Did Tamil come from Sanskrit?

written on January 18, 2009 in Informative and My Articles and To Think with 58 comments

[symple_box color=”red” text_align=”left” width=”100%” float=”none”]Enough is enough. Each day I have received numerous hate mail and comments for this single post. I am really tired of being accused of spreading hate, being called in names, have my entire clan being called as cheaters and my parents being called in words I can’t type here. All this by people who don’t even know me. I am tired of explaining myself.

I am NOT saying that everything here is a fact. If you have a contradicting opinion, without science to back it up. It is just that, an opinion. That does not make it a fact.

If you have scientific facts contrary to my presentation below, please share it with me, [symple_highlight color=”yellow”]I AM READY TO CHANGE MY OPINION[/symple_highlight]. Else please do not accuse me of spreading hate. I am not asking you to hate anyone nor do I hate you for having a different opinion. But if you hate me for my opinions, I am sorry for you. That is all I can say.

I understand that language is a very touchy subject in India. So if you don’t like challenging the status quo, please close this window, there are plenty of other places you might want to visit in the internet..

If after all this, if you still want to troll. Go ahead. All I have for you is Love, that is all.

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First of all I decided to write this article because of my friend who argued with me that Tamil came from Sanskrit. She stated that the meaning of Sanskrit means “mother of all languages” (which is of course not correct, The Sanskrit verbal adjective saṃskṛta- may be translated as “put together, well or completely formed, refined, highly elaborated”). I decided to do some research. I did some goggling and what I found is presented in this article. The main aim of the article is not to prove that any language is inferior to another. That would be a stupid and immature act. The aim is to establish that Tamil and Sanskrit are independent and equally rich language which co-existed in India thousands of years ago.

The six most ancient languages in the world are Sanskrit, Tamil, Hebrew, Arabic, Greek and Latin. All these six are classical languages as well. Of these six classical languages Tamil and Sanskrit are the two classical languages, which flourished in India since very ancient times. Out of these six languages Tamil is the only language which EXISTS IN PRACTICE OF COMMON MAN TODAY without support from religious authorities. (Sanskrit by Hinduism, Hebrew by Judaism, Arabic by Islam and Latin by Catholic Church  – Please note that I am not saying that there are no religious works in Tamil, but no religion demands Tamil to be its official language and yet it has survived, sorry not simply survived, it thrived. )

Following are my reasons why Tamil didn’t not came from Sanskrit:

  • Sanskrit lacks some sounds that are available in Tamil. Tamil has short e and o, zh, R, n, and many permutations of stops — e.g. k in akam (அகம்) — which are not found in Sanskrit. Actually both languages have about the same number of phonemes.
  • The word Dravidian clearly comes from the word Tamil. This has been demonstrated time and time again – the earliest occurrences of the word in IA (இய) are dramiDa ==> draviDa.
  • The grammar of Sanskrit very much resembles Russian, Latin, and Greek – to which it is closely akin. Tamil and the other Dravidian languages have much more elegant and logical structures. Consider this: in Dravidian, you can take any sentence and turn it into an adverb, adjective, or noun by simply changing just the ending on the verb. Then you can embed that sentence in any other sentence. The Dravidian relativeness system is extremely straight-forward and logical; the european one – shared by Sanskrit (and English) – is quite messy and verbose.
  • Tamil constitutes the only literary tradition indigenous to India that is not derived from Sanskrit. Indeed, its literature arose before the influence of Sanskrit in the South became strong and so is qualitatively different from anything we have in Sanskrit or other Indian languages. It has its own poetic theory, its own grammatical tradition, its own aesthetics, and, above all, a large body of literature that is quite unique. It shows a sort of Indian sensibility that is quite different from anything in Sanskrit or other Indian languages, and it contains its own extremely rich and vast intellectual tradition.
  • Tamil literature is such that it is fit to stand beside the great literatures of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Chinese, Persian and Arabic. The subtlety and profundity of its works, their varied scope (Tamil is the only pre-modern Indian literature to treat the subaltern extensively), and their universality qualify Tamil to stand as one of the great classical traditions and literatures of the world. Everyone knows the Tirukkural, one of the world’s greatest works on ethics; but this is merely one of a myriad of major and extremely varied works that comprise the Tamil classical tradition. There is not a facet of human existence that is not explored and illuminated by this great literature.
  • Finally, Tamil is one of the primary independent sources of modern Indian culture and tradition. The influence of a Southern tradition on the Sanskrit poetic tradition is well known to anyone who does a small research on the subject. But equally important, the great sacred works of Tamil Hinduism, beginning with the Sangam Anthologies, have under girded the development of modern Hinduism. Their ideas were taken into the Bhagavata Purana and other texts (in Telugu and Kannada as well as Sanskrit), whence they spread all over India.
  • Tamil has its own works that are considered to be as sacred as the Vedas and that are recited alongside Vedic mantras in the great Vaisnava temples of South India (such as Tirupati). And just as Sanskrit is the source of the modern Indo-Aryan languages, classical Tamil is the source language of modern Tamil and Malayalam. As Sanskrit is the most conservative and least changed of the Indo-Aryan languages, Tamil is the most conservative of the Dravidian languages, the touchstone that linguists must consult to understand the nature and development of Dravidian.
  • The classical status of Tamil is recognised by the government of India. To qualify as a classical tradition, a language must fit several criteria:
    • It should be ancient,
    • It should be an independent tradition that arose mostly on its own, not as an offshoot of another tradition, and
    • It must have a large and extremely rich body of ancient literature.

    Unlike the other modern languages of India, Tamil meets each of these requirements. It is extremely old (as old as Latin and older than Arabic); it arose as an entirely independent tradition, with almost no influence from Sanskrit or other languages; and its ancient literature is indescribably vast and rich.

One could go on and on. It would also be noteworthy that the first two ancient manuscripts from India, to be acknowledged and registered by UNESCO’s Memory of the World register in 1997 & 2005 were in Tamil. I don’t hate Sanskrit. Both languages are carriers of wonderful and rich intellectual and literary traditions. The only way to appreciate either language is to read these literatures and spend a lot of time pondering them.

Source:

  1. Statement on the Status of Tamil as a Classical Language by University of California, Berkeley
  2. A Comparison of Tamil and Sanskrit from auroville language lab
  3. Tamil and Sanskrit by tamilnation.org