How old is the Tamil language?

One of the longest surviving classical languages in the world, Tamil is the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past. 20th in the Ethnologue list of most spoken languages worldwide.

Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions from 500 BC have been found in Adichanallur and 2,200-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions have been found in Samanamalai.

Tamil language inscriptions written in Brahmi script have been discovered in Sri Lanka and on trade goods in Thailand and Egypt.

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.

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, a twelve-volume dictionary published by the University of Madras in 1923, is the first among the dictionaries published in any Indian language.

The list goes on… The distinction and eminence of the Tamil language is indeed incomparable.

Tamil, one of the 22 scheduled languages of India, is a Dravidian language predominantly spoken by the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka, and by the Tamil diaspora, Sri Lankan Moors, Burghers, Douglas, and Chindians. It is an official language not only in the state of Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry, but also of two countries, Sri Lanka and Singapore.


Find out which are the other classical languages of the world that are still in use today.

To Reflect Upon

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