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Why the name "Tamil"?

Phonetically, the name 'Tamil' is a little differently pronounced anglicized version of the three-letter native name of the Dravidian language spoken mainly by people of Tamilnadu, a state in the Indian subcontinent. According to the steemit.com, it belongs to the southern branch of the Dravidian languages. It is the official and administrative language of the State of Tamilnadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry. It is one of the twenty-two scheduled languages of India.

The origin of Tamil language

Until now, the origin of Tamil language remains mysterious. However, it is indicated by the Indianmirror that a few scholars have linked the origins of Tamil to that of Sanskrit. However, unlike most of the other established literary languages of India, the origins of Tamil are independent of Sanskrit. Tamil has the longest unbroken literary tradition amongst the four major Dravidian languages (Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam). The earliest known Tamil inscriptions date back to at least 500 BC. The oldest literary text in Tamil, Tolkappiyam, was composed around 200 BC. The Tamil alphabet is thought to have evolved from the Brahmi script, though some scholars believe that its origins go back to the Indus script.

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Photo: Holidify.

Old Tamil (300 BCE-700 CE)

Short inscriptions supposedly relating to 2nd Century onwards, written in a variant of the Brahmi script called Tamil Brahmi, found in caves are the earliest records that stand in support of Old Tamil. The consonants, the syllable structure, and various grammatical forms are some of the many features of the Proto-Dravidian that the Old Tamil preserved. Just as in Proto-Dravidian, Old Tamil only had only two tenses, the past and the "non-past". Old Tamil verbs also had a distinct negative conjugation. Nouns could take pronominal suffixes like verbs to express ideas.

Middle Tamil (700-1200)

The evolution of Old Tamil into Middle Tamil by the 8th century was characterized by a number of phonological and grammatical changes. The most important aspect was the emergence of the present tense. Middle Tamil also saw a significant increase in the Sanskritization of Tamil. From the period of the Pallava dynasty onwards, a number of words borrowed from Sanskrit found a place in Tamil. Likewise, Sanskrit had also influenced Tamil grammar. The Tamil script too changed during the period of Middle Tamil. Tamil Brahmi and Vatteluttu, into which it evolved, were the main scripts used in Old Tamil inscriptions. From the 8th century onwards, however, a new script derived from the Pallava Grantha script which was used to write Sanskrit came to be used in place of Vatteluttu.

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Photo: Pinterest.

Modern Tamil (1600-present)

The Nannul remains the standard normative grammar for modern literary Tamil, which therefore continues to be based on Middle Tamil of the 13th century rather than on Modern Tamil. Colloquial spoken Tamil, in contrast, shows a number of changes. The negative conjugation of verbs, for example, has fallen out of use in Modern Tamil– negation is, instead, expressed either morphologically[clarification needed] or syntactically. Modern spoken Tamil also shows a number of sound changes, in particular, a tendency to lower high vowels in initial and medial positions, and the disappearance of vowels between plosives and between a plosive and rhotic

The contact of Tamil language with European languages

Contact with European languages also affected both written and spoken Tamil. Changes in written Tamil include the use of European-style punctuation and the use of consonant clusters that were not permitted in Middle Tamil. The syntax of written Tamil has also changed, with the introduction of new aspectual auxiliaries and more complex sentence structures, and with the emergence of a more rigid word order that resembles the syntactic argument structure of English.

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