* Andaman line-height:1.1em; padding-right:0.5em;"> Recognised
tam – Modern Tamil
oty – Old Tamil
ptq – Pattapu Bhashai
oty Old Tamil
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Tamil is written in a non-Latin script. Tamil text used in this
article is transliterated into the
Latin script according to the ISO
TAMIL (English: /ˈtæmɪl/ ; தமிழ் _Tamiḻ_ ,
pronunciation (help ·info )) is a
Dravidian language predominantly
spoken by the
Tamil people of
Sri Lanka , and also by the
Tamil diaspora ,
Sri Lankan Moors , Burghers , Douglas , and Chindians
. Tamil is an official language of two countries,
Sri Lanka and
Singapore . It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu
and the Indian
Union Territory of
Puducherry . It is also used as one
of the languages of education in
Malaysia , along with English, Malay
and Mandarin. Tamil is also spoken by significant minorities in the
four other South Indian states of
Karnataka , Andhra Pradesh
Telangana and the
Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar
Islands . It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of
Tamil is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the
world. 20th in the
Ethnologue list of most-spoken languages
Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions from 500 BC have been found on
Adichanallur and 2,200-year-old
Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions have been
found on Samanamalai. It has been described as "the only language of
India which is recognizably continuous with a classical
past." 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".
Tamil literature has been documented for over 2000 years.
The earliest period of Tamil literature,
Sangam literature , is dated
from ca. 300 BC – AD 300. It has the oldest extant literature
Dravidian languages . The earliest epigraphic records found on
rock edicts and _hero stones _ date from around the 3rd century BC.
More than 55% of the epigraphical inscriptions (about 55,000) found by
the Archaeological Survey of
India are in the Tamil language. Tamil
language inscriptions written in
Brahmi script have been discovered in
Sri Lanka, and on trade goods in Thailand and Egypt. The two
earliest manuscripts from India, acknowledged and registered by the
UNESCO Memory of the World register in 1997 and 2005, were written in
In 1578, Portuguese Christian missionaries published a Tamil prayer
book in old
Tamil script named 'Thambiraan Vanakkam,' thus making
Tamil the first Indian language to be printed and published. The
Tamil Lexicon ,_ published by the
University of Madras , was one of
the earliest dictionaries published in the Indian languages.
According to a 2001 survey, there were 1,863 newspapers published in
Tamil, of which 353 were dailies.
* 1 Classification
* 2 History
* 2.1 Legend
* 2.2 Etymology
* 3 Geographic distribution
* 4 Legal status
* 5 Dialects
* 5.1 Region-specific variations
* 5.1.1 Loanword variations
* 6 Spoken and literary variants
* 7.1 Numerals and symbols
* 8 Phonology
* 8.1 Vowels
* 9 Grammar
* 9.1 Morphology
* 9.2 Syntax
* 10 Vocabulary
* 11 Influence
* 12 See also
* 13 Footnotes
* 14 References
* 15 Further reading
* 16 External links
Tamil belongs to the southern branch of the
Dravidian languages , a
family of around 26 languages native to the
Indian subcontinent . It
is also classified as being part of a
Tamil language family , which
alongside Tamil proper, also includes the languages of about 35
ethno-linguistic groups such as the Irula and Yerukula languages (see
SIL Ethnologue ).
The closest major relative of Tamil is
Malayalam ; the two began
diverging around the 9th century AD. Although many of the differences
between Tamil and
Malayalam demonstrate a pre-historic split of the
western dialect, the process of separation into a distinct language,
Malayalam, was not completed until sometime in the 13th or 14th
According to linguists like
Bhadriraju Krishnamurti , Tamil, as a
Dravidian language, descends from
Proto-Dravidian , a
Linguistic reconstruction suggests that
Proto-Dravidian was spoken
around the third millennium BC, possibly in the region around the
Godavari river basin in peninsular India. The material evidence
suggests that the speakers of
Proto-Dravidian were of the culture
associated with the
Neolithic complexes of South
India . The next
phase in the reconstructed proto-history of Tamil is Proto-South
Dravidian. The linguistic evidence suggests that Proto-South Dravidian
was spoken around the middle of the second millennium BC, and that
proto-Tamil emerged around the 3rd century BC. The earliest epigraphic
attestations of Tamil are generally taken to have been written shortly
thereafter. Among Indian languages, Tamil has the most ancient
non-Sanskritised Indian literature. Scholars categorise the attested
history of the language into three periods,
Old Tamil (300 BC – AD
Middle Tamil (700–1600) and
Modern Tamil (1600–present). In
November 2007, an excavation at Quseir-al-Qadim revealed Egyptian
pottery dating back to first century BC with ancient Tamil Brahmi
inscriptions. John Guy states that Tamil was the lingua franca for
early maritime traders from India.
