The earliest known Tamil inscriptions date back to at least 500 BC. The oldest literary text in Tamil, Tolkāppiyam, was composed around 200 BC. The Tamil alphabet is is thought to have evolved from the Brahmi script, though some scholars believe that its origins go back to the Indus script.
The alphabet is well suited to writing literary Tamil, centamil. However it is ill-suited to writing colloquial Tamil, koduntamil. During the 19th century, attempts were made to create a written version of the colloquial spoken language. Nowadays the colloquial written language appears mainly in school books and in passages of dialogue in fiction.
Tamil (தமிழ்), a Dravidian language spoken by around 52 million people in Indian, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada, the USA, UK and Australia. It is the first language of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and is spoken by a significant minority of people (2 million) in north-eastern Sri Lanka.
The final five consonants (the blue ones) are known as grantha letters and are used to write consonants borrowed from Sanskrit, and also some words of English origin.
The numerals rarely appear in modern Tamil texts. Instead, 'Arabic' numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) are used.
Maṉitap piṛaviyiṉar čakalarum čutantiramākavē piṛakkiṉṛaṉar; avarkaḷ matippilum urimaikaḷilum čamamāṉavarkaḷ. Avarkaḷ niyāyattaiyum maṉačāṭčiyaiyum iyaṛpaṇpākap peṛṛavarkaḷ. Avarkaḷ oruvaruṭaṉoruvar čakōtara uṇarvup pāṅkil naṭantukoḷḷal vēṇṭum.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about the Tamil language, literature and people
Online Tamil lessons
Sinhala and Tamil word and letter puzzles
Association for Tamil Computing
PDF Text - an online Unicode word processor for Tamil and English
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