There are over 40 million speakers of Malayalam in Kerala, India and among the lands of the Indian diaspora, particularly in West Asia. Malayalam is a member of the Dravidian language family and is closely related to Tamil. It is written in its own script, which covers all the Sanskrit syllables as well as some Dravidian sounds.
Thunchat Ezhuthachan, the famous 16th century poet, is known as the father of the Malayalam language. More recently, Malayalam literature has produced such luminaries as fiction writers Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, noteable for his unorthodox uses of Malayalam, and Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, author ofThe Prawn, among many others. Cinema is also a vibrant Malayalam art form, and actors such as Mohanlal and Manmooty are among the most famous and recognizable of all Malayalis. The director Kamaluddin Mohammed, better known as Kamal, has directed more than 35 Malayalam language films.
First and second year Malayalam language courses are offered each year. It is possible to major in Asian Cultures and Languages with a Malayalam specialization or to minor in Malayalam.