Tamil people (Tamil: தமிழர், tamiḻar?), also called Tamils or Tamilians, are a linguistic group native to Tamil Nadu, a state in India and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. They speak Tamil (தமிழ்), with a recorded history going back two millennia. Emigrant communities are found across the world, notably Malaysia, Canada, Singapore, and the UK. The Tamils are mostly Hindus with sizable Christian and Muslim populations.
Tamil literature has existed for over two thousand years. The earliest epigraphic records found date from around the third century BCE. The earliest period of Tamil literature, Sangam literature, is dated from the 300 BCE – 300 CE. More than 55% of the epigraphical inscriptions – about 55,000 – found by the Archaeological Survey of India are in the Tamil language. According to a 2001 survey, there were 1,863 newspapers published in Tamil, of which 353 were dailies. Tamil belongs to southern branch of the Dravidian languages, a family of around twenty-six languages native to the Indian subcontinent. It is also classified as being part of a Tamil language family, which alongside Tamil proper, also includes the languages of about 35 ethno-linguistic groups such as the Irula, and Yerukula languages (see SIL Ethnologue). The closest major relative of Tamil is Malayalam. Until about the ninth century, Malayalam was a dialect of Tamil. Although many of the differences between Tamil and Malayalam evidence a pre-historic split of the western dialect, the process of separation into a distinct language, Malayalam was not completed until sometime in the 13th or 14th century.