The Tolkappiyam is a work on the grammar of the Tamil language and the earliest extant work of Tamil literature. It is written in the form of noorpaa or short formulaic compositions and comprises three books – the Ezhuttadikaram, the Solladikaram and the Poruladikaram. Each of these books is further divided into nine chapters each. While the exact date of the work is not known, based on linguistic and other evidence, it has been dated variously between 3rd century BCE and the 3rd century CE. Some modern scholars prefer to date it not as a single entity but in parts or layers. The author name of this literature is Tholkappiyar, who might be a Jain follower.
Tolkappiyam, deals with orthography, phonology, morphology, semantics, prosody and the subject matter of literature. The Tolkappiyam classifies the Tamil language into sentamil and koduntamil. The former refers to the classical Tamil used almost exclusively in literary works and the latter refers to the dialectal Tamil, spoken by the people in the various regions of ancient Tamilagam.
Tolkappiyam catergorises alphabet into consonants and vowels by analysing the syllables. It grammatises the use of words and syntaxes and moves into higher modes of language analysis. The Tolkāppiyam formulated thirty phonemes and three dependent sounds for Tamil.