Malayalam: ml-puthiya, ml-pazhaya

Santhosh Thottingal santhosh.thottingal at
Fri Aug 26 11:11:31 CEST 2016

On Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 7:11 PM Sascha Brawer <sascha at> wrote:

> According to my contact, this reform was a continuum; the Kerala
> government order of 1971 did not immediately affect the common practice.
> Instead, the transition from traditional to reformed has happened over the
> period of 20-30 years. There is a lot of variation in the specifics for any
> year one could pick in the last century.
> Again according to my contact, there is a common overall understanding
> among Malayalam speakers that the orthography of the language has moved
> from ‘traditional’ to ‘reformed.’ However, my contact did not know of an
> authoritative reference that would describe this transition in more detail.
This is true, there is no defnition or  authoritative reference about this
differences. And that is my concern. Given a set of printed samples from
say, todays news paper in Malayalam,  one cannot say this is 'new'(puthiya)
or this is 'old'(pazhaya) [1]. The contemporary Malayalam usage is a mixed
one. It borrows some reformation from 1971 order and some from the
practices that existed before.

The reason for mixed mode is because the main intention behind the 1971
reformation was to get Malayalam 'usable' with then type writers and
composing machines[2]. As technology progressed and when these limitations
vanished, nothing stopped people from using the types similar to what they
will write using pen on paper. The modern opentype technology completely
removed this limitation and many modern and famous typefaces of Malayalam
uses this 'old'/ml-pazhaya style[3].

So defining two variants ml-puthiya, ml-pazhaya without a clear way to
distinguish one from another and having a wide range of ununamed variants
exist, is concerning.

- Santhosh Thottingal

[1]. Here is  printed copies of two news papers from today:  Mathrubhumi
Malayala manorama
The first one follows mainly one concept from reformation split u sign(ു)
while the second follows another subset of ideas from reformation.
[2]  First paragraph
[3] For example, fonts <> like Meera, Rachana,
AnjaliOldLipi, Dyuthi, Manjari, Chilanka, Karumpi, Keraleeyam, Uroob all
follows the style that existed before 1971 reformation.
Santhosh Thottingal
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