Tamil Brahmi inscription in Mangulam,
Tamil Nadu dated to Tamil
Sangam period c. 400 BC to c. 200 AD.
Tamil Brahmi inscription in Mangulam,
Madurai district ,
Tamil Nadu dated to Tamil
Sangam period c. 400 BC
to c. 200 AD.
Tamil Brahmi script in the reverse side of the
bilingual Silver coin of king
Vashishtiputra Sātakarni (c. AD 160) of
Deccan . REV: Ujjain/Sātavāhana symbol, crescented six-arch chaitya
hill and river with
Tamil Brahmi script OBV: Bust of king; Prakrit
legend in the Brahmi script.
According to Hindu legend, Tamil or in personification form Tamil
Thāi (Mother Tamil) was created by Lord
Murugan , revered as
the Tamil God, along with sage
Agastya , brought it to the people.
The earliest extant Tamil literary works and their commentaries
celebrate the Pandiyan Kings for the organization of long-termed Tamil
Sangams , which researched, developed and made amendments in Tamil
language. Even though the name of the language which was developed by
Tamil Sangams is mentioned as Tamil, the exact period when the
name "Tamil" came to be applied to the language is unclear, as is the
precise etymology of the name. The earliest attested use of the name
is found in
Tholkappiyam , which is dated as early as 1st century BC.
Southworth suggests that the name comes from tam-miḻ > tam-iḻ
'self-speak', or 'one's own speech'. (see Southworth's derivation of
Sanskrit term for "others" or
Kamil Zvelebil suggests an
etymology of tam-iḻ, with tam meaning "self" or "one's self", and
"-iḻ" having the connotation of "unfolding sound". Alternatively, he
suggests a derivation of tamiḻ < tam-iḻ < *tav-iḻ < *tak-iḻ,
meaning in origin "the proper process (of speaking)".
Tamil Lexicon of
University of Madras defines the word 'Tamil' as
'sweetness'. S.V Subramanian suggests the meaning 'sweet sound' from
'tam'- sweet and 'il'- 'sound'.
Old Tamil language
Old Tamil is the period of the
Tamil language spanning the 5th
century BC to the 8th century AD. The earliest records in Old Tamil
are short inscriptions from between the 5th and 2nd century BC in
caves and on pottery. These inscriptions are written in a variant of
Brahmi script called
Tamil Brahmi . The earliest long text in Old
Tamil is the _
Tolkāppiyam _, an early work on
Tamil grammar and
poetics, whose oldest layers could be as old as the 1st century BC. A
large number of literary works in
Old Tamil have also survived. These
include a corpus of 2,381 poems collectively known as Sangam
literature . These poems are usually dated to between the 1st and 5th
Middle Tamil language Tamil inscriptions in
Vatteluttu script in stone during Chola period c.1000 AD at
Brahadeeswara temple in
Thanjavur , Tami Nadu.
The evolution of
Old Tamil into
Middle Tamil , which is generally
taken to have been completed by the 8th century, was characterised by
a number of phonological and grammatical changes. In phonological
terms, the most important shifts were the virtual disappearance of the
aytam (ஃ), an old phoneme, the coalescence of the alveolar and
dental nasals, and the transformation of the alveolar plosive into a
rhotic . In grammar, the most important change was the emergence of
the present tense. The present tense evolved out of the verb _kil_
(கில்), meaning "to be possible" or "to befall". In Old Tamil,
this verb was used as an aspect marker to indicate that an action was
micro-durative, non-sustained or non-lasting, usually in combination
with a time marker such as _ṉ_ (ன்). In Middle Tamil, this usage
evolved into a present tense marker – _kiṉṟa_ (கின்ற)
– which combined the old aspect and time markers.
Nannul remains the standard normative grammar for modern literary
Tamil, which therefore continues to be based on
Middle Tamil of the
13th century rather than on Modern Tamil.
Colloquial spoken Tamil, in
contrast, shows a number of changes. The negative conjugation of
verbs, for example, has fallen out of use in
Modern Tamil –
negation is, instead, expressed either morphologically or
syntactically. Modern spoken Tamil also shows a number of sound
changes, in particular, a tendency to lower high vowels in initial and
medial positions, and the disappearance of vowels between plosives
and between a plosive and rhotic.
