Linguistic Diversity in India

Linguistic Diversity in India

Linguistic Diversity in India

Expressing ones emotions and feelings, and communicating with each other is one of the basic characteristics of a living being. Every living creature expresses himself in some form or other using combination of actions and sounds. Humans, the most evolved species, have eventually developed a very sophisticated way of verbal communication through the use of words. Thus language is the most advanced form of communication.

As every group started developing their own set of vocabulary and grammar, each language became specific and unique to a group of people or civilization. India is a Land of Diversity In the words of Raj Thackrey, “India is like Europe. This means there is one currency and numerous languages and cultures. This is “Europe” made up of various cultures.”

 Did you know even the value on a currency note of India is printed in 17 languages? 

There is no single language that the whole of the nation speaks or a single language that has been declared as the “National Language.” India has a total of 122 major languages and 1599 other languages (Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India). Hindi and English are used by the central government while each state has the freedom to choose its official language. A total of twenty two languages have been declared as the scheduled languages. It can be correctly quoted for India and Indians that “Languages connect us and break down barriers when we unite to nurture the best in us and help each other succeed.”

There two major families in which the Indian languages can be divided into:

The Indo-Aryan family – This is the dominant language family and its languages are being spoken by more than 70% of the population mainly in northern, western and central India.

The Dravidian family – The languages in this language family are being spoken by more than 20% of the population in southern India and parts of eastern and central India.

Sanskrit – Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages of the world. All the Indian ancient scriptures and Vedas have been written in Sanskrit. It represents the great Indian tradition and thoughts. It is an extraordinarily complex language with a very vast vocabulary. It was initially spoken by a large population in India.

Hindi – Hindi is the lingua franca of the country. More than half of the population of India speaks Hindi as a first or second language. According to census of 2001, more than 400 million people had Hindi as their mother tongue making it the most spoken language in India and the fourth most spoken language in the world. States of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand recognize Hindi as their official language.

Kashmiri – Kashmiri is the language spoken in the valleys of Jammu and Kashmir, the northern most part of India. It is a prominent Dardic language and only one to have a literature which dates back to 750 years, written in Sarda script mostly by the Hindus and in Arabic script by the Muslims.

Punjabi – Punjabi is a north Indian language and majorly spoken in region of Punjab. It is one of the few languages that is written in more than one script; Sanmukhi and Gurmukhi scripts are used to write Punjabi. Other than the Indian subcontinent, Punjabi is also widely spoken in United Kingdom, Pakistan and Canada, making it 13th widely spoken language in the world (Rocket Languages, 2017).

Gujarati – Gujarati is the language spoken in western parts of India. It is the language of the Gujjars who had ruled the Rajputa and Punjab in the olden days. Today Gujarati is used as an official language in the state of Gujarat and union territories like Daman and Diu & Dadra and Nagar Haveli. It has descended from the old Gujarati (Mix of Marwadi and Gujarati is referred as old Gujarati).

Marathi and Konkani – These languages are also spoken in western India. Marathi is the official language of the state of Maharashtra and co-official language in union territories of Daman and Diu & Dadra and Nagar Haveli and is the fourth most spoken language in India. Most ancient Indo-Aryan literature has been written in Marathi. The language is spread across Mumbai, western coast and Deccan in the east of Maharashtra.

Konkani is officially used in the state of Goa. It has around 7.6 million speakers in the country. Both Marathi and Konkani are written using the Devanagari script.

Bangla, Odiya, Assamese – All these three languages are direct descendants of Sanskrit and Prakrit. They are spoken in the eastern and north eastern parts of India; Bangla in West Bengal, Assamese in Assam and Odiya in the state of Odisha. These languages have a very rich literary heritage. Bangla is the second most spoken language in the India sub- continent and the seventh most spoken language in the world. Odiya and has been designated as the classical language of India.

Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam – All these four languages are from the south of India. They belong to the Dravidian family of languages. These languages are among the classical languages in India.

Telugu is the most spoken Dravidian language as is the official language in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It is the third most spoken language in the country.

Tamil is the official language in India as well as in Sri-Lanka and also is the longest surviving classical language of the world.

Kannada has around 40 million native speakers and predominantly spoken in the state of Karnataka. It has an unbroken literary history of more than thousand years.

Malayalam is mainly native to the state of Kerala and is official language in Kerala and union territories like Lakshwadeep and Puducherry. It is a link language in few islands.

 

Rabindranath Tagore once said “If God had so wished, he could have made all the Indians speak one language, the unity of India has been and shall always be a unity in diversity.”  There are many more languages that are spoken in India, and astonishingly all these languages further have numerous dialects. Hindi itself has more than ten major dialects. There is a famous proverb in Hindi, which speaks about the diversity seen in the languages in India

“Kos Kos par badlePani, Char Kos par badleVani”

(Water changes every mile and language changes every four miles)

If you’ve any questions or need deeper insight, feel free to contact us

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