Tamil language

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தமிழ் tamiḻ
Word Tamil.svg
Native to India (official),  Sri Lanka(national and official), Singapore(official),  Malaysia, Réunion,  Mauritius,  Burma, Australia, America, UK [1]
EthnicityTamil people
Native speakers
90 million (2007)[2]
18 million as a second language[3]
Tamil alphabet (Brahmic)
Tamil Braille
Official status
Official language in
Indian states: Tamil Nadu[4] and Puducherry,[5]
Sri Lanka,[6] and
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1ta
ISO 639-2tam
ISO 639-3Either:
tam – Modern Tamil
oty – Old Tamil
oty Old Tamil
Distribution of Tamil speakers around the World

Tamil is a Dravidian language.[8] It is spoken in the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry states of India and parts of Sri Lanka. Many people in Singapore and Malaysia also speak it. A few people speaking Tamil live in various places around the world.

It is in the southern branch of the Dravidian language family. It is one of world's oldest literary languages. It has existed for at least 2,000 years.[9][10] The oldest text found in Tamil is Tolkāppiyam. Tamil is the one of the oldest living languages in the world. It is spoken by almost 90 million people.

Tamil script[change | change source]

The script of the language is very old. It has 12 consonants, 18 vowels, and the āytam , which is neither a consonant nor a vowel. The āytam can be used with other letters to represent sounds not in the Tamil script, such as 'f'. The consonants and vowels can mix to form compound letters. Altogether, there are 247 sounds/sets of sounds in the Tamil script. Tamil, like English, is written from left to right.

It is a Brahmi script, and it has been said that most of the other Indian scripts are basically derived from the letters of Tamil. In a few cases, the words themselves were used in other Indian languages for better understanding. Tamil numbers have certainly shaped the numbers in other Dravidian language family.

Tamil is the dominant language in Tamil Nadu, India, and Northern Province, Sri Lanka. It is also spoken in places like the United States, Germany, Fiji, Indonesia, France, Africa and Thailand. This is because of the Tamil diaspora.

References[change | change source]

  1. "Myanmar's and Thailand's Tamils seek to protect their identity". BBC. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  2. Nationalencyklopedin. "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
  3. Tamil language at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  4. "Official languages of Tamil Nadu", Tamil Nadu Government, retrieved 1 May 2007
  5. "Official languages", UNESCO, retrieved 10 May 2007
  6. "Official languages of Srilanka", State department, US, retrieved 1 May 2007
  7. "Official languages and national language", Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, Government of Singapore, retrieved 22 April 2008
  8. /ˈtæmɪl/ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  9. Stein, Burton (1977), "Circulation and the Historical Geography of Tamil Country", The Journal of Asian Studies, 37 (1): 7–26, doi:10.2307/2053325, JSTOR 2053325
  10. Steever, Sanford B. "The Dravidian languages", First Published (1998), pp. 6–9. ISBN 0-415-10023-2

Other websites[change | change source]

Tamil at Wikibooks