What is sandhi? A dictionary definition would say something like “the euphonic combination of sounds to facilitate pronunciation, often also represented in writing.” Sandhi in Sanskrit means “joining” and it refers technically to different ways that words are joined together both when speaking and when writing. Making words easier to pronounce in speech happens everywhere and all the time. Consider the English phrase, “what do you” In some places, it might be said, “whaccha”; in others, “whadya”; and so on. Or, “I am going to” becomes “Imma go ta”; “Let me” becomes “Lemme”; etc. Clearly articulating or distinguishing each word is often inconvenient and the sounds are regularly assimilated in one way or another. When authors try to replicate dialect or speech in English, they often turn to sandhi to capture some of the spoken effect. Sandhi means standardizing these pronunciation changes also in writing.
Many Indian languages employ sandhi in this more formal way, devising rules for how to combine sounds within and between words to replicate how they are or should be spoken. Malayalam is one such language and there are many possible sandhi combinations that learners of the language must know in order to read original Malayalam writing. In short, the common use of sandhi when speaking is carried over and formalized also in writing. This guide explains the basic rules of sandhi in Malayalam, and assumes familiarity with the Malayalam script throughout.
Rājarājavarma, A.R. 1896 . Keraḷapāṇinīyaṃ. ed. Scaria Zacharia. Kottayam: DC Books.
Gamliel, Ophira. 2020. A Linguistic Survey of the Malayalam Language in Its Own Terms. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.