Tamil is a Dravidian language natively spoken by the Tamil people of South Asia. Tamil is an official language of the sovereign nations of Sri Lanka and Singapore, the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and the Union Territory of Puducherry. Tamil is spoken by significant minorities in the four other South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is also spoken by the Tamil diaspora found in many countries, including Malaysia, Myanmar, South Africa, The United Kingdom, The United States, Canada, Australia, and Mauritius. Tamil is also natively spoken by Sri Lankan Moors.

One of 22 scheduled languages in the Constitution of India, Tamil was the first to be classified as a classical language of India and is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world. A. K. Ramanujan described it as "the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past. The variety and quality of classical Tamil literature have led to it being described as "one of the great classical traditions and literature of the world".

Recorded Tamil literature has been documented for over 2000 years.

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