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LANGUAGES IN INDIA

 

OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

|| Introduction|| | Ancient Languages|| || Official Languages||  ||Tribal Languages||

The languages that are included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution are referred as the Official Languages. The VIII schedule originally contained 15 languages i.e. Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.  By the 71st Amendment of the Constitution, Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali have been added to the Schedule in 1992.

 

ASSAMESE

The origin of Assamese dates back to the 13th century. Assamese, together with Bengali and Oriya, form the easternmost group of the New Indo-Aryan languages and they have been derived from Magadhi Apabhramsa, the principal dialect that developed for the Old Eastern Prakrit. The modern Assamese has borrowed several words from Hindustani, Marathi, Gujarati, Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, English and other European languages. Assamese is the state language of Assam and is spoken by nearly 60% of the State's population. It is spoken by 13.07 million people in India i.e. by 1.55% of the total population.

 

BENGALI

Bengali is one of the major Indo-Aryan languages of India and is the official language of the state of West Bengal.  It is spoken by over 204 million people worldwide, but mainly in Bangladesh and India (69 million). The beginnings of Bengali are traceable to the period 1000-1200 AD.  Caryapadas or Caryagitis represent the earliest known specimens of Bengali, which were saturated with Sanskrit and Avahattha forms and idioms.  During 1500-1800 AD, it absorbed a large number of Persian, Arabic and Turkish words into its vocabulary.  Brajabuli was an early poetic form of Bengali.

 

GUJARATI

Spoken by more than 43 million people in India and also in several parts of the world like United Kingdom; Fiji; Zimbabwe; Zambia; Uganda; Malawi; Kenya; Singapore; Bangladesh, South Africa and Pakistan, Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. It is the state language of Gujarat and is spoken by 40.67 million people in India, about 4.81% of the total population of India and 70% of the State's population.  It is written in Gujarati script. Gujarati emerged as an independent language around 1000 AD.  Its basic vocabulary is derived from Sanskrit and Prakrit. The oldest Gujarati works in the form of Prakrit are described as Sauraseni or Nagara Apabhramsa.  The modern Gujarati has incorporated several foreign words from languages like Persian, Arabic, Portuguese and English.  Gujarati has several dialects like Standard Gujarati (Saurashtra Standard, Nagari, Bombay Gujarati, Patnuli), Gamadia (Gramya, Surati, Anawla, Brathela, Eastern Broach Gujarati, Charotari, Patidari, Vadodari, Ahmedabad Gamadia, Patani), Parsi, Kathiyawadi (Jhalawadi, Sorathi, Holadi, Gohilwadi, Bhawnagari), Kharwa, Kakari and Tarimuki (Ghisadi).

 

 HINDI

Hindi is the official language of the Republic of India and is spoken throughout the Northern India. It is the State language of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Over 457 million people speak Hindi globally, of which the Indian speakers constitute 337.27 million.  Hindi uses the Devanagari system of writing.  The dialects of Hindi are divided into the Western Hindi and Eastern Hindi groups. Hindustani, Bangaru, Braj Bhasha, Kanauji, Khari-boli and Bundeli are important dialects in the Western Hindi group, while Awadhi is an important dialect of the Eastern Hindi group.  Hindi began to take definite shape around 10th century AD. In its early period of evolution it was greatly influenced by a form of Prakrit called Sauraseni Apabhramsa.  In the course of time it assimilated many words from Arabic, Persian, English and other languages.

 

 KANNADA

Kannada is the State language of Karnataka and is spoken by 65% of the state's population. All over India it is spoken by 32.75 million people, constituting 3.87% of the total population. Kannada is a highly cultivated speech belonging to the Dravidian family of languages.  Its origin can be traced to the 9th century AD.

