Malayalam is the principal language of the South Indian state of Kerala and also of the Lakshadweep Islands (Laccadives) of the west coast of India.
Malayalis (speakers of Malayalam), who - males and females alike - are almost totally literate, constitute 4 percent of the population of India and 96 percent of the population of Kerala (29.01 million in 1991). It is one of the 23 official languages of India, spoken by around 36 million people. A native speaker of Malayalam is called a "Malayali". Malayalam is closely related to Tamil, from which it is estimated to have separated about the 10th century AD.