Indian language: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Indian language

Include this on your site/blog:


(Redirected to Languages of India article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Languages of India
Official language(s) Hindi written in the Devanāgarī script (the Indian Constitution recognises English as a subsidiary official language)

The languages of India belong to several major linguistic families, the two largest being the Indo-European languagesIndo-Aryan (spoken by 70% of Indians)—and the Dravidian languages (spoken by 22% of Indians). Other languages spoken in India come mainly from the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman linguistic families, in addition to a few language isolates.[1]

The principal official language of the Republic of India is Hindi while English is the secondary official language.[2] The constitution of India states that "The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script."[3] Neither the Constitution of India nor Indian law specifies a National language, a position supported by a High Court ruling.[4]

Individual mother tongues in India number several hundred;[5] the 1961 census recognized 1,652[6] (SIL Ethnologue lists 415). According to Census of India of 2001, 29 languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers, 122 by more than 10,000. 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.[7]



Hindi speaking regions in India

The northern Indian languages from the Indo-European family evolved from Old Indo-Aryan such as Sanskrit, by way of the Middle Indo-Aryan Prakrit languages and Apabhraṃśa of the Middle Ages. There is no consensus for a specific time where the modern north Indian languages such as Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Saraiki, Punjabi, Sindhi, Bengali, Oriya and Assamese emerged, but AD 1000 is commonly accepted.[8] Each language had different influences, with Hindi/Urdu and closely related Hindustani languages being strongly influenced by Persian.

The Dravidian languages of South India had a history independent of Sanskrit. The major Dravidian languages are Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.[9] A matter of note is that though Dravidian in origin, around eighty percentage of Malayalam words are taken from Sanskrit.[10] The Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman languages of North-East India also have long independent histories.


Linguists generally distinguish the terms "language" and "dialects" on the basis of 'mutual comprehension'. 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 is officially grouped under the 'language' Hindi.

The Indian census of 1961 recognised 1,652 different languages in India (including languages not native to the subcontinent). The 1991 census recognizes 1,576 classified "mother tongues"[11] 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).[11]

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 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/Maithei with 1.5 million speakers (ranked 25th) and Bodo with 1.4 million speakers (ranked 26th). For cultural/historical reasons Sanskrit is on the official schedule, though only 14 thousand people claim it to be their language, but many more study it in school as the classical language of India.

Language families

The languages of India may be grouped by major language families. The largest of these in terms of speakers is the Indo-European family, predominantly represented in its Indo-Aryan branch (accounting for some 700 million speakers), but also including minority languages such as Persian, Portuguese or French, and English as lingua franca. Kashmiri, and other Dardic languages, which form part of the Indo-Iranian, and arguably Indo-Aryan family, have some 4.6 million speakers in India. The second largest language family is the Dravidian family, accounting for some 200 million speakers. Minor linguistic families include the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman families (with some 10 and 6 million speakers, respectively). The group of Great Andamanese languages are considered to constitute a fifth language family; these languages are highly endangered with dwindling number of speakers. There is also a language isolate, the Nihali language. Today the Republic of India has about 69% of languages spoken in the country are Indo-Iranian (sub-branch: Indo-Aryan), 26% are Dravidian, and 5% are Sino-Tibetan and Austro-Asiatic, all unrelated/distinct family of languages. Most languages in the Indian republic are written in Brahmi-derived scripts such as Devangari, Gurmukhi, Tamil, etc. Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu, Tulu, Tamil, Malayalam, Assamese, Punjabi, Naga, and many others are the mother-tongue languages spoken in various provices of India.

Official languages

The official languages of the Republic of India are Hindi and English. According to the article 343 (1), "The Official Language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script."[12] The individual states can legislate their own official languages, depending on their linguistic demographics. For example, the state of TamilNadu has Tamil as its sole official language and the state of Karnataka has Kannada as its sole official language, while the state of Jammu and Kashmir has Kashmiri, Urdu and Dogri as its official languages.

Article 345 of the Indian constitution provides recognition to "official languages" of the union to include any one or more of the languages in use in the state or Hindi language adopted by a state legislature as the official language but, . 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, Manipuri and Nepali, thereby increasing the number of official regional languages of India to 18[13]. Individual states, whose borders are mostly drawn on socio-linguistic lines, are free to decide their own language for internal administration and education.

The following table lists the official languages set out in the eighth schedule as of May 2008:[14]

Language Genetic affiliation Speakers (as of 2001, in million) Geographical distribution
Assamese/Axomiya Indo-Aryan, Eastern 13 Assam
Bengali Indo-Aryan, Eastern 83 West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand, Tripura (list)
Bodo Tibeto-Burman 1.2 Assam
Dogri Indo-Aryan, Northern 0.1 Jammu and Kashmir
Gujarati Indo-Aryan, Western 46 Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu (list)
Hindi Indo-Aryan, various 422 the "Hindi belt", North India
Kannada Dravidian, Southern 38 Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Goa (list)
Kashmiri Dardic 5.5 Jammu and Kashmir
Konkani Indo-Aryan, Southern 2.5 Konkan (Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala)
Maithili Indo-Aryan, Eastern 12 Bihar
Malayalam Dravidian, Southern 33 Kerala, Lakshadweep, Mahé, Puducherry
Manipuri (also Meitei or Meithei) Tibeto-Burman 1.5 Manipur
Marathi Indo-Aryan, Southern 72 Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Goa (list)
Nepali Indo-Aryan, Northern 2.5 Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam
Oriya Indo-Aryan, Eastern 33 Orissa
Punjabi Indo-Aryan 29 Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana
Sanskrit Indo-Aryan 0.05 Mattur
Santali Austro-Asiatic, Munda 6.5 Santal tribals of the Chota Nagpur Plateau (comprising the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa)
Sindhi Indo-Aryan, Northwestern 2.5 Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh (list)
Tamil Dravidian, Southern 61 Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra (list)
Telugu Dravidian, South-Central 74 Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Orissa (list)
Urdu Indo-Aryan, Central 52 Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand (list)

