India a land of many Languages

The languages different nationalities living in India speak are as diverse as its heritage and culture. Interestingly, across our vast country, people speak in at least 850 different languages and 1,683 dialects or their “mother tongues”. Languages spoken in India belong to any of the four major groups: the Indo-Aryan (74%), the Dravidian (24%), the Austro-Asiatic (1.2%), or the Tibeto-Burman (1 %) families and some Himalayan languages still remain to be classified. On the basis of a language, India can be divided into “Hindi” and “non-Hindi” speaking regions. The Hindi speaking belt – constitutes of only 10 (out of 28) states and 3 (out of 7 union territories) has Hindi as the principal official language, while the rest use their own “state” or regional language with English translation for those who don’t understand the language. Thus, protecting the interests of people in non-Hindi speaking belt, the constitution prohibits giving any one language the status of a “National Language”, unless it is voluntarily accepted by all the Indian states. Hindi (written in the Devanagri script), has evolved from Sanskrit.Though, as per our Constitution of the country, only “Hindi in Devnagri script” enjoys the status of an “official language”, thanks to recent rapid industrialization, introduction of new technologies and globalization of our economy, English continues to be another influential communication medium for day-to-day business of the government. It is therefore accorded a similar status of “official language” as Hindi. Besides, each state from the “non-Hindi” belt uses its own “state” or regional language for communication with the rest of India. India has thus not just two, but (together with regional languages) 23 listed official languages. Among the 23 official languages, 18 are regional or “state” languages.Over time, Dravidian, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Portuguese and English languages have enriched it, developing as the main official language that is understood well and spoken in most urban parts of the country. Whereas, Hindi is predominantly used for communication within the central government departments and with the state governments in the “Hindi belt”, communication from the Centre to “non-Hindi belt” states are both in Hindi, accompanied with an English translation. Similarly, the communication from the “non-Hindi belt” states to the centre or any other state is in its “state” or regional language, accompanied with a translation in English. For example, information from the center to West Bengal will be in Hindi with English translation and this state communicates back in Bengali and English translation. 21 other languages, besides Hindi and English that enjoy the “official language” status are important from point of view of translation jobs. 

State specific, unofficial state language (not recognized by the Constitution)
1 Kokborok Tripura 1.3
2 Mizo Mizoram, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura. Also spoken in Bangladesh, Myanmar. < 1
3 Sikkimese North Sikkim by Bhutia tribe and in Bhutan < 0.5
4 Khasi, Meghalaya, West Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Udaipur, Tripura, West Bengal. Also spoken in Bangladesh 0.6
5 Garo
6 French Pondicherry.  
1 Bihari language  
  Angika North and South Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal (Magadh area) 0.7
  Bhojpuri Bihar 23
  Magadhi South Bihar 12
2 Rajasthani Language 50
  Marwari Marwar Jodhpur, Nagour and Bikaner 20
  Mewari Udaipur, Chittor and Kota-Bundi
  Shekhavati Shekhavati (Sikar, Churu, Jhunjhunu) region 3
3 Haryanvi Hindi dialect used in Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh 13
4 Chhatisgarhi Chhatisgarh 11
5 Dhakanni (dialect of Urdu language) Amalgam of  Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu, Arabic, Persian and Turkish Spoken in the Deccan plateau region in the South, mostly around Hyderabad and predominantly by Muslims of South India) 11
6 Bhili Spoken by Bhil tribals 1.5
7 Gondi Spoken by Gond tribals in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra 2.1
8 Kodava Kodagu district of Karnataka 1.5
9 Kutchi Kutch region in Gujarat Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Orissa. Also spoken in Kenya, Malawi, Pakistan and Tanzania. 1
10 Tulu Spoken by Tulu people in Karnataka and Kerala 2
11 Sankethi Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala  
12 Avadhi West UP 0.5
13 Gamit Surat (Gujrat) by Gamit Caste 0.4
MINORITY LANGUAGES (less than 1 mln speakers)
1 Mahl Minicoy island, Lakshadweep 0.015
2 French Pondicherry  
3 Portuguese Goa, Daman and Diu, Dadar and Nagar Haveli  
4 Persian Pre- British era Govt. language  

3 thoughts on “India a land of many Languages

  1. Besides Hindi and its script, what are the scripts for the Dravidian languages in use in Inida today. Also, what about the Gudwara script for Punjabi? Is it still the main script for that language. Kashmiri in the Urdu script.

    What is the script for Assamese and for Nepalese?

    Thanks for your help. In the case of India, it would be helpful to list the major languages each with its designated script.

    Walt Landry