Languages of South Asia
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.
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
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
The 2001 census recorded 29 individual languages as having more than 1 million native speakers (0.1% of total population).
(total population 1,004.59 million)
|1991 censusIndian Census 
(total population 838.14 million)
|Telugu ||74,002,856||65,595,738||9.10%||83.7 M|
* 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
10,000 to 100,000 speakers
|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)|
|Dogri||89,681 (0.011%)||(Pakistan+India: 2.1 million)|
|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)|
- Official languages of India
- Languages of India
- Languages of Pakistan
- Languages of Nepal
- Languages of Bangladesh
- Languages of Sri Lanka
- includes Western Hindi, Eastern Hindi, Bihari languages except for Maithili, Rajasthani languages and Pahari languages.
- including Maithili
- Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues - 2000, Census of India, 2001
- in 1991 subsumed under Hindi
- includes populations in the parts of Kashmir administered by Pakistan.
- Data table of Census of India, 2001[dead link]
- Language Maps from Central Institute of Indian Languages[dead link]
- SCHEDULED LANGUAGES IN DESCENDING ORDER OF SPEAKERS' STRENGTH – 2001[dead link]
- COMPARATIVE RANKING OF SCHEDULED LANGUAGES IN DESCENDING ORDER OF SPEAKERS' STRENGTH-1971, 1981, 1991 AND 2001[dead link]
- Census data on Languages