Tamil vs The world: Demystifying The Oldest Living Language Debate

How We Got Here: Human Development in Phases

If you wish to stir up a conflict among historians, there are grey areas you can explore and use. They are contentious conversations. Believe me. You will leave them in an intense argument with each asserting his/her fact with some sort of evidence. One of such grey areas is the debate on the world oldest living language.

Before I penciled my thoughts, I discovered the vivid contrast between ancient language in use and a prehistoric language in oblivion. The two shouldn’t be intermingled while trying to defend either of the sides. Researches and archeological discoveries have proven early men lived a sufficient life. Of course, it’s based on their activities and technological innovations at that time. Fire, stone tools, weapons or its production stressed their abilities to think and innovate within their environment. Humans rose to domination and never held back.

In all of this, communication and settlements formation were possible because early men could communicate. Languages surfaced miraculously in their daily life along the line till date—some are still very much with a few written as relics scattered around the globe.

Little by little, the human race got here. It’s estimated we have over 6500 spoken languages around the globe—2000 of those languages have fewer than 1000 speakers. Some languages are winning with multiplying speakers while a few will fade with evolution in the next century. No thanks to economic dominance, human migration and the domineering influence of wealthy nation’s culture.

Language isn’t static; it’s evolving as we grow. Sadly, it isn’t a fair share.

Tamil: Demystifying the Oldest Living Language Debate

Except you love to be whitewashed, you would believe a group or an individual boldly stating the origination of a language apart from dates. Honestly, it could be traced to a group at a precise location and time but how they originated are still mysterious. Languages have long existed before the advent of writing whether on walls in Egyptian Pyramids or the emergence of Chinese dynasties.

I think we’ve wandered enough in the previous paragraph, let’s dive into the topic.

Understanding Tamil’s Predominance  

Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken mainly by Tamil people with over 200 million speakers spread in three sovereign states. Namely: India (Majority), Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Singapore.  It’s declared a Dravidian language because it’s traced to central, southern and eastern India regions.

Most of the speakers are Tamils, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam natives. According to archeological discoveries, the earliest period of Tamil language is dated from 300BC-AD 300. The Sangam literature in Tamil is the oldest extant literature among Dravidian languages.  Earliest epigraphic records found on rocks and hero stones date from the 3rd century BC. Stupefying!

Surprisingly, more than 55% of the epigraphical inscriptions (out of 55,000+) by archeologists were in Tamil.  Also, recorded literature has been documented for over 2000years. The evidence list is intimidating. No doubt, Tamil is older than the Pope and the saints.

Impressively, Tamil has been able to link its classical past with continuous human development till date. It’s one of the longest of the few surviving classical languages still in existence.

The Debate

In all fairness, Tamil isn’t the only classical language still much alive; however, others are not spoken freely but majorly for learning. Literally, it’s safe to say those languages are battling extinction.

Having millions of increasing speakers spread across five countries and 35 territories isn’t enough fact to a few that Tamil is the oldest language around. It’s easy for co-debaters to mention Latin and Lithuanian as spoken languages still very much in existence other climes.

Their point of view is understandable—in as much those languages still have speakers, and in texts, they are alive. Unfortunately, the difference is wide apart. People are relearning other classical languages presently, and they don’t appear in formal or informal writings on screens and papers.

Based on realities, I will demystify the oldest living language with the factors buttressed below.

#1. Oldest Classical Language on People’s Lips:

Other classical languages have witnessed continuous drastic decline in numbers of speakers and acceptability in the world. Fortunately for Tamil, its presence is growing with appearances in social media, print media, internet, movies, and historical documents. Intuitively, Tamil is evolving with time and human evolution; irrespective of technological dictates, it’s been around since 300BC.

#2. Tamil Language is seen as a Culture Beyond Language:

None of the classical languages around today are not at the same pace with which their speakers wished to sustain them. The story took a differing turn when the languages were separated from their cultures. The creators did not expect this to happen when they created it. It’s seen as a communication means, hence, the language were used, but the cultural characteristic was neglected or perhaps lost with sweeping globalization effects.

Till date, Tamil music, pieces of literature, poetry, and architecture are still in existence on the streets across four countries and not it ancient books or walls. Its literature (Sangam) is still read in private and public by people.

The language survived the transformation of human phases due to its intertwined culture with all stages of its people.

#3. Location:

If Tamil language had originated in the west, there are chances it could have been suppressed among its contemporaries. The external influence from diverging believes, and faiths could have made Tamil end up as Latin presently taught as a subject.

Its origination in eastern and southern India spread across related neighboring territories was strategic to its survival. The language grew with interrelated religions and civilizations where foreign incursion had minimal or no effect in its development.

#4. Tamil’s vs The World  

You can say the surging population of its speakers again is a contributing factor, but that’s not all. If the language isn’t all-encompassing culture, religion, poetry, and music, it would be long gone like the ancient Egyptian language conquered by Arabic writings.

Before We Go

Currently, Tamil is the 18th most commonly spoken language in the world with increasing enthusiasts. It’s incredible for a language in existence since 3rd Century.

Tamil language is beyond written alphabets but a culture in evolution with time. The world is at its feet.

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