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Malayalam and Computer technology
(Department of Computer Science. University of Kerala )

By Dr. Achuthsankar S. Nair

(Translated by Bindu.K.S)

It has been apparently seen that whenever technology for communication develops. It indirectly influences the usage of language. This phenomenon reiterates in the era of information technology. The turbulent flow of information not only revolutionized the new technology but also expanded the horizon of English language world wide. Majority of the countries except Japan and China cannot withstand this flow. This relation between language and technology has trade political sides besides technical sides.

The cordiality of English with Computer is well –known . Whether it is operating system that provides instructions tot he computer, programming language . Which gives detailed instructions for problem solutions or the language which is mostly used in the World Wide Web – the centre of alteration of internet ,everything has an English tint. Apart from external aspects , internally also English language is suited for use in the Computer. The letters of English language has a significant place in the binary representation table of basic symbols. (ASCII) American Standard Code of Information Interchange). With the popularity of internet, the table of Unicode is being used by all the world languages. The result of which an ordinary computer user wake note of an important fact that the computer keyboard resembles with the English typewriter /Keyboard. Since most of the things in computers are in English language , the operators becomes familiar either English language even though they are non English.

The available provisions for Malayalam in Computers.

The very first thing neede to deal with a language in computers is the facility to show the script in Computer Screen and to edit and print. Now a days it is possible to do word processing in computer. The Software of Malayalam Script is now available which can be inserted in most of the DTP programmes having the capability of publication. The major contribution in this is provided by the Public Sector Institution , Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, Punne ( C-DAC) – fame in the production of super computer. In Indian language editor (lipe) under window background , there is facility to deal with Malayalam. Moreover C-DAC has suceeded in introducing Malayalam language in different software packages through the mode GIST. This enables to provide data in Malayalam through the packages like Lotus and D-base. Malayalam has not included in the freeware “ Susha” . Susha is the facility by which Indian languages allow to impliment application front end. Susha is made Gurumukhi Scripts, Software applications compiled in languages like Visual C++ and Visual basic. Malayalam Script has made ready for the facilities of Word processing by Modular Systems,(Pune), Ases Consultants (Mumbai), Thulika (Thiruvananthapuram) Re-form (Thiruvananthapuram). Most of the script are arranged to work with the packages like Page Maker, MS Word, Venchura etc. Malayalam Script is also available in Latex programmers popular in the field of Science and Technology.

Backwardness of Malayalam
Word processing is first the commencement of computers handling human language. The development of Malayalam is almost null in fields where theswe are greater oppertunities for language, from apprehension to translation.

Malayalam has not blend completely with the computer. The script of Malyalam aKin to all the other languages has undergon contemporary changes. It has also the capacittto transform sutiably with the technical methods. The script transformation to facilitate the printing technology is the best exampled for this. Malayalam has not been able to combine with the world of English computers. When compared to printing technology, computer technology is more complicated. It might be because of this reason that the rate of linguitists and languages loress remain unsatisfactory to completely comprehenced the problems of this field.

Only if Malayalam language is handlled in such a way so as to wake th keyboard working easier, the language will be unconditionally spread even among the computer enthusiastics. In the existing DTP programmes in all, but for one the function is based an Malayalam typewriter Key bord. It is quite natured that the ordinary computer usess who are used to English Keyboard ashow hesitation to get accustomed to new Keyboard. Unless this fact is recognised, Malayalam word processing will be limited in the hands of those few people, who are trained in Malayalam typing. The so called Manglish, software which is avilable in Kerala gives hops. Manglish is that software which enables people who are used to English Key board to type in Malayalam using the same Keyboard. In addition to Englsih Keybord letters, the signs ^ , ~ , @ are theonly used for the working of Manglish. However thereis no unity or consenses between those different institutions using this type of Malayalam. The standards like ISII has not been widely recognised. The situation, where there is isolated efforts and the market is rather shrink, immediate charge cannot be expected . Perhaps the representation of alayalam Script in unicode bringsforth its propularity through internet.

