Malayalam at the University of Chicago


Malayalam is the official language of the South Indian state of Kerala, located on the Western coast of the subcontinent. It has approximately 38 million speakers who are mainly located in Kerala and on the Lakshadweep (Laccadive) Islands in the Arabian Sea. However, significant Malayalam-speaking diasporic communities can be found today in many parts of South Asia, in the US and UK, in various European countries, the Middle East and South East Asian metropolises such as Singapore.

Recently added to the canon of classical languages of India, Malayalam can trace its origins back to the first millennium A.D. Similar to its sister language Tamil, Malayalam offers a rich linguistic and literary heritage for scholars and students to explore. Strong Sanskritic influences along with Dravidian language structures have helped shape the colourful tapestry that is modern day Malayalam. Kerala also boasts a long-standing tradition of numerous performing arts such as Kathakali, Mohiniyattam and Kalaripayattu, as well as a vibrant scene of both popular and art cinema.

Kerala offers a wealth of scholarly research opportunities in the fields of philology, anthropology, political science, ethnomusicology, history, religious studies and linguistics. Malayalam students at the University of Chicago are working on a diverse  range of topics in these fields, and have consistently been successful in securing prestigious language study fellowships, gaining admission to the American Institute of Indian Studies program and entering PhD programs.

The University of Chicago currently offers 4 years of Malayalam instruction at the beginners, intermediate and advanced levels. Further advanced classes are offered on a regular basis. Along with rigorous language instruction in the first two years, various aspects of literary, historical and cultural traditions are introduced. Advanced levels are usually tailored to individual students' research needs.

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