Contact with European languages also affected both written and spoken
Tamil. Changes in written Tamil include the use of European-style
punctuation and the use of consonant clusters that were not permitted
in Middle Tamil. The syntax of written Tamil has also changed, with
the introduction of new aspectual auxiliaries and more complex
sentence structures, and with the emergence of a more rigid word order
that resembles the syntactic argument structure of English.
Simultaneously, a strong strain of linguistic purism emerged in the
early 20th century, culminating in the
Pure Tamil Movement which
called for removal of all Sanskritic and other foreign elements from
Tamil. It received some support from
Dravidian parties . This led to
the replacement of a significant number of
Sanskrit loanwords by Tamil
equivalents, though many others remain.
Tamil is the primary language of the majority of the people residing
Tamil Nadu ,
Puducherry , in
India and Northern Province , Eastern
Province , in Sri Lanka. The language is also spoken among small
minority groups in other states of
India which include
Andhra Pradesh ,
Maharashtra and in certain regions of Sri
Lanka such as
Colombo and the hill country . Tamil or dialects of it
were used widely in the state of
Kerala as the major language of
administration, literature and common usage until the 12th century AD.
Tamil was also used widely in inscriptions found in southern Andhra
Pradesh districts of Chittoor and Nellore until the 12th century AD.
Tamil was also used for inscriptions from the 10th through 14th
centuries in southern
Karnataka districts such as Kolar ,
There are currently sizeable Tamil-speaking populations descended
from colonial-era migrants in
South Africa , Indonesia, Thailand,
Burma , and Vietnam
. A large community of Pakistani
Tamils speakers exists in
Pakistan , which includes Tamil-speaking Hindus as well as
Christians and Muslims – including some Tamil-speaking Muslim
refugees from Sri Lanka. Many in
Fiji , Suriname
Trinidad and Tobago have Tamil origins, but only a small number
speak the language. In Reunion where the
Tamil language was forbidden
to be learnt and used in public space by
France it is now being
relearnt by students and adults. It is also used by groups of
Sri Lanka and India,
United States (especially
New Jersey and
New York City
New York City ),
many Middle Eastern countries, and some Western European countries.
Mahatma Gandhi 's written wishes in Tamil for
Multilingual signs with Tamil in
Sri Lanka (
Tsunami early warning
An electrical hazard sign in
Malaysia written in Tamil with other
Nameboard with Tamil at
Koneswaram temple at Thirukonamalai , Sri
A hospital sign in
Canada written in Tamil
A Multilingual danger sign in
Singapore with Tamil writing
Mauritius Currency note with Tamil 'இருநூறு
ரூபாய்' (200 rupee) written in the note with the man
wearing eyeglasses, written next to him.
A business in Edison ,
New Jersey , near
New York City
New York City
See also: States of
India by Tamil speakers See also: List of
territorial entities where Tamil is an official language
Tamil is the official language of the Indian state of
Tamil Nadu and
one of the 22 languages under schedule 8 of the constitution of India
. It is also one of the official languages of the union territory of
Puducherry and the
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Andaman and Nicobar Islands . Tamil is also one
of the official languages of
Singapore . Tamil is one of the official
and national languages of Sri Lanka, along with Sinhala . It was once
given nominal official status in the state of
Haryana , purportedly as
a rebuff to Punjab , though there was no attested Tamil-speaking
population in the state, and was later replaced by Punjabi , in 2010.
In Malaysia, 543 primary education government schools are available
fully in Tamil medium . The establishments of Tamil medium schools
have been currently in process in
Myanmar to provide education
Tamil language by the
Tamils who settled there 200 years
Tamil language is taught in
Canada for the local Tamil minority
populations and the month of January has been declared "Tamil Heritage
Month" per legislation by the Canadian Parliament. Tamil also
enjoys a special status of protection under Article 6(b), Chapter 1 of
the Constitution of
South Africa and is taught as a subject in schools
KwaZulu-Natal province. Recently, it has also been rolled out
as a subject of study in schools in the French overseas department of
In addition, with the creation in October 2004 of a legal status for
classical languages by the Government of
India and following a
political campaign supported by several Tamil associations, Tamil
became the first legally recognised
Classical language of India. The
recognition was announced by the contemporaneous President of
Abdul Kalam , in a joint sitting of both houses of the Indian
Parliament on 6 June 2004.
