The word Malayalam originated from the words mala, meaning "mountain", and alam, meaning "region" or "-ship" (as in "township"); Malayalam thus translates directly as "the mountain region." The term originally referred to the land of the Chera dynasty , and only later became the name of its language.
The earliest extant literary works in the regional language of present-day Kerala probably date back to as early as the 12th century.
Malayalam script (Brahmic)Malayalam Braille Vatteluttu alphabet (historical) Kolezhuthu (historical) Malayanma (historical) Grantha (historical) Arabi Malayalam (historical/rarely used now) Syriac script (historical)) is a Dravidian language spoken in the Indian state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé) by the Malayali people, and it is one of 22 scheduled languages of India.
Malayalam has official language status in the state of Kerala and in the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé) and is spoken by 38 million people worldwide.
However, the named identity of this language appears to have come into existence only around the 16th century, when it was known as "Malayayma" or "Malayanma"; the words were also used to refer to the script and the region.
The word "Malayalam" was coined in the later period, and the local people referred to their language as both "Tamil" and "Malayalam" until the colonial period.
Ananthapuri Varnanam, written in the 1800s, was among the last of these Malayalam-Tamil books.
Itty Achudan, the famed Ayurvedic physician, used Malayanma and Kolezhuttu to write Hortus Malabaricus in 1678 (which was translated into Latin).
The British never supported or translated Malayanma books into Grantha Malayalam, which they chose to promote in the 19th century.
Iravikutti Pilla Por, Vadakkan Pattu, Thacholi Pattu, Kannassa Ramayanam, Ramacharitham Ananthapuri Varnanam are a few of the Malayanma books which have survived.
Malayanma, the indigenous Dravidian tongue, and its great literary tradition were lost in history.
Johann Ernst Hanxleden was a German missionary who was the first ever European to write the grammar book for Grantha Malayalam called Grantha Bhasayuide Vyakaranam in the 1700s.
The discovery that Sanskrit was related to German made the German missionaries promote Sanskrit and Grantha Malayalam at the expense of Malayalam-Tamil.
(In that era Christians were using the Malayalam-Tamil language, hence they did not participate in the printing of the first Malayalam Bible.) The British promoted Grantha Malayalam under the name New Malayanma.