"The Tamil language has one of the oldest written traditions in all of Asia and boasts a rich body of literary work dating back 2,000 years."
Tamil language, member of the Dravidian language family, spoken primarily in India. In 2004 Tamil was declared a classical language of India, meaning that it met three criteria: its origins are ancient; it has an independent tradition; and it possesses a considerable body of ancient literature. In the early 21st century more than 66 million people were Tamil speakers.
The earliest Tamil writing is attested in inscriptions and potsherds from the 5th century BCE. Three periods have been distinguished through analyses of grammatical and lexical changes: Old Tamil (from about 450 BCE to 700 CE), Middle Tamil (700–1600), and Modern Tamil (from 1600). The Tamil writing system evolved from the Brahmi script. The shape of the letters changed enormously over time, eventually stabilizing when printing was introduced in the 16th century CE. The major addition to the alphabet was the incorporation of Grantha letters to write unassimilated Sanskrit words, although a few letters with irregular shapes were standardized during the modern period. A script known as Vatteluttu (“Round Script”) is also in common use.
The vatteluttu letters were also added to it for sounds which are not available in Sanskrit. By the 8th century, the new script replaced vatteluttu in the Chola and Pallava kingdoms. Vatteluttu sustained to be utilized in the Chera and Pandyan kingdoms until the Pandyan kingdom was occupied by the Cholas in the 11th century. Over the course of time, the Chola-Pallava script advanced into the modern Tamil script. As palm leaves were used as the prime medium for writing, therefore several changes were made in the script accordingly.
The following is the basic Tamil script.
Tamil Characters: The Tamil alphabet (vowels) has 12 and the consonants have 18 and these combines to form (12x18) 216 compound characters. And have one special character that is ayudha eluthu, giving the total of 247 Tamil characters.
Tholkapyam consonants ↓
Grantha consonants ↓
The forms of few letters were streamlined in the 19th century to make the script easier to typescript. Further, in the 20th century, the Tamil script was simplified in a series of reforms. The vowel markers were regularized, which were used with consonants by removing special markers and most unbalanced forms. In modern period Tamil scripts doesn’t change but the way of speaking the Tamil language is changed. Tamil language is split into the Tamil dialects.
The Tamil dialects are:
1) Madurai Tamil
2) Coimbatore or Kongu Tamil
3) Jaffna or Yazhpanam Tamil
4) Thanjavur, Tiruchirappalli Tamil
5) Tirunelveli or Nellai Tamil
6) Kanyakumari Tamil