Tamil Brahmi inscription near
Tirukkoyilur in Villupuram
Tamil Nadu dated to the early
Tamil Sangam age (c. 400 BC).
Colloquial Tamil \'Oppaari song\' Oppaari song lamenting
death, sung by women during a death ceremony. Here it is the death of
a son lamented by the mother.
Pudumaipithan\'s short story \'Pon Nagaram\' Audio recording of
Pudumaipithan 's short story 'Pon Nagaram' (showing a few loanwords).
Problems playing these files? See media help ._
The socio-linguistic situation of Tamil is characterised by diglossia
: there are two separate registers varying by socioeconomic status , a
high register and a low one. Tamil dialects are primarily
differentiated from each other by the fact that they have undergone
different phonological changes and sound shifts in evolving from Old
Tamil. For example, the word for "here"—_iṅku_ in _Centamil_ (the
classic variety)—has evolved into _iṅkū_ in the Kongu dialect of
Coimbatore , _inga_ in the dialect of
Thanjavur , and _iṅkai_ in
some dialects of
Sri Lanka . Old Tamil's _iṅkaṇ_ (where _kaṇ_
means place) is the source of _iṅkane_ in the dialect of Tirunelveli
Old Tamil _iṅkaṭṭu_ is the source of _iṅkuṭṭu_ in the
Madurai , and _iṅkaṭe_ in various northern dialects.
Even now, in the
Coimbatore area, it is common to hear "akkaṭṭa"
meaning "that place". Although Tamil dialects do not differ
significantly in their vocabulary, there are a few exceptions. The
dialects spoken in
Sri Lanka retain many words and grammatical forms
that are not in everyday use in India, and use many other words
slightly differently. The various Tamil dialects include Central
Tamil dialect ,
Kongu Tamil ,
Madras Bashai ,
Madurai Tamil , Nellai
Tamil , kumari Tamil in
Batticaloa Tamil dialect , Jaffna
Tamil dialect ,
Negombo Tamil dialect in Sri Lanka. Sankethi dialect
Karnataka has been heavily influenced by
Indo-Aryan loanwords in Tamil and Loan words in Sri Lankan
The dialect of the district of
Kerala has a large number
Malayalam loanwords, has been influenced by Malayalam's syntax and
also has a distinctive
Malayalam accent. Similarly, Tamil spoken in
Kanyakumari District has more unique words and phonetic style than
Tamil spoken at other parts of Tamil Nadu. The words and phonetics are
so different that a person from
Kanyakumari district is easily
identifiable by their spoken Tamil. Hebbar and
spoken by groups of Tamil Vaishnavites who migrated to
the 11th century, retain many features of the _Vaishnava paribasai_, a
special form of Tamil developed in the 9th and 10th centuries that
reflect Vaishnavite religious and spiritual values. Several castes
have their own sociolects which most members of that caste
traditionally used regardless of where they come from. It is often
possible to identify a person's caste by their speech. Tamil in Sri
Lanka incorporates loan words from Portuguese , Dutch , and English.
SPOKEN AND LITERARY VARIANTS
Thiruppugazh - Umbartharu - Hamsadhwani Literary Tamil in
hymn 'Umbartharu' (Hamsadhwani) on lord
Sivagnanam\'s \'Arivuk kadhaigal\'. Literary Tamil
pronunciation. Reading an excerpt from
Ma. Po. Si. 's book 'Arivuk
Bharathi\'s \'Senthamil nadu ennum\' song Literary Tamil
pronunciation in song written by
Subramanya Bharathi , 'Senthamizh
naadennum pothinile' (1900s ).
Problems playing these files? See media help ._
In addition to its various dialects, Tamil exhibits different forms:
a classical literary style modelled on the ancient language
(_sankattamiḻ_), a modern literary and formal style (_centamiḻ_),
and a modern colloquial form (_koṭuntamiḻ_). These styles shade
into each other, forming a stylistic continuum. For example, it is
possible to write _centamiḻ_ with a vocabulary drawn from
_caṅkattamiḻ_, or to use forms associated with one of the other
variants while speaking _koṭuntamiḻ_.
