Languages of India
|Languages of India|
|Official languages||Hindi, English|
|Regional languages||Assamese • Bengali • Bodo • Dogri • Gujarati • Kannada • Kashmiri • Konkani • Maithili • Malayalam • Manipuri • Marathi • Nepali • Oriya • Punjabi • Sanskrit • Santali • Sindhi • Tamil • Telugu • Tulu • Urdu|
|Sign languages||Indo-Pakistani Sign Language
Alipur Sign Language
Naga Sign Language (extinct)
|Part of a series on the|
The languages of India belong to several language families, the major ones being the Indo-Aryan languages spoken by 73% of Indians and the Dravidian languages spoken by 24% of Indians. Other languages spoken in India belong to the Austroasiatic, Tibeto-Burman, and a few minor language families and isolates.
The Republic of India does not have a national language. The official languages of the Union Government of Republic of India are Hindi in the Devanagari script and English, a position supported by a High Court ruling. The languages of the Eighth Schedule, which have been referred to as the national languages of India since Nehru initiated such a practice. The 1991 census recognized "1576 rationalized mother tongues" which were further grouped into language categories. The 1961 census recognized 1,652, and the 2011 census recognized 1,635. (SIL Ethnologue lists 415). According to Census of India of 2001, 30 languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers, 122 by more than 10,000. More than three millennia of language contact has led to significant mutual influence among the four language families in India and South Asia. Two contact languages have played an important role in the history of India: Persian and English.
The northern Indian languages from the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family evolved from Old Indic by way of the Middle Indic Prakrit languages and Apabhraṃśa of the Middle Ages. There is no consensus for a specific time where the modern north Indian languages such as Hindustani, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sindhi and Oriya emerged, but AD 1000 is commonly accepted.[page needed] Each language had different influences, with Hindustani strongly influenced by Sanskrit and Persian. Oriya is the only classical language from this language family and it is least influenced by any foreign language.
The Dravidian languages of South India had a history independent of Sanskrit. The major Dravidian languages are Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Tulu. Though Malayalam and Telugu are Dravidian in origin, over eighty percent of their lexicon is borrowed from Sanskrit. The Telugu script can reproduce the full range of Sanskrit phonetics without losing any of the text's originality, whereas the Malayalam script includes graphemes capable of representing all the sounds of Sanskrit and all Dravidian languages. The Kannada language has lesser Sanskrit and Prakrit influence.The Austroasiatic and Tibeto-Burman languages of North-East India also have long independent histories.
Dialectologists distinguish the terms "language" and "dialect" on the basis of mutual intelligibility. The Indian census uses two specific classifications in its own unique way: (1) 'language' and (2) 'mother tongue'. The 'mother tongues' are grouped within each 'language'. Many 'mother tongues' so defined would be considered a language rather than a dialect by linguistic standards. This is especially so for many 'mother tongues' with tens of millions of speakers that are officially grouped under the 'language' Hindi.
The Indian census of 1961 recognised 1,652 different "mother tongues" in India (including dialects, sub-dialects, dialect clusters, and languages not native to the subcontinent). The 1991 census recognizes 1,576 classified "mother tongues" The People of India (POI) project of Anthropological Survey of India reported 325 languages which are used for in-group communication by the Indian communities.SIL Ethnologue lists 415 living "Languages of India" (out of 6,912 worldwide).
According to the 1991 census, 22 'languages' had more than a million native speakers, 50 had more than 100,000 and 114 had more than 10,000 native speakers. The remaining accounted for a total of 566,000 native speakers (out of a total of 838 million Indians in 1991).
According to the most recent census of 2001, 29 'languages' have more than a million native speakers, 60 have more than 100,000 and 122 have more than 10,000 native speakers.
