List of languages by number of native speakers in India

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States and union territories of India by the most commonly spoken first language.[1][a]

India is home to several hundred languages. Most Indians speak a language belonging to the families of the Indo-Aryan branch of Indo-European (ca. 74%), the Dravidian (ca. 24%), the Austroasiatic (Munda) (ca. 1.2%), or the Sino-Tibetan (ca. 0.6%), with some languages of the Himalayas still unclassified. The SIL Ethnologue lists 415 living languages for India.

Overview[edit]

India has 23 constitutionally recognized official languages. Hindi and English are the official languages used by the Central Government. State governments use respective official languages.

Hindi is the most widely spoken language in northern parts of India. The Indian census takes the widest possible definition of "Hindi" as a broad variety of "Hindi languages". According to 2001 Census even though 45% of Indian population know Hindi, only 25% of them have declared Hindi as their native language or mother tongue.[2] Indian English is recorded as the native language of 226,449 Indians in the 2001 census.[3]

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 fewer than 1% of Indians are Santali (0.64%), Nepali (0.28%), Sindhi (0.25%), Manipuri (0.14%), Bodo (0.13%), Dogri (0.01%), and Sanskrit (In the 2001 census of India, only 14,135 people reported Sanskrit as their native language [4] The largest language that is not "scheduled" is Bhili (0.95%), followed by Gondi (0.27%), Khandeshi (0.21%), Tulu (0.17%) and Kurukh (0.10%).

Indian population in 1991 exhibited 19.4% of bilingualism and 7.2% of trilingualism, so that the total percentage of "native languages" is at about 127%.

India has a Greenberg's diversity index of 0.914, i.e. two people selected at random from the country will have different native languages in 91.4% of cases.[5]

List of languages by number of native speakers[edit]

Ordered by number of speakers as first language.

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). The languages in bold are scheduled languages (the only scheduled language with less than 1 million native speakers is Sanskrit).

Table: Ordered by number of native speakers
Rank Language 2001 census[6]
(total population 1,028,610,328 )
1991 census[7]
(total population 838,583,988)
Encarta 2007 estimate[8]
(worldwide speakers)
Speakers Percentage Speakers Percentage Speakers
1 Hindi[9] 422,048,642 41.1% 329,518,087 39.29% 366 M
2 Bengali 83,369,769 8.11% 69,595,738 8.30% 207 M
3 Telugu 74,002,856 7.19% 66,017,615 7.87% 69.7 M
4 Marathi 71,936,894 6.99% 62,481,681 7.45% 68.0 M
5 Tamil 60,793,814 5.91% 53,006,368 6.32% 66.0 M
6 Urdu 51,536,111 5.01% 43,406,932 5.18% 60.3 M
7 Gujarati 46,091,617 4.48% 40,673,814 4.85% 46.1 M
8 Kannada 37,924,011 3.69% 32,753,676 3.91% 35.3 M
9 Malayalam 33,066,392 3.21% 30,377,176 3.62% 35.7 M
10 Odia 33,017,446 3.21% 28,061,313 3.35% 32.3 M
11 Punjabi 29,102,477 2.83% 23,378,744 2.79% 57.1 M
12 Assamese 13,168,484 1.28% 13,079,696 1.56% 15.4 M
13 Maithili 12,179,122 1.18% 7,766,921 0.926% 24.2 M
14 Bhili/Bhilodi 9,582,957 0.93%
15 Santali 6,469,600 0.63% 5,216,325 0.622%
16 Kashmiri 5,527,698 0.54%
17 Nepali 2,871,749 0.28% 2,076,645 0.248% 16.1 M
18 Gondi 2,713,790 0.26%
19 Sindhi 2,535,485 0.25% 2,122,848 0.253% 19.7 M
20 Konkani 2,489,015 0.24% 1,760,607 0.210%
21 Dogri 2,282,589 0.22%
22 Khandeshi 2,075,258 0.21%
23 Kurukh 1,751,489 0.17%
24 Tulu 1,722,768 0.17%
25 Meitei/Manipuri 1,466,705* 0.14% 1,270,216 0.151%
26 Bodo 1,350,478 0.13% 1,221,881 0.146%
27 Khasi 1,128,575 0.11%
28 Mundari 1,061,352 0.103%
29 Ho 1,042,724 0.101%

* 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]

Rank Language 2001 census
Speakers Percentage
30 Kui 916,222 0.089%
31 Garo 889,479 0.086%
32 Tripuri 854,023 0.083%
33 Lushai/Mizo 674,756 0.066%
34 Halabi 593,443 0.058%
35 Korku 574,481 0.056%
36 Miri/Mishing 551,224 0.054%
37 Munda 469,357 0.046%
38 Karbi/Mikir 419,534 0.041%
39 Koya 362,070 0.035%
40 Ao 261,387 0.025%
41 Savara 252,519 0.025%
42 Konyak 248,109 0.024%
43 Kharia 239,608 0.023%
44 English 226,449 0.022%
45 Malto 224,926 0.022%
46 Nissi/Dafla 211,485 0.021%
47 Adi 198,462 0.019%
48 Thado 190,595 0.019%
49 Lotha 170,001 0.017%
50 Coorgi/Kodagu 166,187 0.016%
51 Rabha 164,770 0.016%
52 Tangkhul 142,035 0.014%
53 Kisan 141,088 0.014%
54 Angami 132,225 0.013%
55 Phom 122,508 0.012%
56 Kolami 121,855 0.012%
57 Khond/Kondh[10] 118,597 0.012%
58 Dimasa 111,961 0.011%
59 Ladakhi 104,618 0.010%
60 Sema 103,529 0.010%

