... A tentative web page [Clickez ici
pour une version française] [last update: 2010-march-1st]
Classical Tamil is, in the company of Sanskrit, the second classical language of India.
It can pride itself with a literary and grammatical tradition
that may have lasted for 18 centuries. The oldest extant work
is the Tolkappiyam that was probably composed
(wholly or in part)
around the beginning of the christian era
(the exact date is not known), but an important grammatical commentary,
the Nannul Viruttiyurai, could still be composed
in the 18th century, apparently free from European influence,
although the first European Tamil grammar
had been composed in Portuguese by Henrique HENRIQUES
(also spelled as ANRIQUEZ) around the middle of the 16th century.
The research program that is conducted by Jean-Luc CHEVILLARD
inside UMR7597 of CNRS and with the collaboration
of colleagues from EFEO and IFP has a twofold perspective:
- it aims at constituting a Tamil Grammatical Encyclopedia
that would be a reference tool for Tamil specialists.
- it also concerns itself with explaining
the essentials of the Tamil grammatical tradition
A few links
- Tamil, which belongs to the dravidian family of languages,
is to-day spoken by 60 millions people in Tamilnadu,
one of the states of India (see
- It is also used indigenously in the Northern
and Eastern Part of Sri Lanka (It is one of the official languages)
as well as by a large number of colonial era immigrants
in Malaysia, Singapore
(where it is one of the official languages)
and South Africa.
- Tamil has had writing systems for more than 20 centuries
but the use of the printing press became current only in the 19th
century. For the earlier periods, we have to rely
on the epigraphical remains that are found all over Tamilnadu,
for instance on the walls of temples (see example),
as well as at other places (Sri Lanka, ...).
- As far as classical texts are concerned,
they were preserved on palmleaf manuscripts (see example)
that unfortunately do not have a long life-span (because of insects
and of the climate) and therefore had to be copied again and again.
- Picture of one page
from a damaged Tamil grammatical MS (Copyright EFEO):
- Picture of an inscription on the wall of a temple:
- The syllabic Tamil writing system
as seen in the palm-leaf MS shown above
- Meeting with T.V. Gopal Iyer, a great Tamil scholar, in Pondicherry (India)
- A link towards Project Madurai,
a collection of digitized Classical Tamil texts.
- A link towards my family home page.
- Sample 1: Tevaram 1_1
- Sample 2: Tevaram 4_1
- Sample 3: Tevaram 7_1