 

KASHMIRI

Kashmiri is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by about 55% of the population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.  However, the official language of the state is not Kashmiri but Urdu. It is written in both Persio-Arabic and Devanagari scripts. Bakawali, Bunjwali, Standard Kashmiri (Kashtawari), Kishtwari, Miraski, Poguli, Rambani, Riasi, Shah-Mansuri, Siraji Of Doda, Siraji-Kashmiri, Zayoli and Zirak-Boli are its important dialects.

 

KONKANI

Konkani, principally based on classical Sanskrit, belongs to the southwestern branch of Indo-Aryan languages. It is spoken in the Konkan region covering Goa and parts of the coastal regions of Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra. Konkani is the official language of the state of Goa. It is very close to Marathi and Hindi.  The origin of Konkani language from the historic viewpoint is very interesting.  Konkani is believed to have originated from Shouraseni Prakrit like the Assamese and Bengali. Hence some scholars regard Bengali or Assamese as the mother of Konkani language. Other historians argue that it was the language of Aryans who came further south to the Konkan, and hence the name Konkani. Scholars like Katre, Dalgado, Kalelkar, Shenoy Goembab and Cunha-Rivara opine that linguistically Konkani is an independent language, having more affinities with Bengali, Hindi and Gujarati, than with Marathi. Konkani has also been referred to as distinct in Suma Oriental (1513-1515), a travel account of the East including India, by the Portuguese Tome Pires, soon after the conquest of Goa.

The first Konkani inscription was found in 1187 AD. The Jnaneshwari was written in Konkani in 1209 AD and the Konkani Bible was published in 1808 AD.  Konkani has many dialects and there are different names for the different dialects. In Vengulra, Sawantavadi, and Ratnagiri, it is mixed with Marathi and is known as Malavani. People of Ratnagiri origin and Konkan Brahmins speak Chitpawani that is influenced by Marathi. The Konkani spoken by Goans is sometimes referred as Gomantaki. The Konkani spoken by Nawayatis of Bhatkal is very melodious with smearing of Persian.  In south and north Kanaras, Konkani language was influenced by Kannada, and in Kerala, the Malayalam words were integrated to the language. People of South Kanara do not distinguish between nouns of Kannada and Konkani, and sometimes add Tulu words to Konkani.  It has no script of its own but is written in the script of other languages. Early adopters used the Brahmi script, but eventually due to the local influence, Nagari (Devanagari) was used for the benefit of much larger audience. But Kannada, Malayalam and Roman scripts have also been used.  Although originally Konkani was the language of Saraswat Brahmins, millions have adopted it as their mother tongue. Sonar (Suvarnakar), Serugar, Mestri, Sutar, Vani, Devali, Siddi, Gabeet, Kharvi, Dalji, Samgar and Nawayati are some of the communities who speak Konkani. It is estimated that about 4 million people speak Konkani in India. Konkani was declared as a National language in 1987. 

 

MALAYALAM

Malayalam is spoken by about 30.37 million people in India, which constitutes 3.59% of the total population. It is the official language of the state of Kerala. Malayalam emerged as an independent language around 10th century AD.  It is the youngest of all the major Dravidian languages. Many scholars believe that Malayalam was derived from Sanskrit. Others, though unsuccessfully, tried to treat it as an offshoot of Tamil in the Middle period. It has several dialects like Malabari, Nagari-Malayalam, South Kerala, Central Kerala, North Kerala, Kayavar, Namboodiri, Moplah, Pulaya, Nasrani and Nayar.

 

MANIPURI

Manipuri or Meithei is the official language of the State of Manipur and is spoken by about 1.27 million people.  It is the most important of the Tibeto-Burman languages and belongs to the Kuki-Chin sub-group.  It is written in the Bengali-Assamese script.  The oldest Manipuri work is Poireiton Khunthok, which dates back to the third century AD.  A great deal of literature has come up in modern Manipuri. Loi, Pangal and Bishnupuriya are its dialects.

