn Wood, “Traditional Education in Modernizing Kerala” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1981).

  • 44. G. Arunima, “Imagining Communities–Differently: Print, Language, and the (Public Sphere) in Colonial Kerala,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 43, no. 1 (March 2006): 71.

  • 45. Note that though “bhāṣā” ends with a long ā in Sanskrit, the word in Malayalam ends with a short a. Malayalam words of Sanskrit origin in compound generally lengthen the final a, as is the case for “bhāṣāpariṣkāraṃ.”

  • 46. Hermann Gundert, A Malayalam and English Dictionary (Mangalore, India: Basel Mission Book and Tract Depository, 1872), s.v. “pariṣkāraṃ.”

  • 47. For an extended discussion of bhāṣāpariṣkāraṃ, see Ellen Ambrosone, “Making Modern Malayalam: Literary and Educational Practices in Nineteenth-Century Kerala” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2016). See also G.Arunima, “Imagining Communities–Differently.”

  • 48. Mappila is commonly associated with Muslims from Kerala, but Verghese Mappila was a Christian from Travancore.

  • 49. Note that though “sabhā” ends with a long ā in Sanskrit, the word in Malayalam ends with a short a as in sabha; Malayalam-English Dictionary, 29th ed., s.v. “pōṣaṇaṃ.” Here “pōṣaṇaṃ” is defined as “nourishment, development, or growth.”

  • 50. Uḷḷūr Es. Paramēśvarayyar, Kēraḷasāhityacaritraṃ, vol. 4, Nālāṃ Vālyaṃ (Thiruvananthapuram, India: Kēraḷa Sarvvakalāśālā Prasiddhīkaraṇavakuppŭ, 1955), 480.

  • 51. For more on the Adam Act of 1823, which required a publisher or printer to obtain a license in order to establish a printing press, see Blackburn, Print, Folklore, and Nationalism, 80.

  • 52. T. R. Raman Namboodiripad, “Printing and Publishing (Malayalam),” in Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature, ed. Amaresh Datta (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1988), 5:3351–3352.

  • 53. S. A. Shanavas, “Translations of Qur’an in Malayalam,” Islam and the Modern Age 24 (1993): 272.

  • 54. Miller, Mappila Muslim Culture, 326. Also see C. N. Ahmed and Ke. Ke. Muhammad Abdulkarīṃ, Mahattāya Māppiḷa Sāhitya Pāramparyaṃ (Kozhikode, India: Ahammad, Muhammad Abdulkarīṃ, 1978), 51.

  • 55. Miller, Mappila Muslim Culture, 329. For more on Arabi-Malayalam and the history of Mappila Muslims in Kerala, see also Jose Abraham, Islamic Reform and Colonial Discourse on Modernity in India: Socio-Political and Religious Thought of Vakkom Moulavi (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); and L. Lakshmi, The Malabar Muslims: A Different Perspective (New Delhi: Foundation Books, 2012).

  • 56. Abraham, Islamic Reform, 14.

  • 57. Francis Whyte Ellis and Putuśśēri Rāmacandr̲an, F. W. Ellis: A Dissertation on the Malayal̤ma Language (Thiruvananthapuram, India: Kannassa Vidyapeetham, 2005), 18.

  • 58. See Frederic James Spring, Outlines of a Grammar of the Malayalim Language, as Spoken in the Province of North and South Malabar and the Kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin (Madras: Vepery Mission Press, 1839); Robert Caldwell, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-India Family of Languages (London: Harrison and Sons, 1856); Robert Caldwell, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages, 2nd ed. (London: Trubnee, 1875); Hermann Gundert, A Grammar of the Malayalam Language/Malayāḷabhāṣavyākaraṇam, ed. E. Diez (Mangalore, India: Basel Mission Press, 1868); Gundert, A Malayalam and English Dictionary; and L. J. Frohnmeyer, A Progressive Grammar of the Malayalam Language for Europeans (Mangalore, India: Basel Mission Book & Tract Depository, 1889). For a detailed discussion, see Ambrosone, “Making Modern Malayalam,” chap. 1.

  • 59. Joseph Peet, A Grammar of the Malayalim Language, as Spoken in the Principalities of Travancore and Cochin, and the Districts of North and South Malabar (Kottayam, India: C. M. Press, 1841); Ambrosone, “Making Modern Malayalam,” 47–48. For more on the “three streams theory,” see K. M. George, A Survey of Malayalam Literature (London: Asia Publishing House, 1968), 6–15.

  • 60. Kōvuṇṇi Neṭuṅṅāṭi, Kēraḷa Kaumudī (1878; repr. and ed. Ke. Gōpālakṛṣṇan, Kozhikode, India: Poorna Publications, 1990); and K. N. Ezhuthachan, The History of the Grammatical Theories in Malayalam (Thiruvananthapuram, India: The Dravidian Linguistics Association, 1975), 133–134.

