Languages ​​in India

Linguistically, India can be divided into two areas: the Dravidian continuum in southern India (the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu ) and the Indo-Indian continuum, which includes the rest of India as well as Pakistan east of Indus and Bangladesh. A continuum is an area of ​​fluent language boundaries, so you can’t tell where one language ends and where the next one begins. This means that any statistics on languages ​​in India will be quite arbitrary. The number of indigenous languages Thus, in Northern India, it may be stated that over one hundred or less than twenty, depending on what one chooses to regard as an independent language and what one perceives as a dialect.

Languages ​​in India

In both India’s linguistic continuum, a number of standard languages ​​have evolved, but the boundaries between the standard languages ​​are based on historical coincidences and often cut through groups that speak almost identical dialects, claiming to speak different languages ​​and also in written and formal communication. different standard languages.

The borders of the Indian states are drawn according to linguistic criteria and are in principle also language boundaries between the standard languages. In the four Dravidian states of South India mentioned above, the standard languages ​​are Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil respectively, which are also official state and school languages ​​in these states. In Indo-Northern India, the situation is such that there is a central standard language, called Hindi or Urdu and based on the dialect around Delhi, which encompasses a vast area (the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana,Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh ) with a very large number of often incomprehensible dialects that are nevertheless held together by the common standard language.

In addition, there is a ring of smaller standard languages ​​around the Hindi / Urdu area. These border languages ​​are official state and school languages ​​in each state: Panjabi in Punjab, Gujarati in Gujarat, Marathi in Maharashtra, Konkani in Goa, Oriya in Orissa, Bengali in West Bengal, Assami in Assam and Nepali in Sikkim. The 14 languages ​​mentioned are written with 10 different alphabets.

There is a strong tendency in India to identify languages ​​and alphabets. In order to be considered independent, a language should have its own alphabet. Hindi and Urdu, which are really the same language, are considered different because Hindi is written with the Indian Devanagari script, while Urdu is written in Arabic script. This use of different alphabets limits the use of languages ​​in the modern communication community and helps to strengthen and consolidate the position of English as an administrative and teaching language.

India’s constitution recognizes 18 Indian languages: Assami, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Panjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Kashmiri is spoken by about 4.5 million in the Srinagar Valley in Kashmir, but the official language of teaching and administration in the state is Urdu. Kashmiri belongs to the strongly dardic subgroup of the Indo-native languages ​​and thus does not belong to the North Indian language continuum. Manipuri or meitei, a Tibetan-Burmese language, is the official language of the state of Manipur. Sanskrit is the sacred ancient language of Hinduism and is today used almost exclusively as a liturgical language. Sindhi belongs in the province of Sind in Pakistan, but is spoken in India by about 3 million immigrants and refugees from Pakistan.

A number of indigenous languages, such as dogri, maithili and rajasthani, have literary traditions, but no official status, and fight for their existence. In addition, in central and northeastern India, there are a wide variety of languages ​​without official status and most often without written language:

  1. Languages ​​in the Dravidian language family, such as gond and oraon in central India.
  2. Languages ​​in the Austro-Asian language family, such as the mon-Khmer language khasiin the state of Meghalaya, where it is fighting to become official state language, and 30 munda languages, including santali, which with 6 million users is the largest of the “native languages” and fights to become the official state language in Jharkhand, as well as mundari and ho.
  3. Around 60 languages ​​in the Tibetan-Burmese branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family along the border with China and Myanmar, in addition to the above mentioned state of Manipur including Naga, which is fighting to become official state language in the state of Nagaland.

In 1947, Hindi was made the national language of India, while English was to continue as an administrative language for a transitional period of 10 years. However, it has proved impossible to replace English with Hindi as the language of administration for the whole of India, and it is clear today that English has come to stay. More and more are sending their children to English-language schools, and Hindi and all the major Indian languages ​​(with Bengali as a partial exception) are on the decline front of English, while the smaller languages ​​are losing ground to Hindi and the state languages. Among the “tribal languages” language death rages. According to B. Grimes’ Ethnologue. Languages ​​of the World (14th edition, 2000), there are 387 languages ​​in India, but the number is decreasing. In 1992, the number was 416.