Native toIndia
RegionTamil Nadu, Kanyakumari
Native speakers
19,000 (2007)[1]
Tamil script, Malayalam script
Language codes
ISO 639-3kev

Kanikkaran, also known as Kani, is a Dravidian language spoken by about 19,000 Kanikkar tribals in southern India.[1] They dwell in forests and hills of Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts of Kerala, and Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli districts of Tamil Nadu. It is called malambhāsha, or "hill-language."[2]



Kanikkaran has 5 vowels, /a, e, i, o, u/. It demonstrates contrastive vowel length.[2]


Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɳ ɲ ŋ
Stop voiceless p ʈ c k
voiced b
Approximant ʋ l ɭ j
Trill r
Flap ɾ

They use the phoneme /l̩/ occasionally.

Kanikkaran has transformed words in Malayalam starting with /a/ into /e/. añcu (5) becomes eñcu, ari (rice) becomes ei, arivāḷu (sickle) becomes erivāḷu, aluku (split reed) becomes elakku. It also adds a suffix -in or -n after all noun stems, except for nouns ending with -n in accusative.[2]


singular plural
1st ñān ñāṇkaḷu
2nd īl nīṇkaḷu
3rd avanu/avaḷu avaru

The language cannot use personal terminations, similar to Old Malayalam. Example: pōvā (go or going or let's go) and vārā (will come, or "see you").[2]


  1. ^ a b Kanikkaran at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ a b c d Shyam, S.K. (12 December 2017). "Aspects of Life and Language of Kanikkar Tribal Community of Kerala –A Study". Language in India.