In modern times, _centamiḻ_ is generally used in formal writing and
speech. For instance, it is the language of textbooks, of much of
Tamil literature and of public speaking and debate. In recent times,
however, _koṭuntamiḻ_ has been making inroads into areas that have
traditionally been considered the province of _centamiḻ_. Most
contemporary cinema, theatre and popular entertainment on television
and radio, for example, is in _koṭuntamiḻ_, and many politicians
use it to bring themselves closer to their audience. The increasing
use of _koṭuntamiḻ_ in modern times has led to the emergence of
unofficial ‘standard' spoken dialects. In India, the ‘standard'
_koṭuntamiḻ_, rather than on any one dialect, but has been
significantly influenced by the dialects of
Madurai . In
Sri Lanka, the standard is based on the dialect of
Tamil script and
Tamil braille See also:
Grantha script ,
Pallava script , and
Arwi Historical evolution
of Tamil writing from the earlier
Tamil Brahmi near the top to the
Tamil script at bottom. Thirukkural palm leaf
Tamil Brahmi fell out of use, Tamil was written using a script
called the _vaṭṭeḻuttu_ amongst others such as Grantha and
Pallava script . The current
Tamil script consists of 12 vowels , 18
consonants and one special character, the _āytam _. The vowels and
consonants combine to form 216 compound characters, giving a total of
247 characters (12 + 18 + 1 + (12 x 18)). All consonants have an
inherent vowel _a_, as with other
Indic scripts . This inherent vowel
is removed by adding a tittle called a _puḷḷi_, to the consonantal
sign. For example, ன is _ṉa_ (with the inherent _a_) and ன் is
_ṉ_ (without a vowel). Many
Indic scripts have a similar sign,
generically called virama , but the
Tamil script is somewhat different
in that it nearly always uses a visible _puḷḷi_ to indicate a
_dead consonant_ (a consonant without a vowel). In other Indic
scripts, it is generally preferred to use a ligature or a half form to
write a syllable or a cluster containing a dead consonant, although
writing it with a visible virama is also possible. The Tamil script
does not differentiate voiced and unvoiced plosives . Instead,
plosives are articulated with voice depending on their position in a
word, in accordance with the rules of
Tamil phonology .
In addition to the standard characters, six characters taken from the
Grantha script , which was used in the Tamil region to write Sanskrit,
are sometimes used to represent sounds not native to Tamil, that is,
words adopted from Sanskrit,
Prakrit and other languages. The
traditional system prescribed by classical grammars for writing
loan-words, which involves respelling them in accordance with Tamil
phonology, remains, but is not always consistently applied. ISO 15919
is an international standard for the transliteration of Tamil and
Indic scripts into Latin characters. It uses diacritics to map
the much larger set of Brahmic consonants and vowels to the Latin
script. Tamil can be transliterated into English by using ISO 15919,
English language uses the
Latin script for writing.
NUMERALS AND SYMBOLS
Apart from the usual numerals, Tamil also has numerals for 10, 100
and 1000. Symbols for day, month, year, debit, credit, as above,
rupee, and numeral are present as well. Tamil also uses several
historical fractional signs.
Part of a series on
* History of
* History of
Sources of ancient Tamil history
* Tamil Kingdoms
* Numeral system
* Sri Lankan
* Sri Lankan
Tamil Australians , French
Tamils , British
Tamils , Tamil Italians ,
Tamil Indonesians ,
Tamil Canadians ,
Tamil Americans , Tamil South
Tamils , Tamil Mauritians ,
Tamil Germans , Tamil
Tamil Seychellois , Tamil New Zealanders , Swiss
Religion in ancient Tamil country
* Christianity in
* Politics of
Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism
Part of a series on
DRAVIDIAN CULTURE AND HISTORY
Indus Valley Civilisation
* History of South
* Ancient history of
* Hoysala dynasty
South Indian culture
* History of
Dravidian folk religion
* Nagas (Extinct)
* Giraavarus (Extinct)
Kannada language rights
Telugu Desam Party
Tamil tongue twisters. ல-கரம், ழ-கரம்.
'குலை குலையாய் வாழைப்பழம்,
மழையில் அழுகி கீழே
(பேச்சுத் தமிழில்) ந-கரம்,
ட-கரம். கொக்கு நெட்ட
கொக்கு. நெட்ட கொக்கு இட்ட
முட்ட, கட்ட முட்ட.
ழ-கரம். ஏழை கிழவன்
வாழைப் பழத் தோல் மேல்
ல-கரம், ள-கரம். 'அவள்
அவலளப்பாள். அவளும் இவளும்
அவல் அளக்காவிட்டால், எவள்
Problems playing these files? See media help ._
Tamil phonology is characterised by the presence of retroflex
consonants and multiple rhotics . Tamil does not distinguish
phonologically between voiced and unvoiced consonants; phonetically,
voice is assigned depending on a consonant's position in a word.
