Tamil language ( /ˈtæmɪl (தமிழ், tamiḻ, [t̪ɐmɨɻ] ?) also spelled Thamizh is spoken predominantly by Tamil people of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Tamil is also an official and national language of Sri Lanka and one of the official languages of Singapore. It is legalised 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 of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry 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 one of the longest surviving classical languages in the world. The 2,200-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions have been found on Samanamalai. It has been described as "the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past.
- In the familiar milieu of the Tamil land, where musicians and devotees can sing and proclaim about the Lord who is wonderfully auspicious, the Srivaisnava uses Tamil, the language that he is most accustomed to.
- John Carman in: The Tamil Veda: Pillan's Interpretation of the Tiruvaymoli, University of Chicago Press, 16 May 1989, p. 12.
- In...the cultural milieu, however, Sanskrit has greater prestige than Tamil. It is the language of revelation (sruti), of the eternal Veda.
- John Carman in: "The Tamil Veda: Pillan's Interpretation of the Tiruvaymoli", p. 12.
- The bhakti movement began in South India about the sixth century AD when several saints wandered from temple to temple singing the praise of Vishnu or Shiva. The twelve devotees of Vishnu who are recognized as poet-saints by the Srlvaisnava community were called the alvars and the sixty-three devotees of Siva were known as nayanmars. Tirumankai alvar and NammaWar wrote over half of the four thousand verses [in Tamil language] that forms the Divya Prabandham or Sacred Collect for the Srlvaisnava community.
- John Carman in: "The Tamil Veda: Pillan's Interpretation of the Tiruvaymoli", p. 14.
- For the first time within Hinduism, devotion was expressed in a mother tongue, a language --- continuous with the language of one’s earliest childhood and family, once folk and folklore. Unlike Sanskrit, it was a spoken language, associated with powerful emotions, and the deity of the Tamil hymns was brought close to the worshipped by the language fraught with tender words used for beloved ones.
- John Carman in: "The Tamil Veda: Pillan's Interpretation of the Tiruvaymoli", p. 14.
- The history of publishing and printing in Tamil is as interesting and rich as the language itself. The first book [Tamil] dates back to 20 October 1578. On the eventful day, Portuguese missionary Henrique Henriques (also Anrique Anriquez) published ‘Thambiraan Vanakkam' with paper imported from China.
- Karthik Madhavan in: Tamil saw its first book in 1578, The Hindu, 13 November 2010
- From its inception, Tamil devotion meant that speakers of Tamil had to be at the service of the language, to labor in its name and on its behalf. Glossed in devotional narratives as tamiḻppaṇi, “Tamil work,” or tamiḻttoṇṭu, “Tamil service,” this labor is presented as honorable, virtuous, and meritorious. It is mandatory for all those who claim to be Tamilians for it is an obligation (kaṭamai), even a debt (kaṭaṉ), that they owe, by virtue of being speakers of Tamil, to their language.
- Sumathi Ramaswamy in: Passions of the Tongue, publishing.cdlib.org
- Dravidianism, too, lent its support to the contestatory classicist project, motivated principally by the political imperative of countering (Sanskritic) Indian nationalism.... It was not until the DMK came to power in 1967 that such demands were fulfilled, and the pure Tamil cause received a boost, although purification efforts are not particularly high on the agenda of either the Dravidian movement or the Dravidianist idiom of tamiḻppaṟṟu.
- Sumathi Ramaswamy in: "Laboring for language",publishing.cdlib.org.
- ...considering most of the consequences of the rediscovery of classical Tamil literary and cultural heritage, we feel we are entitled to characterize these consequences as the Tamil renaissance; that is, compared with the general cultural and even ... imaginative and erudite literature before roughly 1850, the Tamil linguistic and cultural scene exhibited unmistakable signs of vigorous revival.
- Kamil Zvelebil in: Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature, BRILL, 1992, p. 217.
- Literature in all Dravidian languages owes a great deal to Sanskrit, the magic wand whose touch raised each of the languages from a level of patois to that of a literary idiom.
- The dating of Sangam literature and the identification of its language with Old Tamil have recently been questioned by Herman Tieken who argues that the works are better understood as 9th century Pāṇṭiyan dynasty compositions, deliberately written in an archaising style to make them seem older than they were. Tieken's dating has, however, been criticised by reviewers of his work.
- In 2004 Tamil was declared a classical language of India, meaning that it met three criteria: its origins are ancient; it has an independent tradition; and it possesses a considerable body of ancient literature. In the early 21st century more than 66 million people were Tamil speakers.
- The earliest Tamil writing is attested in inscriptions and potsherds from the 5th century BCE. Three periods have been distinguished through analyses of grammatical and lexical changes: Old Tamil (from about 450 BCE to 700 CE), Middle Tamil (700–1600), and Modern Tamil (from 1600).
- The Tamil writing system evolved from the Brahmi script. The shape of the letters changed enormously over time, eventually stabilizing when printing was introduced in the 16th century CE. The major addition to the alphabet was the incorporation of Grantha letters to write unassimilated Sanskrit words, although a few letters with irregular shapes were standardized during the modern period. A script known as Vatteluttu (“Round Script”) is also in common use.
