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Tamil is one of the major languages of southern India. It is spoken principally in the state of Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras), located on the eastern coast and extending down to the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent. There are about 60 million Tamil speakers in India. In addition it is spoken by about 4 million people in north-eastern Sri Lanka, about one million in Malaysia, and in smaller colonies in Singapore, and parts of East Africa. Tamil is the oldest and most richly developed of the Dravidian languages. The origin of the alphabet (Tamil script) is uncertain, though it is believed to be about 1,500 years old. "Curry" is a Tamil word that entered the English language. Other Dravidian languages like Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu have close affinities with Tamil. Tamil also has a substantial classical literature dating back to about the 7th century A.D.
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