The other field depicting the limitation is sketching the beauty of Malayalam letters. English is having hundreds of different fonts whereas Malyalam has got only a few. Even that too having less diversity. However the situavtion of Malyalam is so pathetic in the field where languages is handled by computer. Now a days soft wares that can analyse the mistakes and grammatical style of English in sentences and give suggestives are available in abundance. (eg. R word Star, microsoft word). The result of representing English grammer in computer to a greater extent has resulted into the availablility of these facilities. Even in the stage of undecisivenesss in the representation of scripts time has not yet reached for Malaylam to impliment this stage. Malayalm software dictionary is not available in the market now. Though script representation is the primary problem in preparing this kind of dictionary, yet another problems are to be solved. Since the word forms with suffirers is more in Malaylam than in English, a dictionary comprising all these forms becomes impractical . So the laws concering the use of suffires should be compiled and strange forms that do not conform to this law should be collected seperately. Only by representing them in thios forms the Malayalam computer dictionary would become a reality. In this respect more responsibility is entrusted with linguists rather than computer scientists. It can be seen that the English spellcheck software is not so better to deal with the ordinary plural forms when it comes. It is rather difficult to deal with Malayalam.

Computer is required for language study. It well not be a laborions task if we arrive at a decision in respect of the script “computer recorded tagged corpora . In English many computer corpus like Brown corpus, LOB corpus, International computer Archive of Modern English (ICAME) are available. The computer dise, CD-ROM having only plam size can ruler upto 650,000,000 and hence it can deal with big corpus. How many times a word repeats and which are the situations it si being used (concording) can be analysed within seconds. In Engliand ,dailies like Guardian, Independent etc. are available in CD-ROMs. This enable us to closely opbserve the day today variation of language. This fecilities are to be made avilable to Malayalam dialies have started publication through internet We have reached a stage of availability of its corpus.

The indepth problem in dealing witht he natural language in computer come across while commencing the transaltion of it. It is quite difficult to translate from Malayalam to other language and viveversa through computer. The translation among languages in Dravidian language family and the languages in Indo Europen language family arised different kinds of problem. Though the reaserch efforts centred in Kanpur, Madras IIT and some Isolated efforts are there , no commendable progress has yet obtained. The reason for that is the lack of developing strength in other fields, In English languages computer translation has got unbelievable development. Software transable between English – French , English German etc. are avilable in undance in market. Even if it is not suited for translating litterary works, the soft ware can translate goverment rules and correspondence in an excellent way. This software is beneficial through it require post editing. As soon as Europen Union came into existance , the translation has become an important work in its headquareters Business . This type of software would be beneficial in India where many a number of languages are recognised . Combined efforts are yet to be started to develop the Software that can translated Hindi , Tamil and English to Malayalam. Only if the linguists and computer scientists come forwared for a combined effort, this sort of dev elopment can be had in remote future.

To overcome English supremacy

The supremacy of English in internet is laready indicated. This situation will carry on till devedlopments like machine translation become a reality. It has widely recognised that the upper hands of Britian over telegraphic facilities in the last century brought forth the im portance of English. The importance of digital communication in internet paved again the way for the growth of English language. This is not at all a good news for Malayalam. A study done by the linguist Benjanian Ayo based on the communicative language of the cultural group in internet reveals that among to 116 different cultural groups of communicative language in news.SOC.Culture news group ,82 are in English. Even French and German which have similar script as English connot with stand the natural and racial topics in communication. Japan has only suceeded in neglecting English. The countries having any political trade importance feel a neucliar task to get theri language propogate through interenet. Moreover the centre point that represent the idea of internet is a transoformation to global,public kind of communication , Each country and its people catch hold of their language and style , the so called global rural characted of internet becomes meaningless .

Malayalam can be used for creating websire and e-mail communication through internet. this has more improved when Malayalam dailies have strted web publications. We can send messages with the help of web based mails (Hot mail, Yahoo) . This is possible through down loading the Malayalam dialies font.

Unofficially recor shows that English users in India is only 5% In kerala it is about 10%. Until the Malayalam oriented computerisation starts only 90% of the people will get the indirect benifits of this great technology. A lot of effort is required to chnage this situation. It is appreciable that Kerala goverment has given more importance to Malayalam Computing in information technology recognised by the goverment. Even publishing computer books in Malayalam is also inevitable . There must be a Govt. policy to encourage the avialablitity of Malayalam font and for all important softwares in cerculation . An authorised committee is needed to evaluated Malayalam based computer and to propogate them through internet. Such a committee can establish a website and can try to co-ordinate the use of Malayalam in computers.

In the multinational compnies see any country or society which uses a particular language, that language is automatically transferred into the computer. Hindi secured a considerable position due to great interst shown by multinationals in Indian Market. But it remains to be seen whether Malayalam will get such a consideration in the near feture. Malayalam language should be made suitable for computer use through national policy formation, legislation and reserch programme.


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