If there is one place on the face of the Earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when Man began the dream of existence, it is India - Romain Rollan

Unity in diversity - this is the underlying theme of Incredible India. One of the main contributing factors to this diversity is the wide range of official Indian languages from Hindi to Bengali to English and Tamil language. The country's unity is marked by millions of people who identify as Indians despite the differences in culture, language and customs. The nation is an amalgamation of culture, religion, tradition, culinary diversity and a plethora of languages. India has as many as 22 official Indian languages!

The tag "Incredible India" is apt considering the wide range of people, cultures and traditions. Coupled with these is the unique topography of the country with some of the world's highest mountain peaks to the deepest parts of the ocean. From the fertile Gangetic plains to the barren Thar desert. You will find it all right here in Incredible India.

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A Brief History of Tamil Language

Tamil alphabet
The Tamil language has 216 letters in total | Image Source: Pixabay.com | Image Courtesy: Ganesan K

The Tamil language belongs to the Dravidian language family unlike Hindi, which is derived from Sanskrit or Bengali, that belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family, and native speakers are the Tamil people of South Asia. Tamil is the official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore and the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry. Other South Indian states that have Tamil speakers include,

  • Kerala
  • Karnataka
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Telangana
  • Andaman & Nicobar Islands

It is one of the 22 India official languages which also has a huge diaspore in countries like the UK, USA, Australia, Myanmar, Malaysia, South Africa, and Mauritius.

Tamil Language through the Ages

Tamil is one the 22 scheduled or official Indian languages, as classified by the Constitution. It is one of the first languages to be classified as a classical language and is also one of the longest-surviving in this category across the world. Classical Tamil literature is hailed as one of the best and greatest classical traditions in the world.

You can find the first documented traces of Tamil literature from 2000 years ago. Sangam literature, which marks the earliest period of Tamil literature is dated between 300 B.C. to 300 A.D. It has the oldest extant literature among all Dravidian languages. UNESCO has registered the two earliest manuscripts found in India in its Memory of the World Register and these were written in Tamil.

What are the Different Tamil Dialects?

Tamil language
There are more than a million Tamil speakers in India alone | Image source: Pixabay.com | Image Courtesy: Ganesan K

According to the 2011 census, there are close to 7 crore Tamil speakers in India. The Tamil dialects have undergone several phonological variations giving rise to a situation of diglossia where two different dialects are used in spoken Tamil. There are actually two separate registers in Tamil linguistics based on the socio-economic status of the people. For example, Sri Lankan people have retained many words and grammatical forms of the old Tamil dialect that are not commonly used in daily spoken Tamil in India. Much like colloquial English. The different variants of the Tamil dialects include,

  • Kongu Tamil
  • Madras Bashai
  • Nellai Tamil
  • Central Tamil
  • Jaffna Tamil
  • Negombo Tamil
  • Batticola Tamil
  • Kumari Tami
  • Sankethi Tamil

Variations Based on Other South Indian Languages

In the district of Kanyakumari, Tamil language has many unique words and styles that are otherwise not found in spoken Tamil in Tamil Nadu. Other Tamil dialects like Hebbar and Mandyam are spoken by Tamil Vaishnavites who had migrated to the state of Karnataka in the 11th century and have retained features of the Vaishnava paribasai or the traditional values of Vaisnavite religion. Still others have their own sociolects that are practiced by specific members of a caste.

Spoken Tamil

Centamji is the script used for formal writing in Tamil - in textbooks or public speaking, for example. At the same time, the kotuntamil script is also gaining popularity quite rapidly. Modern cinema, for example, uses this script and so do many politicians to appeal better to the public.

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More About Tamil Language - Grammar & Morphology

Tamil culture
The Tamil language is heavily influenced by its culture and heritage | Image Source: Pixabay.com | Image Courtesy: Kalai Selvi N

We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made - Albert Einstein

Derivational morphology or agglutinative grammar is what marks Tamil grammar. Suffixes are used in plenty to mark number, case, class of nouns and verb tenses. The distinctive feature of Tamil language grammar is the fact that its scholarly vocabulary and metalinguistic terminology is Tamil unlike Indo-Aryan languages that rest on Sanskrit.

Tolkappiyam is the oldest known Tamil grammar book. Like other Indian languages, Tamil grammar also has its unique classifications, namely:

  • eluttu
  • sol
  • porul
  • ani
  • yappu

Tamil Language Morphology

Nouns and pronouns in the Tamil language are classified into the two super classes of rational and irrational. Humans and deities make up the first class while everything else constitutes the second.

Significance of Suffixes

Suffixes in the Tamil language perform the distinct functions of postpositions or cases. They are also used to inflect verbs which have a number of suffixes to represent a person, mood, tense, number or voice.

Surprisingly, the Tamil language does not use articles. Special grammatical devices are used to denote definitive or indefinite cases.

How is Tamil different from Marathi?

How to Learn Tamil in 2021?

E-Learning
E-learning is the new way to learn new languages - Tamil, English, Hindi, or Bengali

How to learn Tamil in 2021? Is this something you are struggling with? With the pandemic hitting education the most, it is hard to imagine growth and learning. But thanks to digital education, you don't have to worry too much about learning getting stalled. You can still improve your language skills - be it English, Hindi, or Tamil. All you have to do is try one of these tried and tested tips to give yourself a chance to excel. With these useful methods, you can join a community of more than a million speakers of the language of your choice.

Join A Tamil Language Learning Community

There is no better way to learn than through peer learning. Join a group pf people who are facing similar learning challenges and want to achieve the same outcomes as you.

Travel & Learn

If you love to travel, you can easily turn your vacation and adventure into a learning experience. Tamil Nadu throws a lot of adventurous stuff at you and the state is full of tourist hotspots. This means that you can have fun while learning one of the most popular India official languages.

Leverage Technology

In the post-Covid era, nothing is sustainable without technology. There are thousands of language apps and websites that offer courses, online resources, language tutors and a lot more.

Club Learning & Leisure

Get into the habit of writing in Tamil or any new language that you are pursuing. It could be Urdu or Hindi, but writing gives you a better chance at grasping the language. Write down new words when you hear them on TV while watching a Tamil movie, for example.

What are the Other Important South Indian Languages?

South India
Kanyakumari is the southern most part of South India | Image Source: Pixabay.com | Image Courtesy: Vellupura

The southern peninsula of India is marked by the predominance of maritime climate, scenic beaches, and a bunch of Indo-Dravidian South Indian languages. South India is the picture perfect setting of the sun, sea and sand, being bordered by the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Its thick foliage of coconut and palm trees or its unexplored medicinal plants, coupled with its wilderness make South India one of the most visited tourist destinations every year.

The temples of South India boast of fabulous and intricate architecture, having stood the test of time with some of them dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The five South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka constitute of a predominantly Dravidian population. Needless to say that most South Indian languages belong to the Indo-Dravidian family which stand in stark contrast to their Northern counterparts (Hindi, English, Bengali, Urdu, etc.), most of which have been derived from the Indo-Aryan family of languages.

Five Main South Indian Languages

The five Dravidian languages that constitute the India official languages of the South include,

  1. Kannada
  2. Malayalam
  3. Tamil
  4. Tulu
  5. Telugu

The largest linguistic populations of South India constitute,

  • Tamils
  • Kodavas
  • Telugus
  • Kannadigas
  • Malayalis
  • Konkanis

According to the 2001 census, Telugu is the third most widely spoken language in India after Hindi and Bengali and Tamil is fourth.

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Pragnajyoti

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