Languages of South Asia

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Language families of South Asia
The names of each state in the script of the dominant language of that state

South Asia is home to several hundred languages. Most languages spoken in India belong either to the Indo-European (ca. 74%), the Dravidian (ca. 24%), the Austroasiatic (Munda) (ca. 1.2%), or the Tibeto-Burman (ca. 0.6%) families, with some languages of the Himalayas still unclassified. The SIL Ethnologue lists 461 living languages for India.

Overview[edit]

Hindustani is the most widespread language of India. The Indian census takes the widest possible definition of "Hindi" as the broad variety of the Hindi languages. The native speakers of Hindi so defined account for 39% of Indians.

Indian English is recorded as the native language of 226,449 Indians in the 2001 census. English is the second "language of the Union" besides Hindi.

Thirteen languages account for more than 1% of Indian population each, and between themselves for over 95%; all of them are "scheduled languages of the constitution."

Scheduled languages spoken by less than 1% of Indians are Santali (0.64%), Manipuri (0.14%), Bodo (0.13%), Dogri (0.01%, spoken in Jammu and Kashmir). The largest language that is not "scheduled" is Bhili (0.95%), followed by Gondi (0.27%), Tulu (0.17%) and Kurukh (0.099%)

List by number of native speakers[edit]

Ordered by number of speakers as first language. South Asian population in 2001 exhibited 19.4% of bilingualism and 7.2% of trilingualism, so that the total percentage of "native languages" is at about 127%.

More than one million speakers[edit]

The 2001 census recorded 29 individual languages as having more than 1 million native speakers (0.1% of total population).

Table: Ordered by number of native speakers
Language 2001 census[1]
(total population 1,004.59 million)
1991 censusIndian Census [2]
(total population 838.14 million)
Speakers Speakers Percentage
Hindi[1] 422,048,642 337,272,114[2] 40.0% 336 M
Bengali 230,000,000 200,595,738 28.30% 320 M
Punjabi 130,000,000 100,017,615 20.87% 113 M
Telugu 70,002,856 65,595,738 8.30% 70 M
Marathi 71,936,894 62,481,681 7.45% 68.0 M
Tamil 60,793,814 53,006,368 6.32% 66.0 M
Urdu 51,536,111 43,406,932 5.18% 60.3 M
Gujarati 46,091,617 40,673,814 4.85% 46.1 M
Kannada 78,924,011 72,753,676 78.91% 80.3 M
Malayalam 33,066,392 30,377,176 3.62% 35.7 M
Oriya 33,017,446 28,061,313 3.35% 32.3 M
Sindhi 25,535,485 25,122,848 0.248% 32.3 M
Nepali 23,017,446 28,061,313 3.35% 32.3 M
Sinhalese 19,017,446 28,061,313 3.35% 32.3 M
Assamese 13,168,484 13,079,696 1.56% 15.4 M
Maithili[3] 12,179,122 1.18%
Bhili/Bhilodi 9,582,957 5,572,308 0.665%
Santali 6,469,600 5,216,325 0.622%
Kashmiri 5,527,698 0.54%
Gondi 2,713,790 2,124,852 0.253%
Konkani 2,489,015 1,760,607 0.210%
Dogri 2,282,589[dubious ][4] 0.22%
Khandeshi 2,075,258 0.21%
Kurukh 1,751,489 0.17% 1,426,618 0.170%
Tulu 1,722,768 0.17% 1,552,259 0.185%
Meitei (Manipuri) 1,466,705* 0.14% 1,270,216 0.151%
Bodo 1,350,478 0.13% 1,221,881 0.146%
Khasi 1,128,575 0.112%
Mundari 1,061,352 0.105%
Ho 1,042,724 0.103%

* Excludes figures of Paomata, Mao-Maram and Purul sub-divisions of Senapati district of Manipur for 2001.
** The percentage of speakers of each language for 2001 has been worked out on the total population of India excluding the population of Mao-Maram, Paomata and Purul subdivisions of Senapati district of Manipur due to cancellation of census results.

100,000 to one million speakers[edit]

Kui 916,222
Garo 889,479
Kokborok 854,023
Mizo 674,756
Chakma 647,657
Halabi 593,443
Korku 574,481
Munda 469,357
Dhivehi 400,000
Mishing 390,583 0.047%
Karbi/Mikir 366,229 0.044%
Saurashtra 310,000 0.037%
Savara 273,168 0.033%
Koya 270,994 0.032%
English 226,449 0.027%
Kharia 225,556 0.027%
Khond/Kondh 220,783 0.026%
Nishi 173,791 0.021%
Ao 172,449 0.021%
Sema 166,157 0.020%
Kisan 162,088 0.019%
Adi 158,409 0.019%
Rabha 139,365 0.017%
Konyak 137,722 0.016%
Malto 108,148 0.013%
Thado 107,992 0.013%
Tangkhul 101,841 0.012%

10,000 to 100,000 speakers[edit]

1991 census SIL estimate
Kolami 98,281 (0.012%) 115,000 (1997) Northwestern: 50,000; Southeastern: 10,000
Angami 97,631 (0.012%) 109,000 (1997)
Kodagu 97,011 (0.012%) 122,000
Dogri 89,681 (0.011%) (Pakistan+India: 2.1 million)
Dimasa 88,543 (0.011%) 106,000
Lotha 85,802 (0.010%) 80,000
Mao 77,810 (0.009%) 81,000
Tibetan 69,146 (0.008%) 124,280 (1994)
Kabui (Rongmei) 68,925 (0.008%) 59,000 (1997)
Phom 65,350 (0.008%) 34,000 (1997)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ includes Western Hindi, Eastern Hindi, Bihari languages except for Maithili, Rajasthani languages and Pahari languages.
  2. ^ including Maithili
  3. ^ in 1991 subsumed under Hindi
  4. ^ includes populations in the parts of Kashmir administered by Pakistan.

External links[edit]