The Concept of ÜßÉß (Lipi)
Q: What's one difficulty about Malayalam that you may already know?
A: That it has LOOOOOOOOTS of letters!!!
That's true! But Malayalam has even more difficulties! In fact...it has TWO SCRIPTS!!!
OK, OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little here...because these "scripts" are practically the same, but they do have some differences, the maatra for © /u/ in particular. (Remember, a maatra is the vowel symbol after any consonant...or conjugated letter!)
The two scripts are called pazhaya lipi and puthiya lipi. Puthiya lipi, which means "new script," is the script that you've been learning all along. It's the main script used in all fonts (or at least the Kerala and Manorama fonts) for writing Malayalam on the computer. It was officially introduced in the 1970's, when it began to appear in school textbooks. Unfortunately, school textbooks have ended up being one of the very few writings where puthiya lipi is used. Puthiya lipi is used in:
1. all school textbooks that are in Malayalam (as previously mentioned),
2. my site (duh!),
3. SOME books for learning Malayalam,
4. websites in Malayalam,
5. dictionaries (at least MY dictionaries!), and
6. SOME other books in Malayalam, depending on who published them. For example, I recently got a book of riddles called Thiranyeduththa Kadamkathhakal ("Selected Riddles") published by the H & C Publishing House at Thrissur.
Pazhaya lipi, on the other hand, is more complicated. However, since Malayalees have used this script for about 300-400 years, it's still more commonly used, even though the use of puthiya lipi is growing in the publishing companies. Pazhaya lipi can be found not only in literary works, but also on street signs, shop windows, comic and song books...almost anywhere Malayalam is written, except, of course, school textbooks, websites, and perhaps dictionaries. Finally, if a Malayalee was writing a letter, chances are that it would be in pazhaya lipi, since it's easier for handwriting.
Some other differences between the scripts:
1. How the vowel "r" is written (as a maatra)
2. How the vowel "uu" is written as a maatra (rules similar to how u is written as a maatra)
3. Whether or not the vowel "u" can be used at the end of a word
4. How d (ra/rra) is written
So what do we do about these ÜßÉßµZ??? I would advise you to learn BOTH of the scripts, because a book in pazhaya lipi is equally or more useful for learning Malayalam as one in puthiya lipi and vice versa; better the benefit of both scripts rather than one or the other! So why not learn a bit of ÉÝÏ ÜßÉß?