The government of India has given 22 "languages of the 8th Schedule" the status of official language. The number of languages given this status has increased through the political process. Some languages with a large number of speakers still do not have this status, the largest of these being Bhili/Bhiladi with some 9.6 million native speakers (ranked 14th), followed by Garhwali with 2.9 million speakers, Gondi with 2.7 million speakers (ranked 18th) and Khandeshi with 2.1 million speakers (ranked 22nd). On the other hand, 2 languages with fewer than 2 million native speakers have recently been included in the 8th Schedule for mostly political reasons: Manipuri/Meitei with 1.5 million speakers (ranked 25th) and Bodo with 1.4 million speakers (ranked 26th).
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (May 2013)|
The languages of India belong to several language families. The largest of these in terms of speakers is the Indo-European family, predominantly represented in its Indo-Iranian branch (accounting for some 700 million speakers, or 69% of the population), but also including minority languages such as Persian, Portuguese or French, and English as a lingua franca.
The second largest language family is the Dravidian family, accounting for some 200 million speakers, or 26%. Families with smaller numbers of speakers are Austroasiatic and numerous small Tibeto-Burman languages, with some 10 and 6 million speakers, respectively, together 5% of the population.
The Ongan languages of the southern Andaman Islands form a fifth family; the Great Andamanese languages are extinct apart from one highly endangered language with a dwindling number of speakers. There is also a known language isolate, the Nihali language. The Bantu language Sidi was spoken until the mid-20th century in Gujarat.
Most languages in the Indian republic are written in Brahmi-derived scripts, such as Devanagari, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Oriya, Eastern Nagari - Assamese/Bengali, etc., though Urdu is written in an Arabic script, and a few minor languages such as Santali use independent scripts.
The language families in India aren't necessarily related to the various ethnic groups in India, specifically the Indo and Dravidian peoples. The languages within each family have been influenced to a large extent by both families. For example, many of the South Indian languages; specifically Malayalam and Telugu, have been highly influenced by Sanskrit (an Indo language). The current vocabulary of those languages include between 70-80% of Sanskritized content in their purest form.
Urdu has also had a significant influence on many of today's Indian languages. Many North Indian languages have lost much of their Sanskritized base (50% current vocabulary) to a more Urdu-based form. In terms of the written script, most Indian languages, with the exception of the Tamil script nearly perfectly accommodate the Sanskrit language. South Indian languages have adopted new letters to write various Indo-Aryan based words as well, and have added new letters to their native alphabets as the languages began to mix and influence each other.
Though various Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages may seem mutually exclusive when first heard, there is a much deeper underlying influence that both language families have had on each other down to a linguistic science. There is proof of the intermixing of Dravidian and Indo-Aryan languages through the pockets of Dravidian based languages on remote areas of Pakistan, and interspersed areas of North India. In addition, there is a whole science regarding the tonal and cultural expression within the languages that are quite standard across India. Languages may have different vocabulary, but various hand and tonal gestures within two unrelated languages can still be common due to cultural amalgamations between invading people and the natives over time; in this case, the Indo-Aryan peoples and the native Dravidian peoples.
The official languages of the Union Government (not the entire country) are Hindi and English. According to the article 343 (1) of the Constitution of India, "The Official Language of the Union government shall be Hindi in Devanagari script." The individual states can legislate their own official languages, depending on their linguistic demographics. For example, the state of Andhra Pradesh has Telugu as its official language, the state of Karnataka has Kannada as its sole official language, the state of Maharashtra has Marathi as its sole official language, the state of Punjab has Punjabi as its sole official language, the state of Odisha has Oriya as its sole official language, the state of Tamil Nadu has Tamil as its sole official language, while the state of Kerala has Malayalam and English as its official languages, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has Kashmiri, Urdu, and Dogri as its official languages.
Article 345 of the constitution authorizes the several states of India to adopt as "official languages" of that state — which people of that state can then use in all dealings with all branches of the local, state and federal governments — either Hindi or any one or more of the languages spoken in that state. Until the Twenty-First Amendment of the Constitution in 1967, the country recognised 14 official regional languages. The Eighth Schedule and the Seventy-First Amendment provided for the inclusion of Sindhi, Konkani, Meiteilon and Nepali, thereby increasing the number of official regional languages of India to 18. At present there are 22 official languages of India. Individual states, whose borders are mostly drawn on socio-linguistic lines, are free to decide their own language for internal administration and education.
