Malayalam /mæləˈjɑːləm/ (മലയാളം, malayāḷam, Malayalam pronunciation: [mɐləjaːɭəm]), is a language spoken in India, predominantly in the state of Kerala. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and was declared a classical language by the Government of India in 2013. Malayalam has official language status in the state of Kerala and in the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry. It belongs to the Dravidian family of languages, and is spoken by approximately 33 million people according to the 2001 census. Malayalam is also spoken in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka; with more populace in the Nilgiris, Kanyakumari and Coimbatore districts of Tamil Nadu, and the Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu districts of Karnataka.
Malayalam most likely originated from Middle Tamil (Sen-Tamil) in the 6th century. An alternative theory proposes a split in even more ancient times. Malayalam incorporated many elements from Sanskrit through the ages and today over eighty percent of the vocabulary of Malayalam in scholarly usage is from Sanskrit. Before Malayalam came into being, Old Tamil was used in literature and courts of a region called Tamilakam, including present day Kerala state, a famous example being Silappatikaram. Silappatikaram was written by Chera prince Ilango Adigal from Cochin, and is considered a classic in Sangam literature. Modern Malayalam still preserves many words from the ancient Tamil vocabulary of Sangam literature. The earliest script used to write Malayalam was the Vatteluttu script, and later the Kolezhuttu, which derived from it. As Malayalam began to freely borrow words as well as the rules of grammar from Sanskrit, Grantha script was adopted for writing and came to be known as Arya Ezhuttu. This developed into the modern Malayalam script. Many medieval liturgical texts were written in an admixture of Sanskrit and early Malayalam, called Manipravalam. The oldest literary work in Malayalam, distinct from the Tamil tradition, is dated from between the 9th and 11th centuries. The first travelogue in any Indian language is in Malayalam, titled as Varthamanappusthakam written by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar in 1785.
Due to its lineage deriving from both Sanskrit and Tamil, the Malayalam alphabet has the largest number of letters among the Indian languages. Malayalam script includes letters capable of representing all the sounds of Sanskrit and all Dravidian languages. (Wikipedia)