South Asian ethnic groups: Wikis


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The ethno-linguistic composition of the population of South Asia, that is the nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka is highly diverse. The majority of the population fall within two large groups, Indo-Aryan and Dravidian. These groups are further subdivided into numerous sub-groups, castes and tribes. Indo-Aryans form the predominant ethno-linguistic group in Northern India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Dravidians form the predominant ethno-linguistic group in southern India and the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka, and a small pocket in Pakistan. Iranian peoples, grouped with Indo-Aryans in the Indo-Iranian language group, also have a significant presence in South Asia, the large majority of whom are located in Pakistan - with heavy concentrations in Balochistan, North-West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Dardic peoples form a minority among the Indo-Aryans. They are classified as belonging to the Indo-Aryan language group[1] Sometimes they are also classified as external to the Indo-Aryan branch[2], and are found in northern Pakistan (Northern Areas and North-West Frontier Province) and in Jammu and Kashmir, India.

Minority groups not falling within either large group mostly belong to the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman language families, most of whom live around North-East India. The Andamanese (Sentinel, Onge, Jarawa, Great Andamanese) live on some of the Andaman Islands and speak a language isolate, as do the Kusunda in central Nepal[3], the Vedda in Sri Lanka, and the Nihali of central India, who number about 5000 people. The people of the Hunza valley in Pakistan are another distinct population. They speak Burushaski, a language isolate.

The traditions of different ethnic groups in South Asia have diverged, influenced by external cultures, especially in the northwestern parts of South Asia (where Turkic and Iranian peoples have had much influence) and in the border regions and busy ports, where there are greater levels of contact with external cultures. This is particularly true for many ethnic groups in the northeastern parts of South Asia who are ethnically and culturally related to peoples of the Far East. The largest ethno-linguistic group in South Asia are the Indo-Aryans, numbering around 1 billion, and the largest sub-group are the native speakers of Hindi languages, numbering more than 300 million.




Indo-Iranian peoples

Indo-Aryan peoples

People who speak an Indo-European language

The extent of Indo-European languages in the Indian subcontinent

Iranian peoples

Extent of Iranian languages in south and southwestern Asia

Dardic peoples

Note: The Dardic languages are largely seen as Indo-Aryan, but are sometimes seen as a separate Indo-Iranian branch.


Nuristani people

Dravidian peoples

The extent of Dravidian languages in the Indian subcontinent

Austro-Asiatic-speaking peoples

Tibeto-Burman peoples

Red: Sino-Tibetan languages Light green: Indo-European languages Blue: Dravidian languages Dark Green: Altaic Languages Grey: 3 groups; Japonic {possibly Altaic}, Koreanic, {possibly Altaic}, and Indochinese languages. Pink: Austronesian languages.

Altaic People

  • Hazaras
  • The Mughal Dynasty (Turko-Mongolian and Persian)
  • Mogholi
  • possibly Hunza (may be related to Yenisei Siberians)
  • Muhajirs often claim some level of Turkic/Mongolian Ancestry

Austronesian people

Semitic peoples

Tai peoples

  • Ahom
  • Tai Aiton
  • Tai Khampti
  • Tai Phake or Tai Phakial
  • Tai Turung

European/Eurasian peoples


Linguistically isolate groups


Many South Asian ethnic groups and nationalities have substantial diasporas outside of South Asia.

See also Punjabi diaspora, Tamil diaspora, Pakistani diaspora, Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora and Indian diaspora.

Two (or possibly three) other people groups have ethnic and linguistic ties with the region:


  1. ^ G. Morgenstierne Irano-Dardica. Wiesbaden 1973; Morgenstierne, G. Indo-Iranian frontier languages. (Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning. Publ. ser. B: Skrifter, no. 11, 35, 40) Oslo: H. Aschehoug, 1929 sqq, reprint Oslo 1973,C. Masica The Indo-Aryan languages, New York 1991, p. 21; R.L. Trail and G.R. Cooper, Kalasha Dictionary, Islamabad & High Wycombe 1999 p. xi; The Indo-Aryan languages, edited by George Cardona and Dhanesh Jain. London, New York : Routledge, 2003
  2. ^ G.A. Grierson, The Pisaca Languages of North-Western India,Asiatic Society, London, 1906, repr. Delhi 1969, p. 4-6; still repeated in: History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Ahmad Hasan Dani, Vadim Mikhaĭlovich Masson, János Harmatta, Boris Abramovich Litvinovskiĭ, Clifford, 1999
  3. ^ D.E. Watters, Notes on Kusunda (a language isolate of Nepal), Kathmandu 2005
  4. ^ Yasmin Saikia. Fragmented Memories.  

See also


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