Evolution of the Tamizh language

 Shivs photography - Tamil Script in Brahadeeshwarar temple.

Shivs photography – Tamil Script in Brahadeeshwarar temple.

Inspired by a line from a worried student’s recent post, I decided to write a blog post on ‘the origin of the language’, but later changed my mind… I finally decided to write about the Tamizh language instead, since this would be a rarely discussed topic.

Anglicization of the word ‘Tamizh’ has resulted in ‘Tamil’, because the letter ‘’ (‘zha’ is not even the correct spelling. It simply has no equivalent in any language that I know of…) is difficult for the non-Tamizhs to pronounce. Nowadays, it seems like the Tamilians themselves are not being able to pronounce it properly – my mother is a very good example. She pronounces it as ‘ya’ instead, just like a few people do. There’s no blaming her, anyway. She was raised in a completely different city, far away from where her parents’ hometown was. She never studied Tamil, even in her school. She took up Hindi and Telugu instead.

Alright… I seem to be going out of track.

It seems that Tamizh has evolved through three major stages: Old Tamizh (Tamizh Brahmi), Middle Tamizh, and the modern-day Tamizh.

Inscriptions of Old Tamizh in caves and pottery date back to the 3rd century BC. It was the only non-Sanskritized language back then… Pure, and full of itself, very much unlike the present-day form. It is said to have been evolved from the proto-Dravidian language that had been spoken millennia ago. This language must have been the origin of Tamizh. Tholkaapiyam seems to be the oldest work in Tamizh Literature, and its oldest parts were written in about 1st century AD.

Then came the Middle Tamizh (called Sen-Tamizh in Tamizh, meaning ‘superb or best’ Tamizh… pardon my translation, it’s very rough…) at around 8th century AD. Middle Tamizh underwent major transitions and was Sanskritized, hence the similarity with other languages in modern India. The Pallavas seem to be the reason for this transformation in the language. Most temples that have survived the millennium have inscriptions on them, and they must’ve been written in Middle Tamizh. I have tried to comprehend the letters and try to form words, but failed to do so. Many such inscriptions can be found in the Brahadeeshwarar temple, also called as the big temple, which had been constructed at around 1010 AD by the most revered king, Rajaraja Cholan, for constructing this fantabulous temple.

It seemed odd… I could almost figure out a few successive letters in the temple, but never understood their meaning when they were put in succession. I mean, there seemed to be no continuation, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why the few letters that looked a bit like the modern ones would carry a different pronunciation. Maybe they did not, after all. I’m not a language analyst or whatever. Anyway, experts might be able to translate it out and find sense in it, so it doesn’t matter if I can’t understand those alien-ish yet familiar script. I’d like to learn to decode translate it, though.

Most temples that stand strong until now had been constructed when Middle Tamil prevailed. In Sen-Tamizh, the use of the letter ∴ had ceased, Wikipedia tells me. It’s funny, because even in modern Tamizh, when we learn the letters, this symbol is still found, but no one ever uses it… in Tamizh. That letter has recently found a use, and by putting it beside the letter ‘pa’ will make it ‘fa’. And this is needed because English has the letter ‘F’, and if an English word has to be written down in Tamizh. Because of the extended use of English in Tamizh Nadu, this letter is gaining popularity again because most of the shops put up even English words in Tamizh letters on their boards.

The modern Tamizh had evolved around the 17th century, and must be very much different from the proto-Dravidian language that it had originally evolved from. It has adapted itself to the English-type punctuations, which was not allowed in Old and Sen-Tamizh. And today, people in different districts of the state speak different dialects (that too, colloquially), mingled with English. And I’d probably be the worst of all, speaking a mixed language of colloquial Tamizh, English, Telugu, Hindi, Korean and a little bit of whatever language I learn whenever and ultimately calling it… ‘Tamizh’.

I actually make new words combining two languages. No one else except my mother can understand that. (Or maybe they could, if they knew both the languages that I use to create my new word)…

Alright, back to relevancy.

So… Modern Tamizh, I’d bet, is nowhere near the beautiful, independent language that it used to be. Though the language has undergone a lot of change, I doubt the script and the letter-structure had been completely modified. It seems that the Old Tamizh still has an influence on the modern-day Tamizh, because Tamizh script is different from the other languages. Hindi, Telugu and the others seem to have the same kind of letters, but Tamil has very few. It’s very unique. And I know this because I have learnt all three specified.

