Prominent Languages of India – The most important aspect ofa Human Being is the ability to communicate with other humans and animals as well. The most common way to communicate is through the use of language. Language is the medium for the verbal and written forms of communication. In a country as diverse as India language is not just a means of communication alone but a confusion as well. Why you may ask? It’s because we have about 22 official languages but unofficially there are 122 major languages and grand total of 1600 languages!
The languages of India fall under 3 broad categories – Indo Aryan, Dravidian and Sino-Tibetan. Dravidian are mostly ancient languages whereas Indo Aryan languages are relatively newer languages. The four southern state languages Telugu, Tamil Malayalam and Kannada are all the Dravidian languages that also enjoys the status of “Classical Language” of India. Manipuri and Bodo fall under the Sino-Tibetan languages and the rest fall into Indo-Aryan Languages expect for Santhali which is a Munda language.
Read on to find out more about these languages. The Constitution of India recognizes 22 languages in India as per the 8th Article. They being
- Hindi or Hindusthani
- Oriya or Odia
Of these 22 languages some are more prominently spoken based on the population of that region as well as neighbouring states and regions. Some of these languages are official language for more than one state and also spoken in other states as well. The prominent languages of these 22 languages are – Bengali, Guajarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
Perhaps the most prominent of all the Indian languages, the top spot goes to Hindi. Spoken in most of north India in different dialects and variations Hindi is the largest spoken language in India with nearly 10 million native speakers of the language. Hindi is the official language of these states: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. It is taught as a second language in most of the Indian states. Contrary to popular belief Hindi is not the official language of India as it is not mentioned in the Constitution of India.
Owing to the British Raj English has emerged as one of the Official languages of India. It is the main language for use in Education and Government Institutions as well as Business and Economics. It is widely used in all walks of life in India and has becomelingua franca of India. It ranks 2nd in terms of usage across the country.
Known as Italian of the East,Telugu is one of the mellifluous languages of India. It is the state language of the two states of Andhra Pradesh and the new state of Telangana as well as Yanam which is a Union Territory.Of the 6 listed classical languages, Telugu is one of them. It is also spoken in the neighbouring states of Tamli Nadu and Karnataka. It is the 13th most spoken language in world and the 3rd most spoken in language in terms of the number of native speakers in India. It isone of the Dravidian language has the largest number of consonant sounds when compared to any other Indian language.
One of the oldest languages of the world Tamil is also one of the six classic language of India. Tamil is probably the only Dravidian language that has survived for so long and is still being used in the present day and is the 4th most spoken native language in India. Tamil is the state language of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry andis spoken in Andaman& Nicobar Island and in Sri Lanka .It also the official language of Singapore.
Touted as the Sweetest Language of the world Bengali is official language of the state of West Bengal. It is also widely spoken in the states of Assam, Tripura, Bihar and Jharkhand.It is the 5thmost spoken language in India and the world. The national anthems of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were first written in Bengali.21st of February is celebrated as the International Mother Tongue Day which is a tribute to the Bengali Language.
One of the modern Indo-Aryan languages is Marathi. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Diu & Daman, Dadar and Nagar Haveli. It also the co-official language of Goa. Marathi has influences of many other Indian and foreign languages like Portuguese, Persian and Arabic. In terms of usage it is the 6th most prominent language of India.
The 7th most spoken language in India is the language of Modern Standard Urdu. It is significantly spoken in regions where there is a considerable Muslim population such as West Bengal, Bihar, UP, Delhi, J&K, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It is also one of the official language of these states. Urdu has many dialect spoken and the most famous of these being the Hyderabadi Urdu.
The state language of Gujrat is one of the predominant language of the 22 recognised languages of India. Spoken by nearly 54 million people,Gujarati is the 8th most spoken language in India and the 26th most spoken native language around the world. The present day or Modern Gujarati has evolved from Sanskrit, Old and Middle Gujarati after the 18th Century. It is also one of the official language of the union territories like Diu and Daman, Dadar and Nagar Haveli.
The state language of the south Indian state of Karnataka, Kannada is also a Davidian language. Kannada is one of the recognized classical languages of India which came to being around 5thcentury BC. It is also in spoken pockets in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Kerala and parts of Maharashtra. It ranks 9th in list of most predominantly spoken languages of India.
Another member of the Dravidian language family is the official language of Kerala – Malayalam. It is the 10th most spoken language in India. Primarily spoke in the state of Kerala, it is also spoken in the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, and in the union territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep. It is said that during the 6th Century Malayalam evolved from Middle Tamil and has many borrowed words from Sanskrit as well. It ranks number 10 in terms of usage in India.
Formerly known as Oriya , Odia is the official language of the eastern state of Odisha or Orrisa. It is also one of the 6 languages that has a classical language status in India. This Indo Aryan language is also the 2nd language of the state of Jharkhand and is spoken in some parts of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar. In terms of usage this prominent language is the 11th most spoken language in India.
Another Indo-Aryan language, Punjabi is the 12th most spoken language in India and in the world. It is widely spoken in Pakistan, UK and Canada which has a large immigrant population of Punjabis. It is a language spoken by the Sikh population across India and is a state language of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
A member of the Indo-Aryan language family, Assamese is the official language of the north eastern state of Assam, it is also spoken in West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of Bangladesh. It is the 13th most spoken native language in India which is believed to have evolved sometime in the 6th or 7th century AD.
Classical Languages of India
A Classical Language as the name suggests is a language that is mostly an ancient language. The world have 5 classical languages namely, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Chinese, and Arabic. Following this concept in 2004 the Government of India announced that of the many languages of India it would choose 6 languages as classical languages.
As per the announcement by the Government of India the following is the criteria for a language to be included as Classical Language:
“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.”
The six Indian languages that have been listed are – Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Sanskrit, Telugu, and Tamil. These languages receive special benefits like international awards, ‘Centre of Excellence for Studies in Classical Languages’ and finally Professional Chairs in the Central Universities of the regions where these languages are spoken.
Other Languages and Dialects of India
With many other unrecognized languages in India, it was necessary to identify languages that have more that 1 million native speaks. These languages were listed a different dialects or variation of two official languages namely – Odia and Hindi
There are 26 such languages that are listed below:
|Bagheli/Baghel Khan||Nagpuria (Varhadi)|