  • 61. Ezhuthachan, History of the Grammatical Theories, 133–134. See also K. Gopalakrishnan’s footnote in the 1990 edition of the Kēraḷa Kaumudī and Ambrosone, “Making Modern Malayalam,” 112–114.

  • 62. The first edition was published in 1896; E. Ār. Rājarājavarmma, Kēraḷapāṇinīyam Enna Malayāḷavyākaraṇam (1896; repr. and ed. Putuśśēri Rāmacandran, Thiruvananthapuram, India: Kerala University Co-op, 1986). Importantly, he deviates from Ellis’s position by stating that Malayalam came from a form of koṭuntamil.

  • 63. Appu Neṭuṅṅāṭi, Kundalatā (Kozhikode, India: Vidya Vilasam Press, 1887), 3.

  • 64. Ambrosone, “Making Modern Malayalam,” 236; for example: Ē. Ke. Pi., “Sāhityavivēcanaṃ,” Vidyāvinōdini Bk. 4, no. 1 (Kanni 1069 [September/October 1893]): 276.

  • 65. Ōyyārattu Cantumēnōn, Indulekhā (Kozhikode, India: Spekṭeṭṭar Accukūṭaṃ, 1889), ix.

  • 66. For example, Si. Ḍi Ḍēviḍŭ, “Malayāḷabhāṣa,” Vidyāvinōdini Bk. 2, no. 12 (Kanni 1067 [September/October 1891]): 265–271

  • 67. Note that Malayalam retains all the aspirates of the Sanskrit alphabet, as well as all the sibilants. The Malayalam lexicon is also heavily influenced by Sanskrit.

  • 68. Si. Ḍi Ḍēviḍŭ, “Malayāḷabhāṣa,” 266.

  • 69. Cantumēnōn, Indulekhā, 494–498.

  • 70. For more on Sarasvatīvijayaṃ, see Dilip Menon, “Caste and Colonial Modernity: Reading Sarasvativijayam,” Studies in History 13, no. 2 (August 1997): 293.

  • 71. Ambrosone, “Making Modern Malayalam,” 185.

  • 72. Menon, A Survey of Kerala History, 367.

  • 73. P. Sanal Mohan, Modernity of Slavery: Struggles against Caste Inequality in Colonial Kerala (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015), 24–25.

  • 74. Mohan, Modernity of Slavery, 25.

  • 75. Dilip Menon, “Caste and Colonial Modernity,” 298–299.

  • 76. G. Arunima, “Glimpses from a Writer’s World: O. Chandu Menon, His Contemporaries, and Their Times,” Studies in History 20 (2004): 189–214. See pp. 212–213 for a discussion of the sociability specifically.

  • 77. Kaṇṭattil Varugīs Māppiḷa, “Iṃglīṣu Cērnna Malayāḷaṃ,” Bhāṣāpōṣiṇi Bk. 1, no. 2 (Tulāṃ 1072 [October/November 1896]): 28. See also P. R. Gopinathan Nair, “Education and Socio-Economic Change in Kerala, 1793–1947,” Social Scientist 4, no. 8 (1976): 28–43.

  • 78. For an in-depth overview of the transformation of education during the British colonial period, see K. N. Ganesh, “Cultural Encounters under Colonialism: The Case of Education in Keralam,” in Culture and Modernity: Historical Explorations (Calicut, India: University of Calicut, 2004), 152–192.

  • 79. For Tamil, see the following: Sumathi Ramaswamy, Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997); Sascha Ebeling, Colonizing the Realm of Words: The Transformation of Tamil Literature in Nineteenth-Century South India (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010). For Telugu, see the following: Mitchell, Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India; Rama Sundari Mantena, “Vernacular Futures: Colonial Philology and the Idea of History in Nineteenth-Century South India,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 42, no. 4 (2005): 513–534; Gautham Reddy, “The Andhra Sahitya Parishat: Language, Nation and Empire in Colonial South India (1911–15),” Indian Economic & Social History Review 56, no. 3 (July 2019): 283−310. For Kannada, see Robert J. Zydenbos, The Calf Became an Orphan: A Study in Contemporary Kannada Fiction (Pondicherry, India: Institut français de Pondichéry, Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, 1996).

  • 80. Udaya Kumar, “Shaping a Literary Space: Early Literary Histories in Malayalam and Normative Uses of the Past,” in Literature and Nationalist Ideology: Writing Histories of Modern South Asian Languages, ed. Hans Harder (New Delhi: Social Sciences Press, 2010), 19–50.

  • 81. George, A Survey of Malayalam Literature, 16.

  • 82. Muneer Aram Kuzhiyan, “Poetics of Piety: Genre, Devotion, and Self-Fashioning in the Mappila Literary Culture of South India” (PhD diss., English and Foreign Languages University, 2015), 42–44.