Dravidian languages like Kannada (and Telugu) have the nukta diacritic (಼) to represent foreign consonants, and Tamil has a special character (ஃ) which can similarly be used, as shown in the table below:

Perso–Arabic Roman Kannada–Telugu Tamil
ق qa ಕ಼ ஃக
خ k͟ha ಖ಼ ஃக்ஹ
غ g͟ha ಗ಼
ز za ಜ಼ ஃஜ
ف fa ಫ಼ ஃப
و wa ವ಼ ஃவ
ژ zha ಶ಼ ஃஷ
ص xa ಸ಼ ஃஸ

How are these consonants accurately represented in Malayalam script, especially in Islamic texts?
Why is there no nuqta like other Indic scripts? (especially given that more than quarter of Kerala's population is Muslim)

It looks like the parent script of Malayalam, Grantha script also has support for nukta at codepoint: U+1133C. Why then is it not encoded in Malayalam script?

  • The real questions is "How are these consonants accurately represented in Malayalam script, especially in Islamic texts?" If there were examples of such texts where some special character or sign had been used for those consonants, something would no doubt have been encoded or be proposed to Unicode. Have you seen any texts which could provide info about that? Nov 15, 2021 at 0:37
  • No, I have not come across any such text. I am not sure how (or if at all) those phonetics would be preserved.
    – Gōkúl NC
    Nov 17, 2021 at 6:39
  • In Kannada the only dots we use are the ones under ja for za and pha for fa, and the rest you show are meaningless font combinations, but even they are quaint; these days dots are omitted. Also note that it makes not much difference because unlike Malayalam, Kannada is not native language of Muslims, and native Kannadigas are non Muslims.
    – vin
    Apr 3 at 10:56

1 Answer 1


Malayalam simply doesn't need nuqta, it assimilates Arabic words to its own phonetics, namely [x], [q] > [kʰ], i.e. “Quran” ഖുർആൻ (khurān), but [q] is often simply [k] or [kː], i.e. قصاب (qaṣāb) is കശാപ്പ് (kaśāppŭ) “butchery”.

[z] is written as സ ⟨s⟩: Persian “bazaar” is ബസാര്‍ (basār). For [f], the letter ഫ ⟨ph⟩ is used, and many Malayalam speakers use [f] instead of the original etymological [pʰ].

It's just a matter of orthography, the native speakers of those Indian languages that have nuqta written don't often care (or are just unable) to correctly pronounce those foreign sounds and say them as if there's no any nuqta there.

Here's a rather long list of Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Aramaic, and West Syriac borrowings in Malayalam, you can look it through and see how Malayalam adapts foreign words to its phonological system

  • Thanks. I get it that those non-native phonetics are assimilated with the nearby native phonetics, especially when used colloquially (as in loan words). I was just curious how would the holy texts would write those phonemes using the Malayalam script, since pronunciation is considered very important in such contexts, although the readers might not care about it.
    – Gōkúl NC
    Nov 17, 2021 at 6:32
  • 1
    @GōkúlNC - Islamic holy texts, e.g. Qur'an, are all written in the Arabic language only and in the Arabic alphabet only, even translations are not used, and even the very term “translation” is not used for Qur'an rendered into another language, officially such a text is called “explanation of the Holy Sense” — just “explanation”, since the Holy Sense Itself can be found only in the original Arabic text.
    – Yellow Sky
    Nov 17, 2021 at 9:17

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