Difference Between Tamil and Malayalam (With Table)

Language is a structure or a method that is used by humans for the main purpose of communication. There are over 19500 languages and dialects in India. Out of which, only 22 are listed in the Constitution. Tamil and Malayalam are two of the languages listed which are popularly spoken in Southern India. 

Tamil vs Malayalam

The difference between Tamil and Malayalam is that Tamil is much older than Malayalam in comparison, as it originated in the 5th Century B.C. and Malayalam in the 10th Century A.D. There are many other differences between the two, primarily between their Script, region, population, understanding, and connection with Sanskrit.

Tamil as a language is one of the oldest in the world. It is a Dravidian language. It is spoken by Tamilians. The language is also considered the official language of Tamil Nadu. It is also an official language of the sovereign nations- Singapore as well as Sri Lanka.

Malayalam is another Dravidian language. This language has many borrowed words from Sanskrit. It is spoken by Malayalis. The language is popularly spoken in Kerala, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry. This language has less population in comparison with the other languages. However, it was designated as an Indian Classical language in the year 2013.

Comparison Table Between Tamil and Malayalam

Parameters of ComparisonTamil Malayalam
OriginThis language originated somewhere around the 5th century B.C.This language originated somewhere around the 10th century A.D.
SanskritAs a language, it is said to be more independent having fewer words from Sanskrit. As a language, it is independent but it does borrow more words from Sanskrit.
ScriptThe letters in the Tamil language have fewer loops, sharpened angles and capped heads.The letters in Malayalam have more curves along with many loops and bald heads.
RegionIt is popularly spoken in the south Indian state, Tamilnadu. It is popularly spoken in the south Indian state, Kerala.
PopulationIt is more ancient and has more population in comparison. It is less ancient and has less population in comparison. 
UnderstandingTamilians find it difficult to understand Malayalam.It is quiet for Malayalis to understand Tamil.

What is Tamil?

The Tamil language comes from the Dravidian family of languages descending from the Proto-Dravidian. Primarily spoken in Tamilnadu as well as other parts of India and the world. These include states like Andhrapradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Andaman Nicobar, and countries such as South Africa, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, UK, the US, and Australia. It is also a language that has the most ancient non-Sanskritic Indian literature.

This language is included in the Constitution. Furthermore, it is the first language to be declared as a classical language of India. It is also one of the oldest classical languages in existence in the whole world. Sangam literature, also the earliest period of this literature, is said to be between 300 BC to AD 300. It is also one of the oldest Dravidian languages in existence.

Trade goods with Brahmi script inscriptions in the Tamil language were found in Sri Lanka and on trade goods in Thailand and Egypt. The traces of Old Tamil in the form of short inscriptions have been found in caves and on pottery. They are said to be dated between the 3rd-2nd century BC. Also, two of the first manuscripts from India were written in the Tamil language. The first language to be printed and published was also Tamil.

What is Malayalam? 

Malayalam is another language that comes from the Dravidian family of languages. The term Malayalam is derived from two words, ‘mala’ and ‘alam’, which mean ‘mountain’ and ‘region’. Therefore meaning a mountain region. The term was originally a reference to the land of the Chera dynasty. And later on, it was turned into a language. It is popularly spoken in the southern part of India, such as Kerala, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, as well as Lakshadweep and Puducherry.

The people who speak this language are called Malayalis. The language is also alternatively called Kerala Bhasha, meaning the language of Kerala. This language is listed in the Constitution of India. Out of the total Indian population, about 2.88% speak this language. It is also popular in the Gulf countries. And out of the total worldwide population, approximately 34 million speak Malayalam.

Tamil and Malayalam are close relatives, and it is also said that Malayalam has descended from the Tamil language. It was also recognized as an Indian classical language in 2013. The “Vatteluttu” script was the earliest script used to write Malayalam. However, the current one is based on the Vatteluttu script but extended with “Grantha” script letters for adopting “Indo-Aryan” loanwords.

Main Differences Between Tamil and Malayalam

  1. The Tamil language originated somewhere around the 5th century B.C. The Malayalam language originated somewhere around the 10th century A.D.
  2. As a language, Tamil is said to be more independent, having fewer words from Sanskrit. As a language, Malayalam is independent, but it does borrow more words from Sanskrit.
  3. The letters in Tamil language have fewer loops, sharpened angles, and capped heads. The letters in Malayalam have more curves along with many loops and bald heads.
  4. Tamil is popularly spoken in the south Indian state, Tamilnadu. On the contrary, Malayalam is popularly spoken in the south Indian state, Kerala.
  5. Tamil is more ancient and has more population in comparison. Whereas Malayalam is less ancient and has less population in comparison.

Conclusion 

Tamil and Malayalam are the two languages that are popularly spoken in the southern parts of India as well as in the other parts of the world. Both of them are a part of the Dravidian languages and do include words from the Sanskrit language. They are both listed in the Constitution of India. They share a lot more similarities. 

However, they are very different from each other. One is more ancient while the other is recent in comparison. They have differences in their syntax and semantics. Both of them have different populations in different areas. And they are both unique in their own way.

References

  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-southeast-asian-studies/article/medieval-tamillanguage-inscriptions-in-southeast-asia-and-china/AE040EECE2065D89B3E37C5B52D9DF42
  2. https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/132853
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