 

MARATHI

Marathi belongs to the Indo-Aryan stock of languages. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra.  It is spoken by 62.48 million people in India, which constitutes about 7.38% of the total population. Marathi is written in Devanagari script. The history of Marathi goes back to about 1000 AD when a Marathi inscription dating 980 AD was found at the foot of the huge monolithic statue of Gomateshwara in Mysore. Later inscriptions such as the edict of King Aparaditya (1183 AD) and the Pandharpur inscription (1273 AD) indicate the use of Old Marathi. Scholars differ about the origin of Marathi.  While some believe that it originated from Sanskrit, others contend that it developed from a form of Prakrit called the Maharashtri Apabhramsa and a third group claims that Marathi is of indigenous origin. Goanese, Varhadi, Nagpuri, Ikran and Gowlan are some of its common dialects.

 

NEPALI

Nepali is the official language of Nepal.  It is also one of the official languages of India.  It is spoken by nearly 16 million people, out of which 6 million reside in India.  In India, it is spoken in parts of West Bengal, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.  This Indo-Aryan language has Gorkhali and Palpa as its principal dialects.

 

ORIYA

Oriya is the official language of the state of Orissa and is spoken by over 87% of its population. It is spoken by about 28 million people in India which is 3.32% of the total population. Oriya is also referred as Utkali, Odri, Vadiya and Yudhia. This Indo-Aryan language was derived from Magadhi Prakrit and its modern form came into existence around the 10th century AD. Mughalbandi, Southern Oriya, Bhatri, Sambalpuri, Halbi and Koraput Oriya are its important dialects.

 

PUNJABI

Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language that originated from Apabhramsa of the region.  The characteristics of Sanskrit, Prakrit and Apabhramsa can be traced in Punjabi.  Although based on the Devanagari script, it is written in a 16th century script called Gurumukhi, created by the Sikh Guru Angad.  The language turned literary only around the 15th century.   Majhi, Doab, Bhatyiana, Powadhi, Malwa, Rathi and Dogri are described as the dialects of Punjabi. Some scholars consider Lahndi or Lahnda as the language of Western Punjab, as opposed to the Punjabi proper of the Eastern Punjab. Dr Mohan Singh (1950) mentions that Paisaci, Bhaka, Bhut Bhaka, Avahat and Jatki are the other names of Punjabi.  Punjabi is spoken by 23.78 million people in India, which constitutes 2.76% of the total population of the country.

 

SANSKRIT

Sanskrit is perhaps the oldest of the Indo-Aryan languages and is the parent for many other languages in India. It is one of the National languages of India.  It is the literary and liturgical language of India. Several valuable prose, poetry and drama works have been written in Sanskrit. As per the 1991 census it is spoken by about 49,736 people in India.

 

SINDHI

Sindhi belongs to the Northwest group of the Indo-Aryan family. It is spoken mainly in India (2.1 million) and Pakistan. It is one of the National languages of India.  It is generally accepted that Sindhi is of Sanskrit-Prakrit origin.  It has absorbed the characteristics of several different languages like Baluchi, Brahui, Pashto, Kashmiri, Multani, Bahawalpuri, Marwari and Gujarati. Later, several Hindi, Arabic and Persian words have been added to the vocabulary. In Pakistan, Sindhi is written in the Perso-Arabic script, while in India it uses the Devanagari script In 1851, a committee appointed by Sir Bartle Frere, the then Commissioner of Sind, recommended the use of an artificially derived Arabic-Sindhi script, which is still in vogue today.  Bhatia, Jadeji, Kachchhi, Kayasthi, Lari, Lasi, Thareli, Thari, Viccholi and Visholi are the principal dialects of Sindhi. 

