Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
About the language Malayalam


See this QUOTE: The name by which the district is known to Europeans is not in general use in the district itself, except among foreigners and English-speaking’ natives. The ordinary name is Malayalam, or, in its shorter form, Malayam (the hill country). END OF QUOTE

As per this statement, the name Malabar was not known to the natives of the land. It is similar to the word ‘India’. There is nothing to suggest that the word ‘India’ was known to the natives of the subcontinent.

The words ‘Malayalam’ and ‘Malayam’ are mentioned as the name known to the people of Malabar about their own land.

The question then comes about Travancore and Cochin. Cochin being a small location does not matter much. However, what about Travancore? There might be some confusion about in the minds of the traders from afar about these locations. For, pepper could be procured from all the three locations. However, in the case of Malabar, there were two prominent locations. One was Cannanore in north Malabar, and Calicut in south Malabar.

But then the whole of the coastal areas that included north Malabar, south Malabar, Cochin and Travancore, there were a number of small ports from where pepper could be procured. If the nationality of a location can be fixed by the availability of pepper, then all these locations are quite easily mentioned as one and the same, from afar.

However, this is not way to fix a nationality. And seafaring traders’ opinion is not what creates a nation.

Now, look at this QUOTE: ....Malayalam uses in these and all similar cases the verbal participle adichu, having beaten, with the prefixed pronouns I, thou, he, etc. (e.g., nyan adichu, I beat ; ni adichu, thou didst beat ; avan adichu he beat). END OF QUOTE

From a very casual perspective, nothing amiss would be noticed in the above statement. But then, there are actually a few errors in what the statement purports to state. In fact, the statement points in a wrong direction. And the very attempt to connect the hidden verbal codes into the planar language English is also very questionable efficiency. In this regard, it might be mentioned that the writer of the statement is actually groping in the dark.

The first error is that the word adichu is not the word of have beaten or did beat in the native language of Malabar. It is true that in those contemporary periods, the language of Malabar was known as Malayalam. In that Malayalam, the word for have beaten or did beat might be thachu /thach . This is a claim which I cannot confirm with regard to the whole areas of north Malabar or of south Malabar.

Next is the word: thou. Actually there is no equivalent of thou in either newly-created Malayalam or Malabari (earlier name: Malayalam). This claim is a huge content to explain. I can mention it simply here that the word thou does not affect other words like he, him, his, she, her, hers etc. In this sense, it is a sort of standalone word. Any word form in feudal languages, if mentioned as equal to thou will look erroneous in that the change of indicant levels for ‘You’ will affect all other indicant word forms and much more.

There are other unmentioned items.

Like Avan അവൻ (he) in newly-created Malayalam is Oan ഓൻ in Malabari.

Aval അവൾ (she) in newly-created Malayalam is Olu ഓള് in Malabari.

Njangal ഞങ്ങൾ (we) in newly-created Malayalam is Njaalu ഞാള് in Malabari.

Avattakal അവറ്റകൾ (They) in newly-created Malayalam is Ittingal ഐറ്റിങ്ങള് in Malabari.

It is true that some kind of similarity can be found in the words. However, since the Malabari language seems to have been more traditional, how come a newly-created language can claim to be more right and correct? But then, there is the other side also. That the newly-created language of Malayalam did absorb words from Tamil. In fact, all these words mentioned in the newly created Malayalam are from Tamil.

Here the incredible bit of information is that the lowest castes of Travancore become the repositories and propagators of the newly-created Malayalam, which obviously is much more refined than the traditional language of Malabar.

In all the books, which I have mentioned, including Travancore State Manual, Native Life in Travancore, Malabar (this book) &c. there is no mention of how this creation of a new language was accomplished. It remains a fact that the lower castes who converted into Christianity did possess the newly created Malayalam.

And it remained their dedicated purpose to promote and propagate this language into Malabar. It gave rise to a very curious social mood. The traditional Malabari speakers of Malabar slowly were made to understand that they were an un-educated low-quality population group. While the people of Travancore were much developed because they spoke the ‘educated-version of Malayalam’. The people of Malabar were understood to speak the ‘uneducated version of Malayalam’.

The Malabari language of Malabar was quite rude and crude, especially to those positioned lower. In Malabari, there was a tendency that I had noticed in around 1970s. It was that any youngsters of any age would invariably be addressed as an Inhi ഇഞ്ഞി (lowest you in Malabari), and referred to as Oan ഓൻ (lowest he/him) or Oalu ഓള് (lowest she / her), even if the person is a stranger or unknown person.

It may be due to the influence of the English evangelists who might have helped develop the newly-created Malayalam, that this kind of crudeness was not there in the newly created Malayalam. The more acceptable Ningal നിങ്ങൾ (middle-level You ) and Ayaal അയാൾ (middle level he/she) was more in usage in Malayalam.

However, at the higher levels of communication, Malabari had comfortable word. That of Ningal നിങ്ങൾ or Ingal ഇങ്ങൾ (there is a slight code difference between them). There is no other higher word in Malabari. However, in the newly-created Malayalam, the Ningal നിങ്ങൾ word is highly objectionable, if used to a senior person.

I will leave all this now. For it is leading to another location. Readers interested in this subject can pursue it in my writing : An Impressionistic History of South Asian Subcontinent.

In this book, Malabar, there is a general tendency to impose the language name Malayalam and the population name Malayali. However the urge behind this endeavour is connected to the vested interests of the groups I had mentioned earlier.

QUOTE: Kollam .—This is the Northern Quilon, as distinguished from Quilon proper in Travancore, which is styled Southern Kollam by Malayalis. END OF QUOTE.