Suriyani Malayalam (സുറിയാനി മലയാളം, ܣܘܪܝܢܝ ܡܠܝܠܡ), also known as Karshoni, Syro-Malabarica or Syriac Malayalam, is a dialect of Malayalam written in a variant form of the Syriac alphabet which was popular among the Saint Thomas Christians (also known as Syrian Christians or Nasranis) of Kerala in India.[1][2][3][4] It uses Malayalam grammar, the Maḏnḥāyā or "Eastern" Syriac script with special orthographic features, and vocabulary from Malayalam and East Syriac. This originated in the South Indian region of the Malabar Coast (modern-day Kerala). Until the 19th century, the script was widely used by Syrian Christians in Kerala.

Writing system

There were numerous problems in writing Malayalam using the Syriac alphabet, which was designed for a Semitic language. Only 22 letters were available from East Syriac orthography to render over 53 phonemes of Malayalam. Both the languages are not related to one another in any way except for religious causes. These problems were overcome by creating additional letters.[5] Basic Syriac ʾĀlap̄ Bēṯ based on form with corresponding Malayalam letters

ܕ ܓ ܒ ܐ
ദ് ഗ് ബ്, വ്
ܚ ܙ ܘ ܗ
ഹ് സ് വ് ഹ്
ܠ ܟ ܝ ܛ
ല് ക്, ക്ക് യ് ത്
ܥ ܣ ܢ ܡ
സ് ന് മ്
ܪ ܩ ܨ ܦ
റ് ഖ് സ് പ്, വ്
ܬ ܫ
ത്, സ് ശ്

Additional Malayalam letters

ട് ഞ് ജ് ങ്
ര് ഭ് ഩ* ണ്
ഷ് ഴ് ള്


ܘ݁ ܹ ܸ ܘ݂ ܝ݂ ܵ ܲ
ഒ, ഓ ഉ, ഊ ഇ, ഈ
ܟܘ݁ ܟܹ ܟܸ ܟܘ݂ ܟܝ݂ ܟܵ ܟܲ
കൊ, കോ കേ കെ കു, കൂ കി, കീ കാ


The Syriac alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in September, 1999 with the release of version 3.0. Additional letters for Suriyani Malayalam were added in June, 2017 with the release of version 10.0.


Main articles: Syriac (Unicode block) and Syriac Supplement (Unicode block)

The Unicode block for Syriac is U+0700–U+074F:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+070x ܀ ܁ ܂ ܃ ܄ ܅ ܆ ܇ ܈ ܉ ܊ ܋ ܌ ܍ ܏
U+071x ܐ ܑ ܒ ܓ ܔ ܕ ܖ ܗ ܘ ܙ ܚ ܛ ܜ ܝ ܞ ܟ
U+072x ܠ ܡ ܢ ܣ ܤ ܥ ܦ ܧ ܨ ܩ ܪ ܫ ܬ ܭ ܮ ܯ
U+073x ܰ ܱ ܲ ܳ ܴ ܵ ܶ ܷ ܸ ܹ ܺ ܻ ܼ ܽ ܾ ܿ
U+074x ݀ ݁ ݂ ݃ ݄ ݅ ݆ ݇ ݈ ݉ ݊ ݍ ݎ ݏ
1.^ As of Unicode version 14.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

The Syriac Abbreviation (a type of overline) can be represented with a special control character called the Syriac Abbreviation Mark (U+070F).

The Unicode block for Suriyani Malayalam specific letters is called the Syriac Supplement block and is U+0860–U+086F:

Syriac Supplement[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 14.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


Over the centuries, Malayalam borrowed Eastern Syriac words. A few of them are given below:

Original Syriac Suriyani Malayalam Meaning
Emma/Umm[1][6] Umma or Amma Mother
Abba/Bava Appan or Bava Father
Nasraya, Nasrani Nasrani Syrian Christian
Knā'nāya Knānāya Canaanite
Pesħa[4] Pesaha Passover
Malakha[3] Malakha Angel
Qudasha[3] Kudasha Sacrament
Mamoditha[3][4] Mamodisa Baptism
Sliva Sliva/Sleeba Cross
Isho'[3] Isho Jesus
Qurbana[3] Qurbana Sacrifice/Peace Offering
M'shiħa[3][4] Mishiha Anointed
Dukhrana Dukrana Remembrance
Qasisha Kathanar/Kasnar Syrian priest
Mar Mar Lord, Saint
Ruħa Ruha Holy Spirit
Shliħa Shliha Apostle


Vedatharkam written by Kariattil Mar Ousep is one of the famous books written in Suriyani Malayalam.[2] Large number of documents written in Suriyani Malayalam are found among the Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis of Kerala.[2] These documents include an alternate set of the Canons of the Synod of Diamper.[7] At present the dialect is not in popular usage. However it strives in historical literature of the Saint Thomas Christian denominations. Thomas Koonammakkal is one of the most notable experts in Garshuni Malayalam studies.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b "City Youth Learn Dying Language, Preserve It". The New Indian Express. May 9, 2016. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Suriyani Malayalam, Nasrani Foundation
  3. ^ a b c d e f g A sacred language is vanishing from State, The Hindu
  4. ^ a b c d Prayer from the Past, India Today
  5. ^ "Proposal to Encode Syriac Letters for Garshuni Malayalam" (PDF).
  6. ^ Mar Thomma Margam by Fr. Varghese Pathikulangara
  7. ^ Perczel (2014), 266-8.
  8. ^ Perczel (2014).

Further reading