Tamil (//; தமிழ் Tamiḻ [t̪amiɻ], pronunciation (help·info)) is a Dravidian language natively spoken by the Tamil people of South Asia. Tamil is an official language of the sovereign nations of Sri Lanka and Singapore, the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and the Union Territory of Puducherry. Tamil is spoken by significant minorities in the four other South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is also spoken by the Tamil diaspora found in many countries, including Malaysia, Myanmar, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and Mauritius. Tamil is also natively spoken by Sri Lankan Moors.
|Pronunciation||[t̪amiɻ]; pronunciation (help·info)|
|Native to||India and Sri Lanka|
|Region||Tamil Nadu (India)|
Northern and Eastern Provinces (Sri Lanka)
|75 million (2011–2019)|
L2 speakers: 8 million (2011)
Tamil Braille (Bharati)
Latin script (informal)
Official language in
One of 22 scheduled languages in the Constitution of India, Tamil was the first to be classified as a classical language of India and is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world. A. K. Ramanujan described it as "the only language of contemporary 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".
A recorded 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 among 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 Tamil.
In 1578, Portuguese Christian missionaries published a Tamil prayer book in old Tamil script named Thambiran 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 Indian languages. According to a 2001 survey, there were 1,863 newspapers published in Tamil, of which 353 were dailies.