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Dialects of Malayalam

Words in the different dialects below are bold and italicized but only under their category! (This is not Malayalam :-D)

Travancore Dialect

Travancore is the old Anglicized name for Southern Kerala. This dialect is spoken in that area and is very closely related to Tamil.

Southern Travancore dialect is more related to Tamil than the Northern/Central Travancore dialect is. The latter is what is taught in this course, and it's more similar to written Malayalam, so it is comprehensible to all Malayalees who still know their language!

However, there are some peculiar words in the Travancore dialect which are (probably) nonexistent in other dialects:

11/23/03: palli = gauLi (common house gecko in Kerala, which is actually very useful, because it eats mosquitoes!) I think that gauLi is the more common word elsewhere in Kerala, but I'm not sure, as I explain below in the Northern Dialect section.

6/09/05: bOnchi is Southern Travancore dialect for what is more commonly known as naaringngaveLLam (lemon/lime juice). appi in Southern Travancore dialect means "son" (in other parts of Kerala, it means something else entirely, and outside of the districts of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and Kollam (Quilon), you'd better not use it!!). 

8/01/05: chhirrayuka is a verb that means nOkkuka (to look). It's used by gangs in Southern Travancore (especially Thiruvananthapuram). 

Central Dialects

Just in the middle of Kerala, different dialects are spoken. They vary according to the area. In Thrissur (Trichur), they apparently speak a kind of slurred Malayalam with some of the changes listed below, whereas the Palakkad (Palghat) dialect also uses the changes below but sounds a lot like Tamil. 

There are several differences in these dialects; of course, it's hard to list all of them! I don't know very many of them myself; in fact, I doubt the accuracy of my examples: 

zha from Travancore dialect changes to sha: kashinjnju- (kazhinjnju) last.

sa changes to Sa or sha: shOTA- (sOTa) soda (as in "soft drink"); aiS- (ais) ice

the vowels "e/E" change to sound "ae/AE" (like in Sinhalese, or exactly like American/British "a" in "cat"): vAENO?- (vENO?) do you want?

o/O changes to e/E: mellaakka- (mollaakka) a Muslim teacher, kELaj- (kOLaj) college

Often, there is a sort of softening of sounds: illa ("there isn't/aren't"), for example, may be pronounced illya.

The word ayy may be used instead of aa (that).

Also, instead of saarr (sir), many people in Central Kerala seem to use the term maasha (possibly from the English word "master"?). Instead of ichchire (a little bit), the more common expression is iSSi.

More Updates:

9/22/05, 12/08/05- I'm not sure whether this is Thrissur Malayalam or some other dialect, but it seems as if one dialect tends to take out the /na/ sound in words that relate to the word nammaL ("we," including the listener). Thus, nammaL is mmaL, nammuTe is mmaTe, and namukk is mmakk. Also, the term for "where to?" in Palakkad Malayalam is njengngNTaaN(u)?

Northern Dialect

In Malabar, Northern Kerala, people speak another different dialect, somewhat related to Central Malayalam. However, this dialect has more Kannada words incorporated. Therefore, people from Malabar can often understand Kannada easily. Other than this, I know very little about this dialect, but I will find out something soon!

8/10/03- The word for "common house gecko (lizard)" in Northern Malayalam is gauLi (Travancore: palli). (Actually, gauLi may be the more widely used word in Kerala, but I don't know which word Central Malayalam uses yet. Anyone from Thrissur or Palakkad?) This word apparently comes not necessarily from Kannada but, at least ultimately, from Tamil! (I concluded this from a rather confusing article that, if I remember correctly, says something about how a gauLi laid eggs that contaminated food in Tamil Nadu.)

11/16/03; 11/23/03- Stir-fried pieces of plantain with chilies are called Eththaykkaa mezhukkuparaTTi (= plantain with oil spread on it) in Travancore and as uppEri in Northern Malayalam. However, in the Travancore Dialect, uppEri refers to plantain chips (i.e. plantain cut into coin-sized pieces and deep-fried) which are called varruththakaay (= fried fruit) in Northern Kerala!

6/09/05- A friend and neighbor of ours from Northern Kerala seems to say parankippoTi (literally "Portuguese flour/dust") for muLakupoTi (chili powder), prththingngaappazham for parankippazham (cashew fruit), and paappaththi for chithraSalabham (butterfly). 

8/01/05- The word for "river" in Northern dialect is puzha, as compared to aarr(u) in Central Travancore dialect. Most Malayalees seem to understand both words.

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