Tamil (தமிழ்) is a Dravidian language predominantly spoken by the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka. Tamil is an official language of two countries: Sri Lanka and Singapore. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry. It is used as one of the languages of education in Malaysia, along with English, Malay and Mandarin.
Tamil is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world. It is stated as 20th in the Ethnologue list of most-spoken languages worldwide. Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions from 500 BC have been found on Adichanallur and 2,200-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions have been found on Samanamalai. It has been described as "the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past." The variety and quality of classical Tamil literature has led to it being described as "one of the great classical traditions and literatures of the world".
A recorded Tamil literature has been documented for over 2000 years. The earliest period of Tamil literature, Sangam literature, is dated from ca. 300 BC – AD 300. It has the oldest extant literature among Dravidian languages.