- Spoken Tamil has changed substantially over time, including changes in the phonological structure of words. This has created diglossia—a system in which there are distinct differences between colloquial forms of a language and those that are used in formal and written contexts. The major regional variation is between the form spoken in India and that spoken in Jaffna (Sri Lanka), capital of a former Tamil city-state, and its surrounds.
- Within Tamil Nadu there are phonological differences between the northern, western, and southern speech. Regional varieties of the language intersect with varieties that are based on social class or caste.
- Like the other Dravidian languages, Tamil is characterized by a series of of retroflex consonants (/ḍ/, /ṇ/, and /ṭ/) made by curling the tip of the tongue back to the roof of the mouth. Structurally, Tamil is a verb-final language that allows flexibility regarding the order of the subject and the object in a sentence. Adjectives and relative, adverbial, and infinitive clauses normally precede the term they modify, while inflections such as those for tense, number, person, and case are indicated with suffixes.
Tamil Language, History and Literature
- The land of Tamil speech and people was in ancient times ruled by three famous lines of king, the Chera, Chola], and Pandiya. The land ruled by them was called Chera Nadu (Chera country), Chola Nadu (Chola country), and Pandiya Nadu (Pandiaya country) respectively.
- Tamils are of Dravidian origin. Many historians claim that the Dravidians, before the dawn of the history of the Tamils, were spread all over India. For various reasons they split into small groups. Consequently, the original language also split into different languages. Tamil is found to have retained about 80 per cent of the features of the original Dravidian language.
- There are three major sub-groups in the Dravidian family of language, namely, South Dravidian, Central Dravidian, and North Dravidian
- The Tamil literature may broadly be classified into:(i) Sangam Classics; (ii) Bhakthi or Devotional Literature;(iii) Ethics, and (iv) Modern Literature.
- The early Tamil literatures are called [w:Sangam literature|Sangam Classics]]. Though there are controversies over the time of the Classics, generally the period between 200 BCE and 500 CE is considered the period of Sangam. Sangam Classics are mostly descriptive.
- Many of the poems [in Tamil] seem to belong to the post-Sangham Age. It is widely accepted that among these, Thirukkural was composed before the second century CE. The Thirukkural consists of 1330 Kural, which are short verses of seven words. Thiruvalluvar is the author of this book.
- The famous Tamil work Silappathikaram belongs to the later Sangam period. w:Ilango AdigalSaint Ilango, a Chera prince, wrote this epic. Silappathikaram is the story of a chaste woman, Kannaki.
- Bhakti literature deals with religious philosophy, the history of saints, etc. Most of these are devotional poems. Religious teaching entered Tamil literature for the first time in Manimekalai. Sathanar the author of this book believed in Buddhism. The philosophy of Buddha is extensively discussed in Manimekalai.
- Modern literature must be dealt with under two sub-headings: (1) Prose and (2) Poetry. It may be noted that prose writings have gained more popularity in this century. Prose style is chosen as a better medium for novels, short stories, essays, etc.
- In general, grammar includes phonology, morphology and syntax. But Classical Tamil tradition seems to differ from this. The earliest grammar Tholkappiyam deals not only with phonology, morphology and syntax but also with personal and impersonal, internal and external dialects of life, beauty of literature, behavioral dialects of human life, Tamil linguistic traditions, etc., and this portion is termed Porulathikaram.
- According to the tradition that Tholkappiyar followed a grammar is three fold: (1) Ezhuthu (sounds and letters), (2) Col (words), (3) Porul (meaning). Later it was five fold: (1) Ezhuthu, (2) Col, (3) Porul, (4) Yappu (versification), and (5) Ani (beauty of literature).
- Works dealing exclusively with the science of music were written during the Sangam period, but were lost long ago. The Silappthikaram of the second century AD throws flood of light on the music of the Tamils. Music in Tamil nomenclature is isai. They had five kinds of Pans (specific melody type), namely Mullai, Kurinji, Marudham, Neythal and Palai. Apart from this, they had seven musical notes, viz., Kural, Thuttam, Kaykkilai, Uzhai, Ili, Vilari and Tharam.
- There is a wide gap between spoken and written Tamil. Spoken Tamil is used for face-to-face communication or in informal occasions whereas written Tamil is used during official speeches and other formal occasions. Spoken Tamil is not generally written; thus, while writing, the written form is invariably used. While there is a wide gap between the two forms of Tamil, there are certain rules the use of that help the learner to derive one form of language from another.
Centre for World Languages in: Tamil, UCLA International Institute, Centre for World Languages
- Tamil, a language with a long and ancient literary tradition, has been spoken in southern India for several millennia.
- Tamil is a member of the Dravidian family, whose members are nearly all spoken in southern India. Other relatives are Telugu (spoken in south central India to the east coast), Malayalam (in Kerala State on the Malabar Coast of southwest India), Kannada (in Mysore, a region of southern India), Brahui (in southern Pakistan), and several other less well-known languages.