 

TAMIL

Tamil is the oldest of all the Dravidian languages (about 2000 years old) and is the official language of the State of Tamil Nadu.  It is spoken by over 73 million people worldwide, of which 53 million are in India.  Besides India, Tamil is spoken in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, Myanmar, South Africa and other countries.  Its literary history dates back to 600 BC. Dialects: Adi Dravida, Aiyar, Aiyangar, Arava, Burgandi, Kasuva, Kongar, Korava, Korchi, Madrasi, Parikala, Pattapu Bhasha, Tamil, Sri Lanka Tamil, Malaya Tamil, Burma Tamil, South Africa Tamil, Tigalu, Harijan, Sanketi, Hebbar, Mandyam Brahmin and Secunderabad Brahmin. Kasuva is a jungle tribal dialect. Aiyar and Aiyangar are Brahmin dialects.

 

TELUGU

It is popularly believed that the word telugu and its older forms telungu and tenugu, were derived from the word trilinga or trikalinga i.e. from the three temples at Srisailam, Drakasharamam and Kaleshwaram. However, not many scholars accept this view. Some consider that it is derived from the word talaing. Marepalli Ramachandra Shastri says " In Gondi language, unga is a form for plural; telu means white. Hence, telunga probably refers to people who are white in complexion".  Another scholar Ganti Jogi Somayaji says that ten refers to south in Proto-Dravidian. Hence tenungu refers to Southerners.

Telugu is also known as Andhra-bhasa or the language of the Andhras, denoting tribes found on the south of the Vindhya Mountains. During 220 AD the word Andhrapathamu was used in the inscriptions in Ballari district. The language spoken by Andhras was given the name Andhra Bhasha. Different tribes used to speak different dialects. The tribes of Andhra such as Dravida, Yaksha and Naga spoke "Telugu" or "Tenugu". Andhras from North India used to speak another language called "Desi".  During the first phase of the evolution of Telugu, we only come across names of places and personal names of Telugu in Prakrit and Sanskrit inscriptions found in the Telugu country. Telugu was exposed to the influence of Prakrit as early as the 3rd century BC. The Nagarjuna Hill inscriptions of 250 AD contain some Telugu words. The first complete Telugu inscription belongs to the Renati Cholas, found in Erragudipadu, Kamalapuram taluk of Cuddapah district and assigned to about 575 AD. Telugu was exposed to the influence of Sanskrit about this period. The modern standard Telugu that is in use today, thus, had its beginnings in the spoken variety, right from the 10th century AD. The language was progressively enriched by contact with Sanskrit, Prakrit, Urdu and English from the ancient times.

Telugu is the most widely spoken language of the Dravidian family. In India, Telugu is spoken by over 66 million, which forms 7.8% of the total population of the country. Globally, it is spoken by over 75 million people.  It has also spread to the other parts of the globe like Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji South Africa and the USA.  Dialects: Berad, Dasari, Dommara, Golari, Kamathi, Komtao, Konda-Reddi, Salewari, Telangana, Telugu, Vadaga, Vadari, Srikakula, Vishakapatnam, East Godaveri,Rayalseema, Nellore and Guntur. 

URDU

Urdu is the state language of Jammu and Kashmir, the second official language of Bihar and it also enjoys the status of second language in a few districts of Andhra Pradesh in India. Urdu evolved along with Hindi in the capital of India, Delhi. It is spoken by 43.5 million persons in India, which is 5.13% of the population. Urdu is the language adopted by a considerable number of Muslims in India. It had its beginnings in the 12th and the 13th centuries AD. It started first as a literary language of the Deccan in the 15th and 16th centuries and then established itself as an important language of northern India in the 18th century. Urdu, like Hindi, originated from the Khari Boli speech of Delhi and the surrounding areas. Urdu is written in the Persio-Arabic script and contains many words from the Persian language. Urdu has been known by different names at different points of time in different parts of India e.g. Hindvi, Hindi, Dehlvi, Gujri, Zaban-e-Hindustan, Deccani, Rekhta, Zaban-e-Urdu-e-Mualla and Urdu.

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|| Introduction|| | Ancient Languages|| || Official Languages||  ||Tribal Languages||

 


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