Tamil vs. Sanskrit, or Indian ‘official classical languages’, and the first tongue in India (AKA. Indus Valley Civilization language)

I have read and heard many stupidities regarding linguistic status and language differences:

– Brazilian is a different language (i.e. not Portuguese), because Galician is a language also (yes, Galician is interestingly enough a ‘language’ which stops in the administrative division between Spain and Portugal – more or less like Valencian and Catalan).
– French is a beautiful language, and because of that many African countries learn it (yes, South-American Indians also wanted to learn Spanish because it was so cool).
– English comes from Latin, as French, Spanish or Portuguese (no comments)…
– Language x (say, Esperanto, Spanish or Polish) is great because it is read exactly as it is written! (yeah, let’s give a value to each letter or pair of letters, or invent new characters, and then invent something great to praise the own language!)
– Proto-Indo-European cannot be reconstructed, because it wasn’t written down, therefore it is, unlike Latin or English, not real (yes; we’ll wait till somebody invents a MET powerful enough to watch chemical bonds, instead of studying all those stupid unproven hypothesis…)
– Basques, Finns and Hungarians will hate speaking Indo-European in the EU (yes, they love to speak English; but a common Indo-European language? that’s colonization and racism!)
– and so on.

Now, only from time to time, there is a question so obviously misinterpreted that nobody seems ‘neutral enough’ to comment on it. Today is the time of the “Tamil question” – I like Indo-European languages, and I’m thus not ‘neutral enough’ for Tamil lovers, but I think it is not important, since everyone has an opinion and mine won’t change anything.

The whole question is summed up here (Wikipedia discussion), where some Tamil speakers are short from calling Tamil the Indus Valley Civilization language. It is not surprising, since N. Kazanas and others pretend that Sanskrit fits that role, being itself almost Proto-Indo-European, and this in turn spoken of course in the Indus Valley some thousands of years before any study can possibly lead us to (Out of India Theory).

Now, Indo-European studies are full of hypothesis, as comparative grammar. In the 20th century, physics and chemistry were disciplines where different hypothesis (their supporters) fought against each other, and nationals got involved defending their scientists. This had a good consequence, namely that normal people were involved in scientific evolution, and that scientists were like today’s football (or soccer) players – well, maybe not so important, but almost so renowned.

Nowadays, due to the neo-romanticism brought back by neo-nationalisms (in which race and genetics is not spoken about so loud, and thus only language remains as a differentiation factor), linguistics is a discipline spoken about by anyone, and linguists are cheered up by politicians and stupid followers alike. If I talk in the BBC about a research paper (whatever its value) on Tamil dating back to 9.000 BCE, I will be the hero of lots of Tamil speakers, whereas if I talk about Sanskrit being the oldest language on earth, Indo-Aryan speakers will lift me up to the category of ‘experts in linguistics worth mentioning in popular sites like Wikipedia or Yahoo! Answers’…

The question here is easy, and is not worth more than a paragraph to solve: roughly, Tamil corresponds to Hindi, Old Tamil to Old Hindi, Proto-Tamil (or Proto-Southern Dravidian) to Late Sanskrit, Proto-Dravidian to Sanskrit, pre-Proto-Dravidian to Vedic Sanskrit, pre-pre-Proto-Dravidian to Proto-Indo-Iranian, pre-pre-pre-Proto-Dravidian to Proto-Indo-European, and so on. The conclusion is simple: language history, reconstructed language, literature’s history, etc. all speak in favour of Sanskrit as the oldest attested language in India, and therefore India’s only classical language – just like Latin and Greek in Europe. The fact that the European Union recognizes in the near future, say, Balto-Slavic or Germanic as “classical languages of Europe” won’t change that fact either.

I could get deeper, but I wrote already about a similar question, “Basque:the oldest language“.

[tags]Tamil,Sanskrit,classical language,language,classic,classical,linguistics,comparative grammar,history,Indus Valley Civilization,Indus Valley,Indo-European,language,linguistics,hypothesis,Uralic,Nostratic,Anatolian,Greek, Indo-Aryan,Germanic,Italic,Celtic,Baltic,Slavic,dialect,Europe,writing system,grammar[/tags]

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Anonymous
Anonymous

Tamil is very structured and has well defined grammar dating older than sanskrit. As a language tamil is influenced by sanskrit in the words that are used. But sanskrit is influenced by tamil in the way the language is structured. So I would say that tamil has more proof that its older than sanskrit and the deserves the title of classical language