Tamil phonology permits few consonant clusters, which can never be
word initial. Native grammarians classify Tamil phonemes into vowels,
consonants, and a "secondary character", the āytam.
Tamil has five vowel qualities, namely /a /, /e /, /i /, /o / and /u
/. Each may be long or short. There are two diphthongs , /aɪ/ and
/aʊ/. Long vowels are about twice as long as short vowels. The
diphthongs are usually pronounced about 1.5 times as long as short
vowels. Most grammatical texts place them with the long vowels.
Tamil consonants are presented as hard, soft and medial in some
grammars which roughly corresponds to plosives, nasals and
approximants. Unlike most Indian languages, Tamil does not distinguish
aspirated and unaspirated consonants. In addition, the voicing of
plosives is governed by strict rules in _centamiḻ_. Plosives are
unvoiced if they occur word-initially or doubled. Elsewhere they are
voiced, with a few becoming fricatives intervocalically. Nasals and
approximants are always voiced.
Tamil is characterised by its use of more than one type of coronal
consonants : like many of the other languages of India, it contains a
series of retroflex consonants . Notably, the Tamil retroflex series
includes the retroflex approximant /ɻ/ (ழ) (example TamiL; often
transcribed 'zh'), which is absent in the Indo-Aryan languages. Among
the other Dravidian languages, the retroflex approximant also occurs
Malayalam (for example in 'KoZHikode'), disappeared from spoken
Kannada around 1000 AD (although the character is still written, and
Unicode ), and was never present in Telugu . In many
dialects of colloquial Tamil, this consonant is seen as disappearing
and shifting to the alveolar lateral approximant /l/. Dental and
alveolar consonants also historically contrasted with each other, a
typically Dravidian trait not found in the neighbouring Indo-Aryan
languages. While this distinction can still be seen in the written
language, it has been largely lost in colloquial spoken Tamil, and
even in literary usage the letters ந (dental) and ன (alveolar) may
be seen as allophonic . Likewise, the historical alveolar stop has
transformed into a trill consonant in many modern dialects.
A chart of the Tamil consonant phonemes in the International Phonetic
The plosives have voiced allophones in predictable contexts. The
sounds /f/ and /ʂ/ are peripheral to the phonology of Tamil, being
found only in loanwords and frequently replaced by native sounds.
There are well-defined rules for elision in Tamil categorised into
classes based on the phoneme which undergoes elision.
Classical Tamil also had a phoneme called the _āytam _, written as
‘ஃ'. Tamil grammarians of the time classified it as a dependent
phoneme (or restricted phoneme ) (_cārpeḻuttu_), but it is very
rare in modern Tamil. The rules of pronunciation given in the
_Tolkāppiyam_, a text on the grammar of Classical Tamil, suggest that
the _āytam_ could have glottalised the sounds it was combined with.
It has also been suggested that the _āytam_ was used to represent the
voiced implosive (or closing part or the first half) of geminated
voiced plosives inside a word. The Āytam, in modern Tamil, is also
used to convert _p_ to _f_ when writing English words using the Tamil
Tamil employs agglutinative grammar, where suffixes are used to mark
noun class , number , and case , verb tense and other grammatical
categories. Tamil's standard metalinguistic terminology and scholarly
vocabulary is itself Tamil, as opposed to the
Sanskrit that is
standard for most Aryan languages .
Tamil grammar is extensively described in the oldest known
grammar book for Tamil, the _
Modern Tamil writing is
largely based on the 13th century grammar _Naṉṉūl_ which restated
and clarified the rules of the _Tolkāppiyam_, with some
Tamil grammar consists of five parts,
namely _eḻuttu_, _sol_, _poruḷ_, _yāppu_, _aṇi_. Of these, the
last two are mostly applied in poetry.
