Malayalam, a South Dravidian language (see Krishnamurti 2005), is the mother tongue of 96 percent of the population of the Indian state of Kerala. It is also the principal language of Lakshadweep, the Laccadive Islands, a chain of islands in the Arabian Sea running parallel to the coastal strip in the southwest of India that makes up Kerala. The total number of inhabitants recorded for Kerala in the 2001 census was 31,841,374, and for Lakshadweep 60,650. The history of Malayalam as a separate language goes back approximately twelve hundred years; for a comprehensive description of the Malayalam of today, see Asher and Kumari (1997).

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