The earliest known inscriptions in Tamil date back to 2,200 BC. Tamil literature emerged in around 300 BC, and the language used from then until the 700 AD is known as Old Tamil. From 700-1600 AD the language is known as Middle Tamil, and since 1600 the language has been known as Modern Tamil.
Tamil was originally written with a version of the Brahmi script known as Tamil Brahmi, and by the the 5th century AD this script had become more rounded and developed into the vaṭṭeḻuttu script. The modern Tamil script (தமிழ் அரிச்சுவடி tamiḻ ariccuvaṭi), however, was created during the 7th century based on the Grantha script, as descendent of Brahmi. Over time the script has changed somewhat, and it was simplified in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The alphabet is well suited to writing literary Tamil, centamiḻ (செந்தமிழ்). However it is ill-suited to writing colloquial Tamil, koṭuntamiḻ (கொடுந்தமிழ்). 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 is also written with a version of the Arabic script known as Arwi by Tamil-speaking muslims.
Tamil (தமிழ்), a Dravidian language spoken by around 52 million people mainly in southern India and Sri Lanka, and also in 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
Sinhala and Tamil word and letter puzzles
Association for Tamil Computing
PDF Text - an online Unicode word processor for Tamil and English