Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of South India and North-east Sri Lanka. It has official status in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Tamil is also a national language of Sri Lanka and an official language of Singapore It is legalized as one of the languages of medium of education in Malaysia along with English, Malay and Mandarin. It is also chiefly spoken in the states ofKerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands as one of the secondary languages. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and was the first Indian language to be declared a classical language by the Government of India in 2004.
Tamil is also spoken by significant minorities in Malaysia, Mauritius, Canada, South Africa, Fiji, Germany, Philippines, United States, Netherlands, Mauritius, Indonesia, and Reunion as well as emigrant communities around the world. Tamil is one of the longest surviving classical languages in the world. It has been described as “the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past.” and having “one of the richest literatures in the world”. Tamil literature has existed for over 2000 years.
The earliest epigraphic records found on rock edicts and hero stones date from around the 5th century BC. The earliest period of Tamil literature, Sangam literature, is dated from ca. 300 BC – AD 300. Tamil language inscriptions written c. 1st century BC and 2nd century AD have been discovered in Egypt, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
The two earliest manuscripts from India, to be acknowledged and registered by UNESCO Memory of the World register in 1997 and 2005 were in Tamil. More than 55% of the epigraphical inscriptions (about 55,000) found by the Archaeological Survey of India are in the Tamil language. According to a 2001 survey, there were 1,863 newspapers published in Tamil, of which 353 were dailies. It has the oldest extant literature amongst other Dravidian languages. The variety and quality of classical Tamil literature has led to its being described as “one of the great classical traditions and literatures of the world” Facts about language:
Tamil is the oldest language in the world. It is the mother of all Indo European languages including Sanskrit. Recent archaeological (Adhichanalloor and Indian ocean) evidence shows that the language is related to sumerian and that Tamil was spoken in South India more than 5000 years ago. Tamil legend says speaks of a lost continent, “Kumari Kandam” which is believed to be submerged under Indian Ocean.
Recent excavations in Indian Ocean seem to support this legend. Kumari Kandam is a legendary sunken kingdom sometimes compared with Lemuria. In Tamil tradition, Kumari Kandam is referred to as the Land of Purity, a sophisticated kingdom of higher learning, located south of Kanyakumari Sangam literature describes about Kumari Kandam, which lay to the south and east of the Tamil country, which had been lost to the sea in two successive inundations. The two inundations are said to mark the division between the three sangam periods. Geological features described in the literature include two main rivers of Kumari Kandam as the Pagruliyaru and the Kumari.
It is also believed to have had numerous great cities with great monuments and the foremost among those cities were the two first and second cities of Madurai. Both the first and the second Tamil literary Sangam Eras, the Muthal Sangam and the Idaii Sangam, were said to have been held in those two respective cities of Madurai. Dravidian Traditions give the two Sangamperiods antiquities ranging in tens of thousands of years with a timeline of about 10,000 B.C to the second. Both the Sangam Eras were supposed to have been terminated by deluges which submerged Tamil lands. The Epics Shilappadikaram and Manimekhalai describe the submerged city of Puhar. The timeline will make a better understanding:
* 200,000 to 50,000 BC: evolution of “the Tamilian or Homo Dravida” * 200,000 to 100,000 BC: beginnings of the Tamil language
* 50,000 BC: Kumari Kandam civilisation
* 20,000 BC: A lost Tamil culture of the Easter Island which had an advanced civilisation * 16,000 BC: Lemuria submerged
* 6087 BC: Second Tamil Sangam established by a Pandya king * 3031 BC: A Chera prince in his wanderings in the Solomon Island saw wild sugarcane and started cultivation in Kumari Kandam * 1780 BC: The Third Tamil Sangam established by a Pandya king * 7th century BC: Tolkappiyam (the earliest known extant Tamil grammar)
Knowledge and Status of Tamil Language at present:
Tamil is the oldest living language of India and the world. It belongs to the Dravidian group of languages. Tamil is the official language of the state of Tamil Nadu, and also has official status in Sri Lanka and Singapore. Tamil ranks 17th amongst the top twenty of the world’s most spoken languages. Tamil has a literary tradition of over two thousand years.
Tolkappiyam, the oldest known literary work in Tamil, has been dated variously between second century BC and fifth century AD. Tamil was declared a classical language of India by the Government of India in 2004 and was the first Indian language to have been accorded the status. The Tamil script consists of 12 vowels, 18 consonants and one special character, the aytam. The vowels and consonants combine to form 216 compound characters, making a total of 247 characters.