The table below lists the 22 languages set out in the eighth schedule as of May 2008, together with the regions where they are used.
Even though English language is not included in Eighth Schedule (as it is a foreign language), it is one of the official languages of Union of India.
In 2004, the Government of India declared that languages that met certain requirements could be accorded the status of a "Classical Language in India". (These are not classical languages in the usual sense.) Languages thus far declared to be Classical are Tamil (in 2004), Sanskrit (in 2005), Telugu (in 2008), Kannada (in 2008), Malayalam (in 2013) and Oriya (in 2014).
In a 2006 press release, Minister of Tourism & Culture Ambika Soni told the Rajya Sabha the following criteria were laid down to determine the eligibility of languages to be considered for classification as a "Classical Language",
High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500–2000 years; a body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers; the literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community; the classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.
As per Government of India's Resolution No. 2-16/2004-US(Akademies) dated 1 November 2004, the benefits that will accrue to a language declared as "Classical Language" are
- Two major international awards for scholars of eminence in Classical Indian Languages are awarded annually.
- A 'Centre of Excellence for Studies in Classical Languages' is set up.
- The University Grants Commission be requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for Classical Languages for scholars of eminence in Classical Indian Languages.
Other local languages and dialects
In addition, the 2001 census identified the following native languages (i.e. languages and dialects) having more than one million speakers. All were grouped under Hindi or Oriya.
|Languages||No. of native speakers|
In British India, English was the sole language used for administrative purposes as well as for higher education purposes. When India became independent in 1947, the Indian legislators had the challenge of choosing a language for official communication as well as for communication between different linguistic regions across India. The choices available were:
- Making "Hindi", which a plurality of the people (43%) identified as their native language, the official language, though only a minority of these "Hindi" speakers spoke Hindi proper.
- Making English, as preferred by non-Hindi speakers, particularly Kannadigas and Tamils, and those from Mizoram and Nagaland, the official language. See also Anti-Hindi agitations.
- Declare both Hindi and English as official languages and each state is given freedom to choose the official language of the state.
The Indian constitution, in 1950, declared Hindi in Devanagari script to be the official language of the union. Unless Parliament decided otherwise, the use of English for official purposes was to cease 15 years after the constitution came into effect, i.e. on 26 January 1965. The prospect of the changeover, however, led to much alarm in the non Hindi-speaking areas of India, especially Dravidian-speaking states in South India whose languages were not related to Hindi at all (see examples at right). As a result, Parliament enacted the Official Languages Act in 1963, which provided for the continued use of English for official purposes along with Hindi, even after 1965.
India has hundreds of languages in use. Therefore, choosing any single language as an official language presents serious problems to all those whose "mother tongue" is different. However, all the boards of education across India, recognize the 'need' for training people to one common language. This results in many complaints: There are many complaints that in North India, non-Hindi speakers have language trouble. Similarly, there are numerous complaints that all North Indians have to undergo considerable difficulties on account of language when traveling to South India. It is common to hear of incidents that result due to friction between those who strongly believe in the chosen official language, and those who follow the thought that the chosen language(s) do not take into account everyone's preferences.[dead link] Local official language commissions have been established and various steps are being taken in a direction to reduce tensions and friction.
There are some significant conflicts over linguistic rights in India.
The first major linguistic conflict, known as the Anti-Hindi agitations of Tamil Nadu, took place in Tamil Nadu against the implementation of Hindi as the sole official language of India. Political analysts consider this as a major factor in bringing DMK to power and leading to the ousting and nearly total elimination of the Congress party in Tamil Nadu. Strong cultural pride based on language is also found in other Indian states such as Bengal, Maharashtra and in Karnataka. To express disapproval of the imposition of an alien language Hindi on its people as a result of the central government overstepping its constitutional authority, Maharashtra and Karnataka Governments made the state languages compulsory in educational institutions.
However, in Telangana and Kerala, in majority of the schools, students have to learn English and one chosen regional language (Telugu, Urdu or Hindi) as the main language subjects, and learn another language (Telugu, or Hindi, or Special English) as a special language subject. So, usually they learn three in total.
