India: The Country With Thousands Of Languages

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Written by: Trâm Anh + Huỳnh Huy

A GLIMPSE OF CULTURE | INDIA

India is one of the largest countries in the world, contributing to the diversity of their culture and the way they communicate. Moreover, the invasion of the British in the past has exerted profound influences in the Indian’s lifestyle, including their language.

In India, there are 122 major languages and 1599 other languages, according to the Cencus of India of 2001. However, a school of thought hold that in fact, it is less than that, which is due to differences  in definition of the terms “language” and “dialect”.  They are all divided into a number of language families.

The most popular one in India is Indo-European family, followed by Dravidian and Tibeto- Burman Family respectively. There are also other minor language families and it is easy to determine the distribution of each family on the map, thanks to the geographical distinction.

Indian languages

Indo-European Family accounts for the major part of India. Because its distribution is nearby western countries, their languages have been deeply affected, their sound have become more and more alike Western.

Out of more than 1600 languages, the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution lists 22 languages, which have been referred to as scheduled languages and given recognition, status and official encouragement.

In this article, we will show you the 10 most commonly-used languages in India out of 22 official ones.

Hindi (528 million ~ 43,63% of the population)

Hindi is a member of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. India’s two official languages are Hindi and English.

Additionally, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh all have Hindi as their official language. One of the Hindi dialects, Chhattisgarhi, has just been designated as the official tongue of Chhattisgarh. 

Hindi is spoken by 422,048,642 people in India, according to the Census of India, 2001, which groups speakers of all of its dialects and speech variants under the term Hindi.

In 1950, Hindi was adopted as the national tongue of India. The Indian Constitution mandates that Hindi written in Devanagari be used as the Union’s official language. The Devanagari script of Hindi shall be the official language of the Union, as stated in Article 343.

The international form of Indian numerals shall be the form of numerals utilized for official Union purposes. Hindi was intended to take the place of English in 1965 after English was named an associate language of the Union. English will continue to be used in the parliament and as an associate official language in the Union under the Official Language Act, which was approved in 1963.

Bengali (97 million ~ 8,03% of the population)

Commonly recognized by its endonym, Bangla is an Indo-Aryan language that is unique to the Bengal region of South Asia and has the Bengali pronunciation of [bala]. It is the second most commonly spoken of India’s 22 scheduled languages and the official, national, and most widely spoken language of Bangladesh.

Bengali is the fifth most spoken native language and the seventh most spoken language overall in the world, with about 300 million native speakers and an additional 37 million speakers of it as a second language.

indian art

Marathi (83 million ~ 6,86% of the population)

It is primarily used by Marathi speakers in the Indian state of Maharashtra.

It serves as the official language of Maharashtra as well as the states of Goa, Damaon, Diu, and Silvassa, where it also serves as a co-official language.

It is one of India’s 22 scheduled languages, and as of 2011, there were 83 million native speakers. Marathi is the tenth most widely spoken language in the world by native speakers. After Hindi and Bengali, Marathi has the third-highest native speaker population in India.  Of all the modern Indian languages, the literature in this one is among the oldest.  The Varhadi dialect and Standard Marathi are the two main varieties of the language. 

indian art

Telugu ( 81 million ~ 6,7% of the population)

The largest Dravidian language family member is Telugu. It is the official language of the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and is primarily spoken in southeast India. More than 75 million people spoke Telugu at the start of the twenty-first century.

Tamil (69 million ~ 5,5% of the population)

A traditional Dravidian tongue that the Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent speak as their mother tongue. The sovereign states of Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu in India, and Puducherry in India all have Tamil as one of their official languages.

The four other South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, as well as the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, also have sizable Tamil-speaking populations. The Tamil diaspora, which is present in a number of nations, including Malaysia, Myanmar, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Indonesia, Australia, and Mauritius, also speaks it.

Moors from Sri Lanka also speak Tamil as their mother tongue. Tamil was the first language to be designated as one of the 22 scheduled languages in the Indian Constitution.



Gujarati (55,5 million ~ 4,58% of the population)

Gujarati belongs to Indo- European family. It first appeared in 1100-1500 AD, which is known as The Old Rajasthan. Up to now, this language is mainly spoken in the state of Gujarat and other neighboring territories like Daman, Diu and Dadra.

According to Ethnologue, throughout the world, 61,953,120 Gujarati speakers ( including 56,953,120 using it as their mother tongue), which eventually makes it the 26 th most popular language in the world.

More than that, Gujarat is also the mother tongue of Mahatma Gandhi, “The Father of India”.

Urdu ( 51 million ~ 4.19% of the population)

Urdu is an Indo- European language spoken widely in South Asia. Although there are only 4.19% of Indian using it, it  is also considered to be the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan, alongside English.

This language is the consequence of the Persian invasion of India, which is traced back to 550 BCE.As a result, Urdu turns out to be a combination of Prakrit and Sankrit, therefore, share a common Sanskrit– and Prakrit-derived vocabulary base, phonologysyntax, and grammar, making them mutually intelligible during colloquial communication with Hindi.

While formal Urdu draws literary, political, and technical vocabulary from Persian, formal Hindi draws these aspects from Sanskrit; consequently, the two languages’ mutual intelligibility effectively decreases as the factor of formality increases.

Kannada ( 44 million ~ 3.61% of the population)

It is a classical Dravidian language spoken predominantly by the people of Karnataka in the southwestern region of India. The language is also spoken by linguistic minorities in the states of MaharashtraAndhra PradeshTamil NaduTelanganaKerala and Goa; and also by Kannadigas abroad.

Kannada’s origin is the Kadamba Script in the 5th century. During the ancient history, this genre of Dravidian language become the court language of some of the most powerful dynasties of South and Central India, namely the KadambasChalukyasRashtrakutasYadava Dynasty or SeunasWestern Ganga dynastyWodeyars of Mysore.

Moreover, Kannada has an unbroken literary history of over a thousand years. Kannada literature has been presented with 8 Jnanapith awards, the most for any Dravidian language and the second highest for any Indian language.

Indian languages

Chandrashekhara Kambara is the Eighth Kannada writer to win The Jnanpith Award, which is the oldest and the highest Indian literary award.

Oriya/Odia ( 37.5 million ~ 3.10 of the population)

Another language belongs to Indo-European family is named Oriya that is spoken widely in the State of Orissa ( newly named Odisha).

Odia is the sixth Indian language to be designated a Classical language, on the basis of having a long literary history and not having borrowed extensively from other languages. The earliest known inscription in Odia dates back to the 10th century CE.

Malayalam ( 35 million ~ 2.88 of the population)

It is a Dravidian language spoken in the Indian state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé district) by the Malayali people.

The origin of Malayalam remains a matter of dispute among scholars. The mainstream view holds that Malayalam descends from early Middle Tamil and separated from it sometime after the c. 9th century CE. A second view argues for the development of the two languages out of “Proto-Dravidian” or “Proto-Tamil-Malayalam” in the prehistoric era, although this is generally rejected by historical linguists. 

It is generally agreed that the Quilon Syrian copper plates of 849/850 CE is the available oldest inscription written in Old Malayalam. The oldest literary work in Malayalam, distinct from the Tamil tradition, is dated from between the 9th and 11th centuries. 

Conclusion

Concerns have been voiced about the imposition of Hindi in South India, particularly in the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, nevertheless.

Concerns about Hindi have already begun to be expressed in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Assam, Punjab, and other non-Hindi territories.

With a sizable population of speakers in the eastern and northeastern regions, Bengali is the second most widely spoken and understood language in the nation. Marathi has a sizable population in South-Western regions and is the third most widely used and understood language in the nation.

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