- One of the oldest classical languages in the world is the Tamil language. Studies show that an ancient but deformed form of Tamil called Tamazight is spoken by one of the tribes in Cameroon in Africa.
- In Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, historians have found Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions. However, they have not succeeded in providing an exact date of its origin. It is believed that the language has been spoken since 500 BC.
- During the pre-colonial era Tamil was one of the main languages used for trade.
- The ancient principality of Kamarinadu existed between India and Ethiopia. Ancient Tamils conquered Kamarinadu, which connected India and Ethiopia, and spread the language to Africa.
- It is one of the most difficult and oldest languages in the country (more than 50,000 years old). This Dravidian language is one of the major South Indian languages, and is spoken by over 60 million people in Singapore, India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. The original Indians spoke Sanskrit in North, Tamil in South, and Austro-Asiatic in the east.
- It is believed that the Mayans of the Maya Civilization of South America were actually Tamils and spoke a dialect of Tamil. Studies also show that the language of the Jews, Hebrew, derived from Tamil. This is because of the Tamil exodus to Africa via the middle-east.
Facts and numbers
- Tamil has obtained the classical status. In fact, it’s one of the first languages to attain this status.
- Today, Tamil is spoken not only in Tamil Nadu, but also in northern Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa and Fiji. 1% of the world’s population are Tamil speaking people, and it is the 15th most spoken language in the world.
- Tamil has been bestowed with official language status in quite a few countries, and it is one of most widely spoken languages in the world.
Tamils are of Dravidian origin. The four major Dravidian (South Indian) languages are Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu. Among the Dravidian language family Tamil is considered as the foremost language. The Dravidians form the majority of the population of south India, and there are around 220 million native speakers of Dravidian languages in the world.
Diglossia – spoken and written
Tamil uses two dialects or languages, and when a language community uses two dialects it is known as diglossia. They are known as H or ‘high’ type and the L or ‘low’ type in linguistic parlance. The H or ‘high’ type is found in literature. It is also used in religious ceremonies and education as it is more formal, traditional and esteemed. The ‘low’ type is used in everyday parlance. The ‘high’ type is found in ancient Tamil texts, which are a storehouse of knowledge. They have been translated into many languages and are appreciated by people across the globe.