Saturday, 16 March 2013


Out of all the alphabets, this is my favourite letter.

Isn't it cute?

It's the Malayalam long vocalic R (U+0D60), the equivalent of Devanagari ॠ.

I assume it's only used for writing Sanskrit. It is pretty much ignored in Learn Malayalam in 30 Days through English, the only book for learning the language that I can find. This alphabet book covers the short vocalic R (in ഋഷി ṛṣi "wise man" and ഋഷഭം ṛṣabhaṃ "bull"), but skips the long vocalic R altogether.

There is one Malayalam word that uses this letter: ൠഭോഷന്‍ ṝbhōṣan "contemptible fool". It's apparently used in alphabet songs, so when children in Kerala sing the alphabet, the word they use for the coolest-looking letter ever is "contemptible fool".


Unknown said...

I worked for a few months in Trivandrum (now Thiruvananthapuram). One of the funnier things I remember was a couple of coworkers (both native Malayalis, i believe) arguing about some difference between the Malayali and Tamil alphabets. I couldn't believe alphabets could be so complex that informed adults could argue about them! I did manage to find a grammar written in English, and a bi-lingual dictionary in a bookstore in town. So such things exist, though you might have to order from India

Montag said...

There is an unfortunate resemblance to the faces of cows and farmyard animals in old-timey cartoons.