And Malayalam must have originated from/split from Tamizh, too, because it has a similar letters. And we must be thankful to the Pandiya and Chozha (Chola) dynasties for preserving and enriching the Tamizh culture and literature, and the Chera kings for doing the same to Malayalam.

But with the modern-day English craze, the ancient language of the Tamils that is sometimes even compared with Sanskrit will soon evolve into something else, and might also bring a few English and other words into its vocabulary.

Source: Wikipedia.

Living without whatsapp



Humans have taken thousands of years to evolve from being a filthy-looking cave-man to a fine-looking man with tie and suit. Today’s generation relies highly on technology to do stuff – to shop, we need eBay. To learn something, we need an online tutorial. To learn more about topics, we need webinars. To showcase our talent, we need a blog.
To play chess, we need an online partner… for communication, we need facebook… and twitter… and whatsapp… and viber… and kik… and the list goes on, doesn’t it?

I have lived twenty whole years in this earth without whatsapp, and I had lived fine. But last year, after I got introduced to the ingenious app, it seemed like it was an easy way to communicate with friends. I loved it.

Sometime later, ‘love’ changed to ‘need’. Somewhere before this transformation happened, people around me had switched to whatsapp from the conventional ‘sms’. I stopped sending and receiving smses. Whatsapp was the new ‘sms’. And so, before I knew it, everyone had an android phone just like I did.

And then, one very fine day, the very day after my birthday, my friends had decided to go on a picnic, because we were going to part soon. This was like a farewell picnic… if one even exists. We knew we’d never go out together again, so I went along… to a beach… with my cellphone…
And you guessed it.

Still, I never gave up on it. I had been visiting the cellphone service center regularly, because after ten days of getting my mobile from them, I had to give it back to them. Basically, my phone was living half of its time with me, and half (or even more) of the time with the service center’s people. They would take pleasure in making me wait, and though I missed my phone and knew it missed me too, I would let go and walk away.

But last month, I decided that enough was enough. I had struggled a lot, trying to make it live not-so-peacefully. If that’s what gives you peace, I thought, die, Micromax dearest. And then I put it into its coffin and borrowed my mother’s old Nokia.

And I’m currently using it.

It’s fairly basic. I can make a call (if I have balance, that is, which I never do) and receive calls (this is the only thing I do), send and receive messages (thank god it has this facility, but I don’t have a message pack anyway, so there’s no use).

But the only drawback I find in it is that… it doesn’t support whatsapp. Of course it doesn’t. What kind of basic phone does that? Maybe that tiny soapbox-like Nokia Asha touchscreen thing would, but this one wasn’t that. I had to give up whatsapp.

And ever since I’d given up using whatsapp, I have lost track of things. My friends used to inform me about anything and everything in the common groups, and now, I don’t get any updates, thanks to my peacefully sleeping Micromax. I don’t know what others are thinking, I don’t know when our Yuva team is visiting places or when they announce about fundraisings and such things, I don’t know when I get an important email I have to look out for and if someone informs that via whatsapp, I don’t get those pics that we had taken the day before while we had gone out, I don’t get anything! Not that I got all these when I had it, anyway. I didn’t use it couldn’t use it because the signal always seemed weak in my mobile.

I have just realized that whatsapp has become the place for sharing important information… thanks to the ‘groups’ in whatsapp. Though I didn’t even use whatsapp when I had it, its loss is showing me who’s boss. I thought of installing it on my PC, but bluestacks isn’t co-operating. And at last, I’m left with one opinion that I constantly have – take it easy.

I’ve taken it easy, and am living a whatsapp-free life, and it seems that it’s great to live that way. After all, what are friends for? They might as well call me and tell me if it’s that important. And this way, I have begun making calls, which I rarely do, provided I have whatsapp or a message pack.

Living without a cellphone is fairly easy if you wish so. Even when I had one, because of the poor connectivity, I barely used it. I barely got any calls at one point of time. But now, I feel that this is better… I don’t need a cellphone. I’ve never needed one.

It’s all in the thinking.