ISO 639-1 ta | ISO 639-2 tam | ISO 639-3 tam | ISO 639-3 oty | ISO 639-3 ptq

Introduction

Tamil is one of the longest surviving classical languages in the world. It has been described as the only language of contemporary India, which is recognizably continuous with a classical past. Tamil literature has existed for over 2,000 years, which is the oldest extant literature amongst all Dravidian languages.

Status

Included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution, official language of the state of Tamil Nadu and union territory of Puducherry. Official secondary language in union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. One of the Classical Languages of India.

The two earliest manuscripts from India to be acknowledged and registered by UNESCO Memory of the World register in 1997 and 2005 are in Tamil.

Script

Tamil script

Distribution

70 million Tamil is spoken predominantly by Tamil people and has about 60 million native speakers in India, mostly in the south of the country. It is also an official language in Sri Lanka and Singapore and has significant numbers of speakers in Malaysia, Mauritius, Fiji, and South Africa. Population of speakers in all countries is estimated at nearly 70 million.

Dialects

There are two separate registers varying by social status, a high register, and a low one. It is classified as being part of a Tamil language family, which alongside Tamil proper, also includes the languages of about 35 ethno-linguistic groups. Dialects used in India and Sri Lanka vary slightly.

Distribution in India


Hover or click on the buttons to see distribution of speakers.
Above 5,000
Between 1,000 – 5,000
Between 100 – 1,000
Between 10 – 100
The figures are in ten thousand speaker increments.

Main sources:

Data on Language from 2001 Indian Census
Eighth Schedule to the Indian Constitution
Ethnologue

The information is part of Andovar’s Languages of India white paper. Click here to download your FREE copy.

All information provided on this page is accurate at the time of writing as far as Andovar can ascertain. If you find any error or have comments you would like to share, please get in touch with us.