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.
- Type of writing system: syllabic alphabet
- Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines
- When they appear the the beginning of a syllable, vowels are written
as independent letters.
- Some of the non-standard consonant-vowel combinations are not used
in official documents.
- The alphabet was originally written on palm leaves. As a result, the
letters are made up mainly of curved strokes which didn't rip the leaves.
Used to write:
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
Vowels and vowel diacritics
Non-standard consonant-vowel combinations
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.
Sample text in Tamil
Maṉitap piṛaviyiṉar čakalarum
avarkaḷ matippilum urimaikaḷilum čamamāṉavarkaḷ.
Avarkaḷ niyāyattaiyum maṉačāṭčiyaiyum
iyaṛpaṇpākap peṛṛavarkaḷ. Avarkaḷ
oruvaruṭaṉoruvar čakōtara uṇarvup pāṅkil
A recording of this text by Muralikrishnan Ramasamy
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 Tamil |
Useful phrases in Tamil |
Numbers in Tamil |
Tower of Babel in Tamil |
Tamil language learning materials
Information about the Tamil language, literature and people
Online Tamil lessons
Online Tamil dictionaries
Sinhala and Tamil word and letter puzzles
Free Tamil fonts
Online Tamil radio
Association for Tamil Computing
PDF Text - an online Unicode word processor for Tamil and English
Mongolian Horizontal Square Script,
New Tai Lue,