Anonymous
Anonymous
HPyroli
HPyroli

The question here is easy, and is not worth more than a paragraph to solve: roughly, Tamil corresponds to Hindi, Old Tamil to Old Hindi, Proto-Tamil (or Proto-Southern Dravidian) to Late Sanskrit, Proto-Dravidian to Sanskrit, pre-Proto-Dravidian to Vedic Sanskrit, pre-pre-Proto-Dravidian to Proto-Indo-Iranian, pre-pre-pre-Proto-Dravidian to Proto-Indo-European, and so on. The conclusion is simple: language history, reconstructed language, literature’s history, etc. all speak in favour of Sanskrit as the oldest attested language in India, and therefore India’s only classical language – just like Latin and Greek in Europe. The fact that the European Union recognizes in the near future, say, Balto-Slavic or… Read more »

zorba
zorba

King solomon in his PROVERBS says, ” A LIVE DOG IS BETTER THAN A DEAD LION”. No doubt when Sanskrit was alive the controversy would have been real, but now that only Tamil lives and Sanskrit is a DEAD ( not extinct) Language, the issue is IMMATERIAL. The issue we should ponder is when did the language die and how to resuscitate it!!! VUYIRUDAN VAAZHGA THAMIZH.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I would like to point something here:

The ancient southeast asian countries were hindu by religion & southindian in character yet they used the language Sanskrit,not any southindian present day language.

Isn’t this something ? Also, great southindian saints of the last 1500 years like Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya & Madhvacharya used sanskrit for discourse. Why so ?

Just a few points to ponder.

Selvi
Selvi

Hi all, It is good that you are all talking about Indian languages. But there are a few views I would like to share. Tamil is a classical language. It was not just a political aspect that gave it that status. It was declared classical by the world countries long before it was accepted in India. http://tamil.berkeley.edu/Tamil%20Chair/TamilClassicalLanguage/TamilClassicalLgeLtr.html Tamil is older than Sanskrit: Atleast according to the written text proofs, Tamil has proof of two centuries older than Sanskrit. If we have to run on the fancy, even then Tamil also has citations of previous existence. # Classical Sanskrit (defined by… Read more »

Leon
Leon

Although i am a North Indian. based from the sites that i have read,i think that Tamil is the oldest language. Shame to my north Indian people for lying all these years saying that Sanskrit was the oldest. I love T.A.M.I.L.

pearl
pearl

All over the world, people used some language to communicate( even without script ). But the classical status to the language depends on lot of factors.thirukural by saint thiruvalluvar is 2040 is older as per the research.Entire thirukural written by perfect grammer.Before that lot of literature exists in tamil.

Panaiyadi Chozhan
Panaiyadi Chozhan

Hi ALL: This discussion is interesting. From what I see, Indo-European seems to have done some research in this area, and thus speaks with confidence. If anyone wants to challenge Indo-European, he/she must either already be a researcher in this field or must start doing some non trivial work (such as publishing papers/books in this area) and then say whatever he/she wants. Sanskrit is “dead” now, if it is of any consolation to Tamil enthusiasts. 🙂 If you can now start adding, whatever you can, to the “history, prestige, literature, etc.” of Tamil, then maybe, after a few more thousand… Read more »

Panaiyadi Chozhan
Panaiyadi Chozhan

Karthik:
I went thru your article at:
http://chennairhythms.blogspot.com/2009/12/hindi-vs-tamil.html.

Interesting.
But, somewhat unrelated to the topic discussed here.

– Panaiyadi Chozhan.

Amar
Amar

Sanskrit is older

Govind
Govind

Sanskrit = Setha Pinam. (Dead body)

Vasant Davé

To me, Indus Valley language and script appear like an elephant that is being perceived by six blind men. Perhaps there is a bit of truth in various theories, which need to be corelated to get the complete picture.

vijay
vijay

I think Tamil is the oldest, as i see there are many prof, where as who ever say sanskrit dosn’t have any prof, they just force people to belive them. One of my friend told me that Sanskrit is God’s Language and spoken by God. and the reason he gave me is just because there is no in the world is talking it now. i think many think like that, but since the rulers in india are mainly from north they force sanskrit is better and in fact they don’t even want to analysie other languages. all i got to… Read more »

Rohan.s
Rohan.s

I respect both the language equal. But we have to protect tamil since one of the oldest language is dead already.Though many people say there is no longer history for tamil ,6o percent of archeology found in tamil(magic).So we should learn to respect Tamil as it is an oldest language present in this modern world.God’s sanskirit & great Tamil.

Govind
Govind

Gods in Tamil Nadu speaks Tamil. He doesnt know your longuage.

vignesh
vignesh

Hi to everyone…..I saw every ones discussion..I say tamil is the oldest bcoz the world’s ancient human’s DNA’s is found in India only in TamilNadu’s villages and he who carries that DNA is only a tamilian.So Tamil is the oldest language and me too say “Kal thontra maan thontra kalathie muun thontrea muutha kudi engal tamil kudi”

ekdesiladki
ekdesiladki

It’s impossible a language like sanskrit used by “elites” could lose all their native speakers. Sankrit was probably mother tongue to NO BODY. Just like languages like Java, c++, etc can’t be mother tongue to anyone but created with some purpose.

