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Welcome Education :: Malayalam

Learn Vowels
  There are 15 vowels in Malayalam
Learn Consonants
  There are 36 consonants, 25 of which are clubbed into groups of 5 letters with closely related sounds. Each of these consonants have, in turn, about 14 other variants when you add each of the vowel 'sound' (not letter) to it. For instance, the first consonant, 'ka' has variants like 'kaah', 'ki', 'kee', 'ku', 'koo', 'kai', 'kow' etc. As mentioned earlier, these variants are obtained by writing the consonant along with a symbol/sign that represents the corresponding vowel equivalents
Learn Symbols for Vowel Sound
  In Malayalam, vowel letters are substituted with certain symbols, when they are used to change the sound of a consonant. These symbols are called as 'maatras', and can be used with any of the 36 consonants. This means, that for all practical purposes, the vowel letters you will learn in Vowels, are written as such, only when a word begins with a vowel. Within or at the end of a word, these symbols replace the vowel letter.

One of the problems in learning to write/read Malayalam is the large number of letters in the alphabet. The problem is further aggravated by the changes in scripts introduced from time to time. To start with there were 56 letters, one of the largest number for any language.

These letters may belong to these broad categories:

  • equivalent to the vowels
  • equivalent to the consonants
  • conjugated alphabets

    There are 15 vowels and 36 consonants in addition to the many conjugated and miscellaneous letters. The conjugated letters are combinations of two consonants, but they are written distinctly.

    Unlike in English, the 'vowels' are NOT used as such to give the vowel sound to consonants. Instead, certain signs, called 'mAtras' substitute them in a word. For instance, if the same rule is applied in English, you would write 'cat' as 'c' followed by a sign representing the sound 'a' and then 't'. The long and short of this is that in addition to the letters, one should also know these signs (mAtras) which are to be added to the consonants to get the required sound.