List of mother tongues by number of speakers[edit]

Each of the languages of the 2001 census subsumes one or more mother tongues. Speaker numbers are available for these mother tongues and they are also included in the speaker numbers for their respective language. The following table lists those mother tongues that have more than one million speakers. Per the General Notes from the 2001 census: "Mother tongue is the language spoken in childhood by the person’s mother to the person. If the mother died in infancy, the language mainly spoken in the person’s home in childhood will be the mother tongue."[11]

Mother tongues with more than one million speakers[6]
Rank Mother tongue 2001 census Included
in language
Speakers Percentage
1 Hindi 257,919,635 25.071%
2 Bengali 82,462,437 8.016%
3 Telugu 73,817,148 7.176%
4 Marathi 71,701,478 6.970%
5 Tamil 60,655,813 5.896%
6 Urdu 51,533,954 5.009%
7 Gujarati 45,715,654 4.444%
8 Kannada 37,742,232 3.669%
9 Bhojpuri 33,099,497 3.217% Hindi
10 Malayalam 33,015,420 3.209%
11 Odia 32,110,482 3.121%
12 Punjabi 28,152,794 2.737%
13 Rajasthani 18,355,613 1.784% Hindi
14 Magadhi/Magahi 13,978,565 1.359% Hindi
15 Chhattisgarhi 13,260,186 1.289% Hindi
16 Assamese 12,778,735 1.242%
17 Maithili 12,178,673 1.184%
18 Haryanvi 7,997,192 0.777% Hindi
19 Marwari 7,936,183 0.771% Hindi
20 Santali 5,943,679 0.578%
21 Malvi 5,565,167 0.541% Hindi
22 Kashmiri 5,362,349 0.521%
23 Mewari 5,091,697 0.495% Hindi
24 Khortha/Khotta 4,725,927 0.459% Hindi
25 Bhili/Bhilodi 3,313,481 0.322%
26 Bundeli/Bundelkhan 3,072,147 0.299% Hindi
27 Nepali 2,867,922 0.279%
28 Bagheli 2,865,011 0.278% Hindi
29 Pahari 2,832,825 0.275% Hindi
30 Lamani/Lambadi 2,707,562 0.263% Hindi
31 Awadhi 2,529,308 0.246% Hindi
32 Wagdi 2,510,811 0.244% Bhili
33 Gondi 2,505,247 0.244%
34 Harauti 2,462,867 0.239% Hindi
35 Konkani 2,420,140 0.235%
36 Dogri 2,282,547 0.222%
37 Garhwali 2,267,314 0.220% Hindi
38 Nimadi 2,148,146 0.209% Hindi
39 Sadan/Sadri 2,044,776 0.199% Hindi
40 Kumaoni 2,003,783 0.195% Hindi
41 Dhundhari 1,871,130 0.182% Hindi
42 Ahirani 1,865,813 0.181% Khandeshi
43 Kurukh/Oraon 1,737,044 0.169%
44 Tulu 1,720,422 0.167%
45 Sindhi 1,694,061 0.165%
46 Manipuri 1,466,497 0.143%
47 Surgujia 1,458,533 0.142% Hindi
48 Bagri Rajasthani 1,434,123 0.139% Hindi
49 Bodo/Boro 1,330,775 0.129%
50 Banjari 1,259,821 0.122% Hindi
51 Nagpuria 1,242,586 0.121% Hindi
52 Surjapuri 1,217,019 0.118% Hindi
53 Kangri 1,122,843 0.109% Hindi
54 Mundari 1,046,951 0.102%
55 Ho 1,037,987 0.101%

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Some languages may be over- or under-represented as the census data used is at the state-level. For example, while Urdu has 52 million speakers (2001), in no state is it a majority as the language itself is primarily limited to Indian Muslims.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Report of the Commissioner for linguistic minorities: 50th report (July 2012 to June 2013)" (PDF). Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved 17 September 2016. 
  2. ^ "Census dispels Hindi myth, only 25 pc in India claim Hindi is their mother tongue". IBNLive. Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  3. ^ In 1991, there were 90,000,000 "users" of English. (Census of India Indian Census, Issue 10, 2003, pp. 8–10, (Feature: Languages of West Bengal in Census and Surveys, Bilingualism and Trilingualism) and Tropf, Herbert S. 2004. India and its Languages. Siemens AG, Munich.)
  4. ^ "COMPARATIVE SPEAKERS' STRENGTH OF SCHEDULED LANGUAGES -1971, 1981, 1991 AND 2001". censusindia.gov. New Delhi, India: Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on 2007-11-30. Retrieved 2015-10-13. 
  5. ^ Paul, Lewis M.; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D. Fennig, eds. (2015). "Summary by country". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (Eighteenth ed.). SIL International. 
  6. ^ a b Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2000, Census of India, 2001
  7. ^ Comparative Speaker's Strength of Scheduled Languages -1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001, Census of India, 1991
  8. ^ "Languages Spoken by More Than 10 Million People – Table – MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2007-12-03. 
  9. ^ includes Western Hindi apart from Urdu, Eastern Hindi, Bihari languages except for Maithili, the Rajasthani languages, and the Pahari languages apart from Nepali and (in 2001) Dogri, whether or not the included varieties were reported as "Hindi" or under their individual names.
  10. ^ different from Kui language
  11. ^ Census Data 2001 General Notes

General references[edit]

External links[edit]