The oldest documents written purely in Malayalam and still surviving are the Vazhappalli Copper plates from 832 AD and Tharisapalli Copper plates from 849 AD.
The earliest script used to write Malayalam was the Vatteluttu alphabet, and later the Kolezhuttu, which derived from it.
As the language of scholarship and administration, Old-Tamil, which was written in Tamil-Brahmi and the Vatteluttu alphabet later, greatly influenced the early development of Malayalam.
The Malayalam script began to diverge from the Tamil-Brahmi script in the 8th and 9th centuries.
Malayalam is also spoken by linguistic minorities in the neighbouring states; with significant number of speakers in the Nilgiris, Kanyakumari, and Coimbatore districts of Tamil Nadu, and Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada districts of Karnataka.
Due to Malayali expatriates in the Persian Gulf, the language is also widely spoken in Gulf countries.
The British never supported or translated Malayanma books into Grantha Malayalam, which they chose to promote in the 19th 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.
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.
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(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.