The Government of India attempts to assuage these conflicts with various campaigns, coordinated by the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, a branch of the Department of Higher Education, Language Bureau, Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Various Indian languages have corresponding scripts for them. The Hindi, Marathi and Angika languages are all written using the Devanagari script. Most languages are written using a script specific to them, such as Assamese with Assamese/Axomiya, Bengali with Bengali, Punjabi with Gurmukhi, Oriya with Utkal Lipi, Gujarati with Gujarati, etc. Urdu and sometimes Kashmiri, Saraiki and Sindhi are written in modified versions of the Perso-Arabic script. With this one exception, the scripts of Indian languages are native to India. (See ISO 15919 regarding Romanization of Indian languages.)
Tamil Brahmi inscription in Jambaimalai. Tamil brahmi founded jambai which dated before 6th century B.C.
- English in India
- List of languages by number of native speakers in India
- List of endangered languages in India
- List of states and union territories of India by population
- National Translation Mission
- Ishtiaq, M. (1999). Language Shifts Among the Scheduled Tribes in India: A Geographical Study. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. pp. 26–27. ISBN 9788120816176. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
- The World Factbook. Cia.gov. Retrieved on 28 July 2013.
- Nihali and the various Andamanese languages
- Khan, Saeed (25 January 2010). "There's no national language in India: Gujarat High Court". The Times of India. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
- Hindi, not a national language: Court
- 1. Schwartzberg, Joseph E., 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica, India—Linguistic Composition. Quote: "By far the most widely spoken is Hindi, one of the official languages of the country , with more than 300 million speakers." 2. Oldenburg, Phillip. (1997-2007) Encarta Encyclopedia "India: Official Languages." Quote: "Hindi is the main language of more than 40 percent of the population. No single language other than Hindi can claim speakers among even 10 percent of the total population. Hindi was therefore made India’s official language in 1965. English, which was associated with British rule, was retained as an option for official use because non-Hindi states, particularly in Tamil Nādu, opposed the official use of Hindi." 3. United Kingdom, Foreign and Commonwealth Office: India—Country Profile. Quote: "The official language of India is Hindi written in the Devanagari script and spoken by some 30% of the population as a first language. Since 1965 English has been recognised as an 'associated language'." 4. UNESCO: Education for All—The Nine Largest Countries Quote: "Hindi is the language of 30 percent of the population and the official language of India." 5. United States Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, Country Profile: India Quote: "Languages: Hindi is the official language and the most commonly spoken, but not all dialects are mutually comprehensible. English also has official status and is widely used in business and politics, although knowledge of English varies widely from fluency to knowledge of just a few words." 6 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Country Profile: India Quote: "Hindi is constitutionally designated as the official language of India, with English as an associate official language."
- See: PART XVII (OFFICIAL LANGUAGE)
- The Indian Census of 1961 recorded a total of 1,652 "mother tongues", counting all declarations made by any individual at the time when the census was conducted. However, the declaring individuals often mixed names of languages with those of dialects, sub-dialects and dialect clusters or even castes, professions, religions, localities, regions, countries and nationalities. The list therefore includes "languages" with barely a few individual speakers as well as 530 unclassified "mother tongues" and more than 100 idioms that are non-native to India, including linguistically unspecific demonyms such as "African", "Canadian" or "Belgian". (Mallikarjun, B.: Mother Tongues of India According to the 1961 Census)
- 2011 census general note
- Bhatia, Tej K and William C. Ritchie. (2006) Bilingualism in South Asia. In: Handbook of Bilingualism, pp. 780-807. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
- Shapiro, Michael C. (1 February 2004). Hindi. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-80514-8. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
- Encyclopædia Britannica. "Dravidian languages — Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- Narayan, Shyamala; Jha, Heukar (1997). Non-fictional Indian prose in English, 1960-1990. Sahitya Akademi. ISBN 978-81-260-0294-8.