Tamil words consist of a lexical root to which one or more affixes
are attached. Most Tamil affixes are suffixes . Tamil suffixes can be
derivational suffixes, which either change the part of speech of the
word or its meaning, or inflectional suffixes, which mark categories
such as person , number , mood , tense , etc. There is no absolute
limit on the length and extent of agglutination , which can lead to
long words with a large number of suffixes, which would require
several words or a sentence in English. To give an example, the word
means "for the sake of those who cannot go", and consists of the
following morphemes :
_he/she who does_ PLURAL MARKER
Tamil nouns (and pronouns) are classified into two super-classes
(_tiṇai_)—the "rational" (_uyartiṇai_), and the "irrational"
(_akṟiṇai_)—which include a total of five classes (_pāl_, which
literally means ‘gender'). Humans and deities are classified as
"rational", and all other nouns (animals, objects, abstract nouns) are
classified as irrational. The "rational" nouns and pronouns belong to
one of three classes (_pāl_)—masculine singular, feminine singular,
and rational plural. The "irrational" nouns and pronouns belong to one
of two classes: irrational singular and irrational plural. The _pāl_
is often indicated through suffixes. The plural form for rational
nouns may be used as an honorific , gender-neutral, singular form.
EXAMPLE: THE TAMIL WORDS FOR "DOER"
He who did _ceytavaḷ_
She who did _ceytavar_
They who did _ceytatu_
That which did _ceytavai_
Those ones which did
Suffixes are used to perform the functions of cases or postpositions
. Traditional grammarians tried to group the various suffixes into
eight cases corresponding to the cases used in
Sanskrit . These were
the nominative , accusative , dative , sociative , genitive ,
instrumental , locative , and ablative . Modern grammarians argue that
this classification is artificial, and that Tamil usage is best
understood if each suffix or combination of suffixes is seen as
marking a separate case. Tamil nouns can take one of four prefixes ,
_i_, _a_, _u_, and _e_ which are functionally equivalent to the
demonstratives in English. For example, the word _vazhi_ (வழி)
meaning "way" can take these to produce _ivvazhi_ (இவ்வழி)
"this way", _avvazhi_ (அவ்வழி) "that way", _uvvazhi_
(உவ்வழி) "the medial way" and _evvazhi_
(எவ்வழி) "which way".
Tamil verbs are also inflected through the use of suffixes. A typical
Tamil verb form will have a number of suffixes , which show person,
number, mood, tense, and voice.
* Person and number are indicated by suffixing the oblique case of
the relevant pronoun. The suffixes to indicate tenses and voice are
formed from grammatical particles , which are added to the stem.
* Tamil has two voices. The first indicates that the subject of the
sentence _undergoes_ or _is the object of_ the action named by the
verb stem, and the second indicates that the subject of the sentence
_directs_ the action referred to by the verb stem.
* Tamil has three simple tenses—past, present, and
future—indicated by the suffixes, as well as a series of perfects
indicated by compound suffixes. Mood is implicit in Tamil, and is
normally reflected by the same morphemes which mark tense categories.
Tamil verbs also mark evidentiality , through the addition of the
hearsay clitic _ām._ Verb inflection is shown below using example
"(I) was being destroyed".
destroy VOICE MARKER
object voice TENSE MARKER
during ASPECT MARKER
past progressive PERSON MARKER
Traditional grammars of Tamil do not distinguish between adjectives
and adverbs , including both of them under the category _uriccol_,
although modern grammarians tend to distinguish between them on
morphological and syntactical grounds. Tamil has a large number of
ideophones that act as adverbs indicating the way the object in a
given state "says" or "sounds".
Tamil does not have articles . Definiteness and indefiniteness are
either indicated by special grammatical devices, such as using the
number "one" as an indefinite article, or by the context. In the
first person plural, Tamil makes a distinction between inclusive
pronouns நாம் _nām_ (we), நமது _namatu_ (our) that
include the addressee and exclusive pronouns நாங்கள்
_nāṅkaḷ_ (we), எமது _ematu_ (our) that do not.
Tamil is a consistently head-final language. The verb comes at the
end of the clause, with a typical word order of
subject–object–verb (SOV). However, word order in Tamil is also
flexible, so that surface permutations of the SOV order are possible
with different pragmatic effects. Tamil has postpositions rather than
prepositions . Demonstratives and modifiers precede the noun within
the noun phrase. Subordinate clauses precede the verb of the matrix
Tamil is a null-subject language . Not all Tamil sentences have
subjects, verbs, and objects. It is possible to construct
grammatically valid and meaningful sentences which lack one or more of
the three. For example, a sentence may only have a verb—such as
_muṭintuviṭṭatu_ ("completed")—or only a subject and object,
without a verb such as _atu eṉ vīṭu_ ("That my house"). Tamil
does not have a copula (a linking verb equivalent to the word _is_).
