This has been a never-ending debate over which language is older, Sanskrit or Tamil. Both are ancient languages that originated in India. While Sanskrit is considered to be the language of holy scriptures in Hinduism, Tamil is revered as a deity.
When you compare words from the same language, to find out which is older, you need to take several things into consideration. There are a number of factors that will help you come to a conclusion about whether one word is older than another.
The Sanskrit and Tamil languages have existed for thousands of years. Both being ancient languages from India, they have had continuous usage over time. But what exactly makes them so different? How are they similar? Which one is older and by how much? We’ll be looking at how both the Tamil and Sanskrit languages developed, their structure, and their origins. Keep reading to discover more about the history of these two fascinating languages.
What is Sanskrit?
Sanskrit is the language of ancient India. It is a language that is closely tied to religion and philosophy. As such, it is seen as a sacred language by many. Sanskrit was the language used in priestly, scholarly, and religious contexts.
It was also the language of religion, law, and science. In terms of the written form, the oldest Sanskrit text we have dates to around 1500 BC. This is the Rigveda. The Rigveda is a large collection of hymns. It is often called the earliest surviving large collection of poetry in the world. It is also the oldest surviving religious text in any Indo-European language.
The earliest available grammar of classical Sanskrit (the Aṣṭādhyāyī) is the grammar composed by Pāṇini in the 4th century BCE.
Tamil: The Ancient Language of India
The Tamil language is an ancient language spoken in South India. It is an example of a Dravidian language. This means that it is related to the languages spoken in Southern India, like Malayalam and Telugu. Tamil is one of the oldest classical languages to survive the wheels of time and is still widely spoken today.
The earliest records in Old Tamil are short inscriptions from 905 BC to 696 BC in Adichanallur. These inscriptions are written in a variant of the Brahmi script called Tamil-Brahmi.
The earliest surviving Tamil literature dates to the end of the 2nd century AD. This is called ‘The Tolkappiyam’. Scholars have found a lot of similarities between Sanskrit and Tamil. In fact, a lot of the earliest Sanskrit texts have been found to have been translated from Tamil.
This is because the Tamil language was the spoken language of the people while Sanskrit was the written language. What’s more, these two languages have proven to be so similar that they are often referred to as sister languages.
A Brief History of Sanskrit
There are many myths about the origins of the Sanskrit language. Many believe that it was brought down to earth from the heavens by the gods. Others believe that it was created by nature or by the human condition.
Yet there are also those who believe that the Sanskrit language developed from another language. That language is Proto-Indo-European. The PIE is believed to have been spoken in central Asia around 3500 BCE The PIE language would have been spoken by a group of people who migrated to India and later came to be known as Aryans in India.
They brought their language with them and it evolved into Sanskrit. Sanskrit is a language that has a lot of rules and vocabulary. This is because it has been an important language for religious texts in both verbal and written traditions. It’s also a language that was only spoken in India.
A Brief History of Tamil
There are also many myths surrounding the origins of the Tamil language. However, it is believed that the Tamil language is the descendant of the Proto-Southern-Dravidian language.
Tamil is believed to be the oldest language of the Dravidian family and amongst the oldest living languages in the world. According to Scholars, Tamil language history can be divided into three periods: the Old Tamil (300 BCE to 700 CE), the Medieval Tamil (700 CE to 1600 CE), and the Modern Tamil (1600 CE to present).
This language is believed to have been spoken during the 3rd century BCE. It is believed that the language gradually evolved into Tamil. It was only around 1000 CE that Tamil was written down using a script called Tamil Brahmi.
Tamil has been an important language within Southern India ever since it was popularized by the Tamil people. And it has been used for literature, law, and religion ever since it was first written down.
Comparison between Sanskrit and Tamil languages
A lot of the grammatical rules in Sanskrit have derived from the Tamil language. This is because the earliest form of the language was a spoken language.
It is quite evident that the grammatical tradition was centuries older than Pāṇini as he uses grammatical terms used by Vedic grammarians before him, and it is clear from hundreds of comments that Sanskrit was the mother tongue of all those grammarians (and of almost all Indo-Aryan speakers in the society of his time).
Sanskrit was the language used for rituals and documentation. A lot of the words in Sanskrit have been derived from the Tamil language. And Sanskrit has been used to translate many of the Tamil texts.
That’s not to say that Tamil is the older language. Sanskrit has been a very important language that has been passed down through the years. But as they are sister languages, they are very similar and easy to understand.
The Sanskrit and Tamil languages have existed for thousands of years. Both being ancient languages from India, they have had continuous usage over time. Both languages have proven to be so similar that they are often referred to as sister languages.
They also share many of the same origins. There are still many myths surrounding the origins of both languages. However, it is believed that they developed from the Proto-Southern-Dravidian language.
It is believed that the earliest form of the Tamil language was a spoken language. While Sanskrit was the academic language. While there are many similarities between Sanskrit and Tamil, it is important to note that Tamil appears to be older.
A stone inscription in Modi script (used to write the Marathi language), that was unearthed in Thanjavur reveals that the age of the Tamil language could date back to more than 10,000 years. Such archaeological evidence provides ample proof to establish the antiquity of Tamil as an ancient language. Discoveries also point out that the first ‘Tamil Sangam’ existed in the 8th century BC. Ancient Tamil words are still in use.
After elaborate research on western languages, late professor and author Devaneya Pavanar established that Tamil is the mother of all languages.
As a conclusion of his research in Greek, Latin, and English, he says words from Tamil have gone on to influence Latin and English languages. Words such as ‘coin’, ‘coffee’, and ‘navy’ are a few examples that have their roots in the Tamil language.
These two languages remain examples of India’s rich and diverse linguistic history.