- Malayalam literary survey, Volume 15. Kēraḷa Sāhitya Akkādami. 1993. p. 76.
- Gupta, Balarama (2007). The Journal of Indian writing in English, Volume 35. p. 8.
- Velcheru Narayana Rao; David Shulman. Classical Telugu Poetry (2 ed.). The Regents of the University of California. p. 3
- Chenchiah, P.; Rao, Raja Bhujanga (1988). A History of Telugu Literature. Asian Educational Services. p. 18. ISBN 81-206-0313-3.
- Aiyar, Swaminatha (1987). Dravidian theories. p. 286. ISBN 978-81-208-0331-2.
- "Malayalam". ALS International. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- Indian Census
- 1. Oldenburg, Phillip. (1997-2007) Encarta Encyclopedia "India: Official Languages."
2. United Kingdom, Foreign and Commonwealth Office: India—Country Profile.
3. UNESCO: Education for All—The Nine Largest Countries Quote: "Hindi is the language of 30% of the population and the official language of India." (these do not refer to the same conception of Hindi)
4. United States Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, Country Profile: India.
5 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Country Profile: India.
- "Constitution of India".
- Constitution of India, page 330, EIGHTH SCHEDULE, Articles 344 (1) and 351]. Languages.
- Official 2001 census data
- The 2001 census records two figures, of 258 million and 422 million "Hindi" speakers. However, both figures include languages other than Standard Hindi, such as Rajasthani (ca. 80 million in independent estimates), Bhojpuri (40 million), Awadhi (38 million), Chhattisgarhi (18 million), and dozens of other languages with a million to over ten million speakers apiece. The figure of 422 million specifically includes all such people, whereas the figure of 258 depends on speaker identification as recorded in the census. For example, of the estimated 38 million Awadhi speakers, only 2½ million gave their language as "Awadhi", with the rest apparently giving it as "Hindi" , and of the approximately 80 million Rajasthani speakers, only 18 million were counted separately. Maithili, listed as a separate language in the 2001 census but previously considered a dialect of Hindi, also appeared to be severely undercounted.
- 7.6 per Ethnologue
- 32 in India in 2000 per Ethnologue
- "India sets up classical languages". BBC. 17 September 2004. Retrieved 1 May 2007.
- "Front Page : Tamil to be a classical language". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 18 September 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- "National : Sanskrit to be declared classical language". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 28 October 2005. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- "Declaration of Telugu and Kannada as classical languages". Press Information Bureau. Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India. Retrieved 31 October 2008.
- "‘Classical’ status for Malayalam". Thiruvananthapuram, India: The Hindu. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "Odia gets classical language status". The Hindu. 20 February 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
- "CLASSICAL LANGUAGE STATUS TO KANNADA". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 8 August 2006. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
- Singh, Binay (5 May 2013). "Removal of Pali as UPSC subject draws criticism". The Times of India. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
- "Classical Status to Oriya Language" (Press release). 14 August 2013.
- 2001 Census
- Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2000, Census of India, 2001
- "Constitution of India as of 29 July 2008". The Constitution Of India. Ministry of Law & Justice. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
- Commissioner Linguistic Minorities
- Language in India
- THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT, 1963
- National Portal of India : Know India : Profile
- Committee of Parliament on Official Language report
- Language and Globalization: Center for Global Studies at the University of Illinois
- The Pioneer > Columnists
- "Magazine / Columns : Hindi against India". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 16 January 2005. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- "Marathi a must in Maharashtra schools — India News". IBNLive. 3 February 2010. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- Distribution of languages in India
- Languages of India (SIL Ethnologue list)
- Languages and Scripts of India
- Reconciling Linguistic Diversity: The History and the Future of Language Policy in India by Jason Baldridge
- Titus - Languages of India
- Typing in Indian Languages
- Diversity of Languages in India
- Official webpage explains the chronological events related to Official Languages Act and amendments
- A comprehensive federal government site that offers complete info on Indian Languages
- Technology Development for Indian Languages, Government of India
- The Official Portal of the Indian Government
- India speaks 780 languages, 220 lost in last 50 years – survey