Official classical languages

In 2004, the Government of India declared that languages that met certain requirements could be accorded the status of a "classical language" in India.[15] Languages thus far declared to be "classical" are Tamil (in 2004),[16] Sanskrit (in 2005),[17] Kannada (in 2008), and Telugu (in 2008).[18]

In 2005, Sanskrit, which already had special status in Article 351 of the Constitution of India as the primary source language for the development of the official language Hindi,[19] was also declared to be a classical language; this was followed by similar declarations for Kannada and Telugu in 2008, based on the recommendation of a committee of linguistic experts constituted by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.[18]

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",[20]

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.

Regional languages

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, there was a challenge to the Indian legislators of picking up a language for official communication as well as for communication between different linguistic regions across India. The choices available were

  • Making Hindi, which is spoken by a plurality of the people (just more than 40%) in India, as an official language. Although some Hindi-understanding peoples' first language (Mother tongue as it is known in India) only has slight resemblance to the language Hindi itself.
  • All the other people i.e. South Indians, Bengalis, Marathi, People from the North-East etc. prefer English for official medium of communication.
  • Hindi and English both declared as Official languages and each state is given freedom to choose official language of the state. . Hindi is the co-official language but not National language of India.

Practical Problems

Choosing Hindi as an official language presents serious problems to every person whose "Mother Tongue" is not Hindi. This may be a huge burden for children who have to learn Hindi completely just to advance to the next level in education. This is because all the boards of education across India, recognized the 'need' of training people to one common language. There are many complaints that in North India, non-Hindi speakers undergo considerable difficulties on account of language.


Also because of the large population involved (India is the second most populous country in the world), it is challenging to find a solution.

Local Official language commissions have been established and various steps are taken in a direction to reduce tensions and frictions.

Changes in 2007

  • India's most prestigious Indian Institute of Technology entrance, most popularly known as IIT-JEE, has changed its format. In 2007, the questions are posed in either Hindi or English, and students can answer in one of these languages: English, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.[22]

Language conflicts

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.[23] Strong cultural pride based on language is also found in other Indian states such as Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and to a certain extent in Kerala. 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.[24]

Recently anti Hindi feelings have been expressed in Mumbai by Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena[25]

The Government of India attempts to assuage these conflicts with various campaigns, coordinated by the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysore, a branch of the Department of Higher Education, Language Bureau, Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Writing systems

Tamil Vatteluttu script, 3rd century BC
Ashoka's 6th pillar edict, 3rd century BC

Various Indian languages have corresponding scripts for them. Hindi and similar language are written with Devnaagari, such as Maithili, Awadhi, Haryaanavi, Bhojpuri, ChhattisgaRdhi etc. Most other languages are written using a script specific to them, such as Punjaabi with Gurmukhi, Gujraati with Gujraati etc. Urdu and sometimes Kashmiri, Saraiki, Sindhi and Panjabi are written in modified versions of the Perso-Arabic script. Except for these languages, the alphabets of Indian languages are native to India. (See ISO 15919 regarding Romanization of Indian languages)

Software for typing in Indian Languages

  • Baraha
  • Indic script IME s (keyboard layouts) and other Indic-language software by Microsoft - Windows.
  • Quillpad an online editor for different Indian Languages.

See also


  1. ^ See: Nihali, Burushaski, Andamanese languages
  2. ^ "Presidential Order, 1960". Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 27 April 1960. Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  4. ^ There's no national language in India: Gujarat High Court
  5. ^ More than a thousand including major dialects. The 1991 census recognized "1576 rationalized mother tongues" which were further grouped into language categories (Indian Census)
  6. ^
  7. ^ Bhatia, Tej K and William C. Ritchie. (2006) Bilingualism in South Asia. In: Handbook of Bilingualism, pp. 780-807. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
  8. ^ Shapiro, M: Hindi.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Malayalam literary survey, 1993Published by Kērala Sāhitya Akkādami (Academy for Malayalam literature)
  11. ^ a b Indian Census
  12. ^ 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." 4. United States Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, Country Profile: India. 5 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Country Profile: India.
  13. ^ "Legislation: Legislation dealing with the use of languages". Constitution of India. Articles 29, 30, 120, 210, 343-351 as amended in the 21st and 71st Amendments.
  14. ^ Constitution of India, page 330, EIGHTH SCHEDULE, Articles 344 (1) and 351]. Languages.
  15. ^ "India sets up classical languages". BBC. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b "Declaration of Telugu and Kannada as classical languages". Press Information Bureau. Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  19. ^ Constitution of India, Part XVII.—Official Language.—Art. 351. Page 217 Quote: "It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages."
  20. ^ "CLASSICAL LANGUAGE STATUS TO KANNADA". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 2006-08-08. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  21. ^ The Pioneer > Columnists
  22. ^ Indian Institute of Technology, IIT, IIT-JEE, Joint Entrance Examination, IITJEE, IIT JEE, IIT Delhi, Chennai, Guwahati, Mumbai, Kanapur, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Screening Test, Main Examination
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^

External links


Redirecting to Languages of India


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address