Tamil (தமிழ்) refers to a language and to the Tamil people. The language is a Dravidian language, spoken mainly in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the classical languages of the world, with a rich literature spanning over 2000 years. Other major Dravidian languages include Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu.
Tamil's origins are independent of Sanskrit (which is from the Indo-European language family), but it has borrowed a number of words from Sanskrit in later centuries. Quite significantly for its age, Tamil seems to have undergone minimal changes and adaptations over the years. It is also claimed that classical Tamil is quite comprehensible to speakers of the modern language. The ancient Tamil book Tirukkural is quoted by some as an example. The verses from the book are often taught to young students of the language at the primary level, and they seem to pick up the lines in the ancient dialect with little difficulty.
Tamil has a rather small phoneme set. Like most writing systems in India, it is phonetic in nature -- characters represent sounds, and it is syllabic. Thus, the sounds of a word are grouped into syllables and each syllable is written with a corresponding compound character. Tamil has 12 vowels and 18 consonants.
Unlike English, having learned to read Tamil it is easy to pronounce correctly.
The 'l' in the word 'Tamil' is pronounced like a retroflex 'r', though it is often transliterated as "zh".
Tamil is an official language in the following countries:
- India (One of India's 18 official languages and the official language in the state of Tamil Nadu and the union territory Pondicherry)
- Sri Lanka
- Agathiyar, an extensive discussion list for Tamil Culture
- Kalaivani, a Malaysian Tamil Information Exchange
- Tamil inayam
- University of Pennsylvania's web based courses for learning and teaching Tamil
- Tamil virtual University has the largest digitalised Tamil literature and web based courses for learning and teaching Tamil
- Project Madurai is a voluntary effort to archive Tamil works and make them available to everyone on the internet.
- NLS Information - NLS Information page for Windows XP
- Unicode Chart - Unicode Chart for Tamil (in PDF)
- Add IPA symbol for Tamil l