Of all the Dravidian languages, Tamil has the longest literary tradition, covering more than 2,000 years. The earliest records are cave inscriptions from the second century bce; the earliest extant literary text is the grammar Tolkāppiyam (100 bce), which describes the grammar and poetics of Tamil during that period. During its 2,000-year uninterrupted hstory, Tamil distinguishes three different stages: Old Tamil (300 bce–700 ce), Middle Tamil (700 ce–1600) and Modern Tamil (1600 ce–the present), each with distinct grammatical characteristics.