Tamil language

Tamil
Tamiḻ
தமிழ்
Word Tamil.svg
The word "Tamil" in Tamil script
Pronunciation[t̪amiɻ]; pronunciation 
Native toIndia and Sri Lanka
RegionTamil Nadu[a] (India)
Northern and Eastern Provinces (Sri Lanka)
EthnicityTamils
Native speakers
75 million (2011–2019)[1][2]
L2 speakers: 8 million (2011)[1]
Early forms
Tamil (Brahmic)
Tamil-Brahmi (historical)
Grantha (historical)
Vatteluttu (historical)
Pallava (historical)
Kolezhuthu (historical)
Arwi (Abjad)
Tamil Braille (Bharati)
Latin script (informal)
Signed Tamil
Official status
Official language in
 India

 Sri Lanka[5]
 Singapore[6]

Organizations
 ASEAN[7]
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1ta
ISO 639-2tam
ISO 639-3Either:
tam – Modern Tamil
oty – Old Tamil
oty Old Tamil
Glottologtami1289  Modern Tamil
oldt1248  Old Tamil
Linguasphere49-EBE-a
Idioma tamil.png
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Tamil (/ˈtæmɪl/; தமிழ் Tamiḻ [t̪amiɻ], pronunciation ) is a classical Dravidian language natively spoken by the Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. Tamil is an official language of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the sovereign nations of Sri Lanka and Singapore,[10][6] and the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry. Tamil is also spoken by significant minorities in the four other South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is also spoken by the Tamil diaspora found in many countries, including Malaysia, Myanmar, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and Mauritius. Tamil is also natively spoken by Sri Lankan Moors. One of 22 scheduled languages in the Constitution of India, Tamil was the first to be classified as a classical language of India.

Tamil is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world.[11][12][13] A. K. Ramanujan described it as "the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past".[14] The variety and quality of classical Tamil literature has led to it being described as "one of the great classical traditions and literatures of the world".[15] Recorded Tamil literature has been documented for over 2000 years.[16] The earliest period of Tamil literature, Sangam literature, is dated from c. 300 BC until AD 300.[17][18] It has the oldest extant literature among Dravidian languages.[12] The earliest epigraphic records found on rock edicts and 'hero stones' date from around the 3rd century BC.[19][20] About 60,000 of the 100,000 odd inscriptions found by the Archaeological Survey of India in India are in Tamil Nadu. Of them, most are in Tamil, with only about 5 percent in other languages.[21] Tamil language inscriptions written in Brahmi script have been discovered in Sri Lanka and on trade goods in Thailand and Egypt.[22][23] The two earliest manuscripts from India,[24][25] acknowledged and registered by the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 1997 and 2005, were written in Tamil.[26]

In 1578, Portuguese Christian missionaries published a Tamil prayer book in old Tamil script named Thambiran Vanakkam, thus making Tamil the first Indian language to be printed and published.[27] The Tamil Lexicon, published by the University of Madras, was one of the earliest dictionaries published in Indian languages.[28] According to a 2001 survey, there were 1,863 newspapers published in Tamil, of which 353 were dailies.[29]


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  1. ^ a b Tamil language at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021)
  2. ^ "Scheduled Languages in descending order of speaker's strength - 2011" (PDF). Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 November 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  3. ^ Official languages of Tamil Nadu, Tamil Nadu Government, archived from the original on 21 October 2012, retrieved 1 May 2007
  4. ^ Report of the Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities in India: 50th report (delivered to the Lokh Sabha in 2014) (PDF), National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India, p. 155, archived from the original (PDF) on 8 July 2016, retrieved 8 June 2017
  5. ^ "Official Languages Policy". languagesdept.gov.lk. Department of Official Languages. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  6. ^ a b Republic of Singapore Independence Act 1965 (No. 9 of 1965, 1985 Rev. Ed.), s7.
  7. ^ Languages of ASEAN, retrieved 7 August 2017
  8. ^ School languages, LINGUAMON, archived from the original on 2 September 2015, retrieved 26 March 2016
  9. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 – Chapter 1: Founding Provisions", www.gov.za, South African Government
  10. ^ Cite error: The named reference languagesdept was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  11. ^ "Tamil to be a classical language". The Hindu. New Delhi. 18 September 2004. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  12. ^ a b Stein, B. (1977), "Circulation and the Historical Geography of Tamil Country", The Journal of Asian Studies, 37 (1): 7–26, doi:10.2307/2053325, JSTOR 2053325
  13. ^ Steever 1998, pp. 6–9
  14. ^ Zvelebil, Kamil (1973), The Smile of Murugan, BRILL, pp. 11–12, ISBN 978-90-04-03591-1
  15. ^ Hart, George L. "Statement on the Status of Tamil as a Classical Language" Archived 10 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine, University of California, Berkeley, Department of South Asian Studies – Tamil
  16. ^ Zvelebil 1992, p. 12: "...the most acceptable periodisation which has so far been suggested for the development of Tamil writing seems to me to be that of A Chidambaranatha Chettiar (1907–1967): 1. Sangam Literature – 200BC to AD 200; 2. Post Sangam literature – AD 200 – AD 600; 3. Early Medieval literature – AD 600 to AD 1200; 4. Later Medieval literature – AD 1200 to AD 1800; 5. Pre-Modern literature – AD 1800 to 1900"
  17. ^ Definitive Editions of Ancient Tamil Works. Classical Tamil, Government of India
  18. ^ Abraham, S.A. (2003), "Chera, Chola, Pandya: Using Archaeological Evidence to Identify the Tamil Kingdoms of Early Historic South India" (PDF), Asian Perspectives, 42 (2): 207, doi:10.1353/asi.2003.0031, hdl:10125/17189, S2CID 153420843
  19. ^ Maloney, C. (1970), "The Beginnings of Civilization in South India", The Journal of Asian Studies, 29 (3): 603–616, doi:10.2307/2943246, JSTOR 2943246 at p. 610
  20. ^ Subramaniam, T.S. (29 August 2011), "Palani excavation triggers fresh debate", The Hindu, Chennai, India
  21. ^ "Students get glimpse of heritage", The Hindu, Chennai, India, 22 November 2005, archived from the original on 18 May 2006
  22. ^ Cite error: The named reference Egypt was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  23. ^ Mahadevan, Iravatham (24 June 2010), "An epigraphic perspective on the antiquity of Tamil", The Hindu, Chennai, India
  24. ^ The I.A.S. Tamil Medical Manuscript Collection, UNESCO, retrieved 13 September 2012
  25. ^ Saiva Manuscript in Pondicherry, UNESCO, retrieved 13 September 2012
  26. ^ Memory of the World Register: India, UNESCO, retrieved 13 September 2012
  27. ^ Karthik Madhavan (20 June 2010), "Tamil saw its first book in 1578", The Hindu
  28. ^ Kolappan, B. (22 June 2014), "Delay, howlers in Tamil Lexicon embarrass scholars", The Hindu, Chennai, retrieved 25 December 2014
  29. ^ India 2001: A Reference Annual 2001. Compiled and edited by Research, Reference and Training Division, Publications Division, New Delhi: Government of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

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