- Tamil linguistic variation cross classifies through three dimensions: geography, caste, and diglossia. Six regional dialects can be classified as: East, West, North, South, Central, and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanken Tamil is relatively conservative, having retained older features while continental dialects have lost them or changed in different directions. Caste dialects mostly distinguish between Brahmin and non-Brahmin varieties. Overlaying all of this are diglossic variants.
- The high status non-Brahmin dialect--which is spoken in the Central dialect area, including the cities of Tanjore, Tirichirapalli and Madurai--is apparently gaining ground as a standard language.
- Tamil is written in an alpha-syllabic system like that of other South Asian languages. It derives from the Ashokan Brahmi script. Vowels have two forms, once used at the beginning of a word, another used following consonant symbols. Each consonant graph symbolizes the consonant plus following vowel "a". When another vowel symbol is used the "a" vowel is suppressed. Consonant symbols with a diacritic are used to represent just the consonant itself.
- Tamil, like other Dravidian languages, is an agglutinating language in which morphemes are transparently separable and analyzable affixes which are attached to roots or stems; such affixes in Tamil are nearly always suffixal. Words are made up of lexical roots, or stems (roots that have been expanded by a derivational suffix), followed by inflectional suffix(es) which mark such categories as, for example, person, number, mood, tense, etc.
- Nouns, a broad classification in Tamil grammatical terminology, include common and proper nouns, numerals, pronouns and some so-called adjectives; they inflect for case, person, number (singular and plural), and gender. There are two genders which are based on the referent's natural gender and correspond roughly to the distinction human/nonhuman; they are called "rational" (e.g., nouns referring to men, deities, women in some dialects) and "irrational" (e.g., women in some dialects, children, animals) respectively. There are 8 cases (nominative, accusative, dative, sociative, genitive, instrumental, locative, and ablative).
- Modern Tamil has no articles; definiteness and indefiniteness are signaled by other grammatical devices, such as the number "one," used as an indefinite article. Compound nouns are used as deictic pronouns (demonstratives), which are used to indicate objects close by, at a distance, and a kind of neutral; Sri Lankan Tamil has a fourth indicating medial distance.
- Verbs are formally inflected principally for mood and tense by a grammatical particle suffixed to the stem. Most verbs also mark affective and effective "voice" (not equivalent to the notions "transitivity" or "causation") where the former indicates that the subject undergoes the action named by the stem, and the latter signals that the subject directs the action of the stem. Mood is also marked implicitly by grammatical formatives which also mark tense categories. These signal that the verbal event is, for example, unreal, possible, potential, or a real, and actual. There are three simple tenses (past, present, and future), and a series of perfects.
- Word order is Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) and even though case and post positions are used to mark grammatical relations, word order is not completely free as it might be in similarly structured languages. Even where variation is allowed the verb in simple sentences must always come to the far right of the sentence.
- Tamil has a verbal category called "attitude" which is used to indicate the speaker's state of mind and subjective attitude about the narrated event. Verb auxiliaries are used for this purpose; examples of affected states projected are: pejorative opinion, antipathy, relief that a unpleasant event has ended, undesirability about the result of an event, and so on.
- In: Steever (1987)
- Besides loans from Sanskrit, and some borrowing from Persian and Arabic, English in modern times has supplied a lot of loan words, but because of the emphasis on linguistic purism in Tamil grammatical tradition loans are assimilated to the phonological system.
- All Tamil speakers, including the uneducated, use two varieties of the language which only roughly correspond to the difference between literary and spoken Tamil. A high status variety is used in most writing, the media--including radio and television broadcasts--political speeches and other similar occasions. In contrast, a low status variety is used in every day discourse and conversations. It is also used in film and some authors of fiction use the variety as do some politicians and lecturers to create solidarity, or enhance intimacy, with their audiences.
- In both India and Sri Lanka, Tamil has the status of an official language. In India it is one of fourteen official languages, and in Sri Lanka it shares that status with Sinhalese. It is the first official language of India's Tamil Nadu state.
- Among the four ancient literary languages of southern India (Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu) Tamil has the longest tradition. The earliest records date from inscriptions from 200 BC. Other early works exist which were preserved on manuscripts made by palm-leaf and through oral transmission. Part of this rich and varied literary output includes a Tamil indigenous grammatical tradition independent of that of the ancient Sanskrit grammarians. The earliest text which describes the language of the classical period is the Tolkappiyam (dating from around 200 BC); another dates from the year 1000.
- Three stages appear in the written records: ancient (200 BC to 700), medieval (700 - 1500) and modern (1500 to the present). Sometime between 800 and the turn of the millennium, Malayalam, a very closely related Dravidian language, split off and became a distinct language.
- During the medieval period Tamil absorbed many loan words from Sanskrit in the verbal system, but in the 1900s attempts were made to purge Tamil of its Sanskrit loans with the result that modern scientific and bureaucratic terminology is Tamil-based and not Sanskrit-based as in other Indic languages.