Malayalam Syllable model using PEG and analyser
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Malayalam Syllable Analyser

A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. Each syllable can be considered as pronounciation units that constitutes a word pronounciation.

This project is to formalize the syllable model for Malayalam language. Along with a verbal description of syllables in Malayalam we attempt to formalize a grammar using PEG - Parser Expression grammar. That grammar is then used for writing a parser to find the syllables in a given word. A web interface is also provided to try out the system.

Before starting with definition of syllable model, we need to define some terminology.


  1. Vowel - Vowels of Malayalam -Any of the set: [അആഇഈഉഊഋഎഏഐഒഓഔഔഅം]
  2. VowelSign - Vowel signs. - Any of the set [ാിീുൃെേൊോൗൂൈ]
  3. Consonant - Consonants - Any of the set [കഖഗഘങചഛജഝഞടഠഡഢണതഥദധനപഫബഭമയരലവശഷസഹളഴറ]
  4. Virama - The sign ്.
  5. Visarga The sign ഃ
  6. Anuswara - The vowel sign of അം.ie ം. This share some properties of Chillu.
  7. Chillu - Pure consonants, without any vowels. Chillus are any of ൻ, ർ, ൽ, ൾ, ൺ, ൿ, ൔ, ൕ, ൖ. The last 4 chillus are rarely used or archaic. But we can consider them for our modeling. Due to historic encoding reasons, Chillus can also appear as base Consonant+Virama+ZWJ form. That means, ൻ = ന + ് + ZWJ. Chillus never appear in the begininning of word, but is not relevant for a syllable analyser.
  8. ZWNJ Zero Width Non Joiner.\u200C
  9. ZWJ Zero with Joiner \u200D
  10. Signs A term used to address various signs that modify a Consonant. Any of VowelSign, Virama, Anuswara, Visarga.
  11. HalfConsonant A Consonant with Virama Example: പ്, ര്, മ് etc. Or a DotReph
  12. DotReph: The sign ൎ.
  13. Conjunct: A HalfConsonant combined with another Conjunct or Consonant. Example: സ+ ് + ത => സ്ത , സ്ത + ് + ര = സ്ത്ര. ദ്ധ + ് ര = ദ്ധ്ര, ദ്ധ്ര + ് + യ = ദ്ധ്ര്യ

Syllable model

A syllable in Malayalam can be any of the following.

  1. An independent Vowel. Vowels are often found at the begininning of the word. Example: അമ്മ. But for the specific case of Syllables, we can relax this rule of being in the start of word and generally state that a vowel is syllable. Note that vowel appearing as vowel sign is not what we are considering here. Vowel signs has its own properties.
  2. A Chillu letter is a syllable.
  3. A Consonant without any Signs is a syllable. For example, in the word തറ, both ത and റ are Syllables.
  4. A Consonant or Conjunct with Signs is a syllable. Here the Signs can be repeated more than once, but not freely. This syllable has the following characteristics
  5. Signs can be Virama only if it is the last items of a given word. For example. അത് has അ, ത് as syllables, but അത്ഭുതം has അ, ത്ഭു, തം as syllables.
  6. Signs can occur 2 times in folllowing cases:(a) First Sign is ു and Second is Virama This combination is also called Samvruthokaram. Example: തു് in അതു്. (b) First Sign is a VowelSign and Second is Anuswara. Examples: താം, തീം, തോം, തും etc.
  7. A ZWNJ marks a syllable boundary. A ZWNJ inserted between two blocks of text inserts a ligature as well as syllable boundary. For example: തമിഴ്‌നാട്,The ZWNJ inserted after ഴ് and before നാ prevents possible ഴ്ന Conjunct and hence also makes a point that the pronounciation should break at that point. It is a bit wierd to say a ZWNJ forms a syllable since it is just a seperator. But while analysing a series of letters from begininning to end, it is technically okey to consider ZWNJ as a syllable block.

Parser Expression grammar

See the prepared Parser Expression grammar for the above mentioned model: malayalam-syllables.pegjs

You can try this in a PEG evaluator and try various conjucts to see if they all getting parsed. Use, copy paste the above grammar, and try some words as inputs.

Syllable boundaries

If you want to know syllable boundaries and don't care about anything else, there is an easy way to find boundaries. A syllable boundary is after:

  1. A vowel. Note that this not vowel sign. Example: അ|റ, ഇ|ര, ഉ|പ്പ്
  2. A vowel sign, if not followed by virama, anuswara or visarga. Example: ത്തി|ൽ, പു|ക,
  3. A consonant if followed by another consonant or chillu. Example: ത|റ, ഷ്ട|മി, ക|ൽ
  4. A chillu. Example: സ|ർ|പ്പം
  5. An Anuswara. Example: കു|ടും|ബം,
  6. A Visarga. Example: ദുഃ|ഖം
  7. A ZWNJ is syllable boundary.