The word is included in the translations only to convey the meaning
The vocabulary of Tamil is mainly Dravidian. A strong sense of
linguistic purism is found in Modern Tamil, which opposes the use of
foreign loanwords. Nonetheless, a number of words used in classical
and modern Tamil are loanwords from the languages of neighbouring
groups, or with whom the
Tamils had trading links, including Munda
(for example, tavaḷai "frog" from Munda tabeg), Malay (e.g.
cavvarici "sago" from Malay sāgu), Chinese (for example, campān
"skiff" from Chinese san-pan) and Greek (for example, ora from Greek
ὥρα). In more modern times, Tamil has imported words from
Marathi , reflecting groups that have influenced the Tamil area at
various points of time, and from neighbouring languages such as Telugu
Kannada , and Sinhala. During the modern period, words have also
been adapted from European languages, such as Portuguese, French, and
The strongest impact of purism in Tamil has been on words taken from
Sanskrit. During its history, Tamil, along with other Dravidian
languages like Telugu ,
Malayalam etc., was influenced by
Sanskrit in terms of vocabulary, grammar and literary styles,
reflecting the increased trend of
Sanskritisation in the Tamil
country. Tamil vocabulary never became quite as heavily Sanskritised
as that of the other Dravidian languages, and unlike in those
languages, it was and remains possible to express complex ideas
(including in science, art, religion and law) without the use of
Sanskrit loan words. In addition,
Sanskritisation was actively
resisted by a number of authors of the late medieval period,
culminating in the 20th century in a movement called _taṉit tamiḻ
iyakkam _ (meaning "pure Tamil movement"), led by Parithimaar
Maraimalai Adigal , which sought to remove the
accumulated influence of
Sanskrit on Tamil. As a result of this,
Tamil in formal documents, literature and public speeches has seen a
marked decline in the use
Sanskrit loan words in the past few decades,
under some estimates having fallen from 40–50% to about 20%. As a
Sanskrit loan words used in modern Tamil are,
unlike in some other Dravidian languages, restricted mainly to some
spiritual terminology and abstract nouns .
In the 20th century, institutions and learned bodies have, with
government support, generated technical dictionaries for Tamil
containing neologisms and words derived from Tamil roots to replace
loan words from English and other languages.
Thani Tamil Iyakkam's_
Parithimar Kalaignar . He translated his
name to Tamil from the
Sanskrit 'Suryanarayana Sastri'.
Thani Tamil Iyakkam's_
Bharathidasan . A Tamil writer, poet.
E. V. Ramasami (Periyaar) , freedom fighter, social reformer,
Tamil language reform.
C. N. Annadurai , freedom fighter, Tamil scholar, Chief minister
Tamil Nadu , two language policy .
Tamil loanwords in other languages
Words of Tamil origin occur in other languages. A notable example of
a word in worldwide use with Dravidian (not specifically Tamil)
etymology is _orange_, via
Sanskrit _nāraṅga_ from a Dravidian
predecessor of Tamil _nartaṅkāy_ "fragrant fruit". Anaconda is word
of Tamil origin anai-kondra meaning elephant killer Examples in
English include _cheroot_ (_churuṭṭu_ meaning "rolled up"),
_mango_ (from _māngāi_), _mulligatawny_ (from _miḷaku
taṇṇīr_, "pepper water"), _pariah_ (from _paraiyan_), _curry_
(from _kari_), and _catamaran_ (from _kaṭṭu maram_, "bundled
logs"), congee (from _kanji_ - rice porridge or gruel).
Tamil Nadu portal
* Tamil People portal
* Tamil civilization portal
* Dravidian civilizations portal
List of countries where Tamil is an official language
List of languages by first written accounts
Tamil population by cities
Tamil population by nation
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TAMIL EDITION _ of , the free encyclopedia
For a list of words relating to Tamil language, see the TAMIL
LANGUAGE_ category of words in
Wiktionary , the free dictionary.
* Tamil at Wikibooks
* Tamil travel guide from Wikivoyage
* Media related to
Tamil language at Wikimedia Commons
Bangalore Tamil dialects
Central Tamil dialect
Tamil books of Law
The Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature
* The Five Lesser Epics of Tamil Literature
Naalayira Divya Prabhandham
* Kampa Rāmāyaṉam
* Nikantu books
Tamil Lexicon dictionary
Madurai Tamil Paeragaraadhi
* Yāzhpāna Vaipava Mālai