[skip to content]

South Asia Department

Tamil Language 1 (PG)

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year



Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  1. knowledge and understanding of basic Tamil grammar
  2. knowledge and understanding of essential Tamil vocabulary
  3. knowledge and understanding of the appropriateness of basic Tamil structures and expressions in a given context
  4. the ability to understand short passages in written Tamil on everyday topics
  5. the ability to produce short passages in written Tamil on everyday topics
  6. the ability to understand spoken Tamil and to engage in short spoken discourse on everyday topics
  7. knowledge and understanding of the role of language in general, and Tamil in particular, in language-based scholarship and research (specific learning outcome for PG students)


This course will be taught over 22 weeks with 5 hours classroom contact per week in language classes. 10 research seminars to be taken within SOAS.  Attendance to be proven by signature from chair and to be submitted to the Associate Dean for Masters by the last day of term 2.

Scope and syllabus

The course provides an introduction to Tamil language with emphasis on practical written and spoken Tamil. The course covers phonetics and phonology, the Tamil writing system, verbal and nominal morphology, and the diglossic differences between written and spoken Tamil. Communicative practice is established through learning language around dialogues dealing with a range of everyday situations, including travelling, buying and selling, and urban and rural family life.

The course provides students with a basic knowledge of Tamil and practice of using Tamil in a variety of everyday situations. It allows students to interact with Tamil speakers in Tamil and to use original Tamil language sources within the level covered in the course. This provides students with a basis to approach research topics relating to Tamil language and the histories, societies and cultures associated with Tamil.

A series of special PG lectures with associated seminars structured around the six themes Structure, Texts, Identity, Society, Translation and Transformation (provided for PG students studying different languages) introduces students to general questions of the role of language in language-based scholarship and research and provides them with the critical and methodological skills to relate their language acquisition to the thematic aspects of their studies.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (40%); a language learning portfolio consisting of a set of marked homework, short in-class tests, translation projects (30%); one 15 minute oral examination (20%); 2 x 1 hour classroom test (10%). 

Suggested reading

1) The course will be based on

  • Kausalya Hart, Tamil for beginners Berkeley: Centers for South and Southeast Asia Studies.

and additional materials which will be made available throughout the course.

2) Additional Tamil References

Tamil Learning Resources

  • Asher, R. E.  2007. Colloqial Tamil: A Complete course for Beginners.  London: Routeledge.
  • Marr, John Ralston, 1979. An Introduction to Colloquial Tamil.  London: SOAS.

Linguistic Studies

  • Annamalai, E. 1985  The Dynamics of Verbal Extension in Tamil. Trivandrum: Dravidian
           Linguistics Association.
  • Arden, A. H. 1942.  A Progressive Grammar of Tamil.  Madras: Christian Literature Society.
  • Asher, R. E. 1982. Tamil. Lingua Descriptive Series, Vol. 7. Amsterdam: North Holland           
            Publishing Co.
  • Bloch, Jules. 1954 The Grammatical Structure of Dravidian Languages. Poona: Deccan    
         College Handbook Series. [tr. of Structure grammaticale des langues Dravidiennes 1
  • Burrow, T. and M. B. Emeneau. A Dravidian Etymological Dictionary. Second edition,
            1984. Oxford, the Clarendon press.
  • Caldwell, R.. A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of
                 Languages. Madras: University of Madras. 1856 (rep. 1961)
  • Schiffman, Harold. 1999.  A Reference Grammar of Spoken Tamil. Cambridge: Cambridge
               University Press.
  • Steever, Sanford B. 1988.  The Serial Verb Formation in The Dravidian Languages. Delhi:
              Motilal Banarsidass.

3) Additional resources relating to language-based scholarship discussed in the PG lectures

  • Austin, Peter, ed., 2008, 1000 Languages: The world-wide history of living and lost tongues, London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Baker, Mona, 1992, In Other Words: A coursebook on translation, London: Routledge.
  • Duranti, Alessandro, 1997, Linguistic Anthropology, Cambridge: CUP.
  • Geertz, Clifford, 1973/2000, The Interpretation of Cultures: selected essays, New York: Basic Books.
  • Pinker, Steven, 1994, The Language Instinct: the new science of language and mind, London: Allan Lane.