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Tamil to be a classical language

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 17. In keeping with the promise made in the Common Minimum Programme, the Union Cabinet today decided to create a new category of languages as "classical languages" and declare Tamil as the first language under the category.

Announcing the decision, the Union Minister and Cabinet spokesperson, Jaipal Reddy, said the formation of a separate category of classical languages had been recommended by an experts committee under the Sahitya Akademi. It had also recommended a set of criteria for declaring a language as classical and accepted a proposal to declare Tamil as the first such language. More languages could be included under the category if there were any proposal and if they met with the criteria.

The criteria are: the language should have early texts or recorded history of at least a thousand years; it should have a body of ancient literature or texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by a generation of speakers; and its literary tradition should be original and not borrowed from another speech community.

In addition, since classical language and literature may be distinct from the modern ones, it would not be a disqualification if there is discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or offshoots, like Latin versus Roman, Sanskrit-Pali versus Prakrits and the modern Indo-Aryan language. The Cabinet also decided to set up two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical languages, establish a centre of excellence for studies and request the University Grants Commission to create Professorial Chairs for these languages to begin with in Central universities.

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