Sanskrit is just a language developed by “elite” dravidians/ancient Indians to utter prayers and preserve culture. Since, Tamil has influeced sanskrit’s syntax, speakers/creators of both the languages should be same.

keerthi
keerthi

I am very proud to be in Tamil Nadu. Tamil is the most oldest launguage in the world as like latin, herbew, sanskrit etc,. this is being approved by US…. Tamil vazhga

Vijay
Vijay

Some proofs would have been appreciated here, but none the less a very interesting topic and nice views/theories.

But still I think the question “which language is older, Sanskrit or Tamil” remains unanswered and I think will remain unanswered as there are no pakka proofs…

Arunan
Arunan

In India everything will become Sanskrit, Every word will be there in Sanskrit, There are hundreds of Sanskrit words for a single object, and people calling that as a single language itself is a joke. All Indian dead languages were conveniently called with a name Sanskrit. As a language it was never spoken by the commoners, Twisted sounds of then spoken languages were used as Mantras to cheat people by some elites. Now you should start studying Sanskrit properly i am sure you would end up in Mental hospital within a year. Regarding Tamil its also not so pure, As… Read more »

rajasekar
rajasekar

dont hate other languages. we dont know the clear history of both tamil and sanskrit. first you try to develope your mother tongue and do something better for your mother tongue .

Sam Joshua
Sam Joshua

Sir, Please note Tamil had reached the classical status long back. Because of Aryan majority, Sanskrit had to be given Classical status, by reducing age (years) because of which few other languages also had to be accommodated because of equality to Sanskrit. Tamil is already occupied a seat in World’s classical status, and every Indians should be proud of it.

Anonymous
Anonymous

The grammatical structure of sanskrit is derived from tamil. Moreover the comparison “Tamil corresponds to Hindi, Old Tamil to Old Hindi, Proto-Tamil (or Proto-Southern Dravidian) to Late Sanskrit, Proto-Dravidian to Sanskrit, pre-Proto-Dravidian to Vedic Sanskrit, pre-pre-Proto-Dravidian to Proto-Indo-Iranian, pre-pre-pre-Proto-Dravidian to Proto-Indo-European, and so on” is not right. Tamil does not correspond to hindi which was formed centuries later. The indus valley civilisation was the oldest civilisation which has to have the oldest language. Research show that the inscriptions found from the excavations show that they have similarity with the Dravidian languages which dates back to 2600B.c. The only dravidian language… Read more »

sspn
sspn

Undoubtedly Tamil is the oldest language. Due to Aryan’s dominance, Tamil was sidelined those days. Further Tamil was dominated by Jainas who aere speaking sanskirit which was flourishing till Chola’s period.There is Tamil Brahmi available but no sanskirit. Sanskirit has to use the Deve nahari- language of nahars for its writings. Sanskirit was a spoken language but Tamil is a well structured language.

Indian
Indian

“n India everything will become Sanskrit, Every word will be there in Sanskrit, There are hundreds of Sanskrit words for a single object, and people calling that as a single language itself is a joke. All Indian dead languages were conveniently called with a name Sanskrit. As a language it was never spoken by the commoners, Twisted sounds of then spoken languages were used as Mantras to cheat people by some elites. Now you should start studying Sanskrit properly i am sure you would end up in Mental hospital within a year.” Not all. Some people write articles, even with… Read more »

rasi
rasi

tamil is oldest language sumerian is a tamil people same language same culture go to google type tamil sumerian u get the full detales. tamil sangam 1st 9999 bc 2nd 4500bc 3rd 2bc-2ad

rasi
rasi

tamil is best language in the world you learn tamil get gud brine

Vigneshwaran M
Vigneshwaran M

‘Modern Tamil = Modern Hindi; Old -Tamil = Old Hindi ….” is extremely flawed. Old Hindi is the same as ‘Medieval Tamil’ because even Vir Gatha stories of very old stage of Hindi were around ’11-12th centuries during which Time old Tamil had evolved into Middle Tamil. So ‘Old Hindi = Medieval Tamil, Old-Tamil = Old-Prakrits and Classical Sanskrit, Proto Tamil = Vedic Sanskrit” and so on. Also this rough chronology does not in any way imply Sanskrit is the only classical language. Scholars of Classical Pali and Prakrits and Sangam Tamil would laugh at this kind of gross simplification… Read more »

Murukaṉ Cevvēḷ
Murukaṉ Cevvēḷ

//The question here is easy, and is not worth more than a paragraph to solve: roughly, Tamil corresponds to Hindi, Old Tamil to Old Hindi, Proto-Tamil (or Proto-Southern Dravidian) to Late Sanskrit, Proto-Dravidian to Sanskrit, pre-Proto-Dravidian to Vedic Sanskrit, pre-pre-Proto-Dravidian to Proto-Indo-Iranian, pre-pre-pre-Proto-Dravidian to Proto-Indo-European, and so on. The conclusion is simple: language history, reconstructed language, literature’s history, etc. all speak in favour of Sanskrit as the oldest attested language in India, and therefore India’s only classical language – just like Latin and Greek in Europe.// wait wait wait… Your assertion that Sanskrit as the only classical language of India… Read more »