Most of them belong to the Asian parts-Central, Eastern and Western. It is natural that differences and variations exist in their languages and dialects owing to their coming into India from different parts of Asia. The ethnic diversity also leads to diversification of language and dialects of our people.
There is a broad social integration among all the speakers of a certain language. In the beginning languages and dialects developed in the different regions of the country in a State of isolation. The language and the dialect thus play a significant role in defining the elements of regional identity. The cultural mixing has taken place among various races, and it led to the mixing of their languages and dialects to a great extent, although they maintain regional identity.
In free India the distribution pattern of major language groups was considered as a satisfactory basis for the formation of States. This has given a new political meaning to the geographical pattern of the linguistic distribution in the country. The most comprehensive data on languages was collected at the time of 1961 census of India. According to these census figures there were 187 languages spoken by different sections of our society.
Out of these, as many as 94 languages are spoken by less than 10,000 persons each and 23 languages together account for 77 percent of the total population of the country. According to some of the scholars, the total number of language and dialect in a country is about 700 (nearly 175 languages and 550 dialects). Out of these numerous languages, 22 are recognised as national languages of the country as they are included in the eight schedule of the constitution.
These languages are: Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Kannada, Sanskrit, Kashmiri, Malayaiam, Marathi, Oriya, Urdu, Konkani, Sindhi, Tamil, Telgu, Manipuri, Nepali, Punjabi and Gujarati, Maithili, Bodo, Dogri, Santhali. Hindi is the official language of India and it is understood by the largest number of people in the country. The languages of India can be conveniently grouped into four categories.
(1) Indo-European Family (Arya)
(2) Dravidian Family (Dravida)
(3) Austric Family (Nishada)
(4) Sino-Tibetan Family (Kirata)
It is interesting to note that the strength of the four families is very uneven: Aryan languages (73. %), Dravidian languages (20%), Austric languages (1.38%), and the Sino-Tibetan languages (0.85%).
(1) Indo-European Family – Aryan Language:
Nearly three-fourth of population of India speaks one or the other forms of the Aryan languages. Dardic and Indo-Aryan are its two main branch. The Dardic group includes Dardi, Shina, Kohistani and Kashmiri. Except Kashmiri which is spoken by more than 20 lakh people, none of these speeches are spoken by a population of more than 7000. The Indo-Aryan branch is subdivided into the North-Western, Southern, Eastern, East-Central, Central and Northern groups.
Landa, Kachchi and Konkani are included in North-Western group. Marathi and Konkani are included in Southern group. The Oriya, Bihari, Bengali and Assamese are included in Eastern group. Among the dialects of Bihari may be included Maithili, Bhojpuri and Magadhi. The East-Central group consists of three main sub-groups: (a) Avadhi, (b) Baghaili and (c) Chattisgarhi. The Central Group includes Western Hindi, Punjabi, Rajasthani and Gujarati.
The Rajasthani itself consists of several dialects. The principal of them being Marwari, Mewari and Malawi. The speeches that fall in the Northern group consist of one or other variety of Pahari speeches. They include Nepali, Central Pahari and Western Pahari.
(2) Dravidian Language:
Davidian languages are older than the Aryan languages. According to an estimate Dravidians entered India much before the Aryans. Other estimate indicates that they are original inhabitant of the country, who were driven away towards South by the Aryans at a later stage. Languages of this family are concentrated over the northern states including Gujarat and Maharashtra. In terms of the number of speakers, Hindi occupies fourth place in the world.
It consists of several dialects; Khadi Boli is one of them. Urdu is very akin to Hindi and is widely spoken in this belt. Other languages of this group are Punjabi, and Gujarati concentrated in the states of Punjab and Gujarat, respectively.
Kachchi and Sindhi, belong to this family; they are spoken in Gujarat and Rajasthan. The concentration of Marathi is in Maharashtra. Oriya, Bengali and Assamese are languages of the eastern group and are spoken in eastern India, mainly in Orissa, West Bengal and Assam respectively. Kashmiri, Kohistani, Shina and Dardi are spoken in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Dravidian family of languages consists of a number of groups such as (i) South-Dravidian, (ii) Central-Dravidian and (iii) North Dravidian. The major languages such as Tamil, Malayaiam, Kannada, as well as the minor languages or dialects such as Tulu, Kurgi and Yerukala are included in the South- Dravidian group. Central Dravidian group mainly consists of Telugu and probably Gondi. The Northern Dravidian group consist of Kurukh (Oraon) and Malto.
It is noted that the Dravidian languages are less diverse than the other languages families of India. The major language groups like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayaiam themselves account for 96 per cent of the total population of the Dravidian speakers.
(3) Austric Languages:
The Austric languages of India belong to the Austro-Asiatic sub-family. This sub-family is further divided into two main branches; (a) Munda and (b) Mon-Khmer. The Mon-Khmer branch consists of the two groups: Khasi and Nicobari. The Munda branch—the largest of the Austric-consists of 14 tribal language groups. More than 6.2 million people speak the Austro-Asiatic languages mainly the tribal population. Santhal language is the most widely spoken by more than 50 per cent people.
(4) Sino -Tibetan Languages:
The Sino-Tibetan languages are spoken by a variety of people. Depending upon their region and settlement, they are put into several groups and sub-groups. The three main branches are (i) Tibeto-Himalayan (ii) North-Assam and (iii) Assam-Myanmari (Burmese). The Tibeto-Himalayan branch consists of the following: (a) Bhutia group; and (b) Himalayan group.
The Bhutia group includes Tibetan, Balti, Ladakhi, Lahuli, Sherpa and Sikkim Bhutia. The Himalayan group consists of Chamba, Kanauri and Lepcha. Ladakhi has largest number of speakers followed by Sikkim, Bhutia and the Tibetan. In the Himalayan group the speakers of Kanauri have the highest numerical strength. The North-Assam or Arunachal branch includes the following six speeches: (i) Aka (ii) Dafla (iii) Abor (iv) Miri (v) Mishmi and (vi) Mishing. In this group the Miris have the largest number of speakers.
The Assam-Myanmari (Burmese) branch of the Sino-Tibetan family is divided into the following groins, (i) Bodo or Bero, (ii) Naga (iii) Kachin (iv) Kukichin and (v) Myanmar (Burma) group. There are several speeches in each of these groups. Among them the Naga group displays the highest degree of density there are as many as six speeches having a total strength varying between 1 and 7 lakhs. Manipuri has the largest number of speakers.
Geographical Distribution of Languages:
The languages (speeches) of the Austric family are spoken by the tribal group in the Khasi and Jaintia hills of Meghalaya and the Nicobar islands, the predominantly tribal districts of Santhal Parganas, Ranchi, Mayurbhanj etc. Of the two speeches of Non-Khamer, Khasi is confined to the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, while Nicobari to the Nicobar Islands.
The Sino-Tibetan’s languages and the dialects are spoken by the tribal groups of North-East and of the Himalayan and Sub-Himalayan region of the North and North West. Ladakh, parts of Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim are its main area. Among the Assam Myanmari groups Naga dialects are spoken in Nagaland, Lushai is concentrated in Mizo hills, Garo in Garo hills and Metei in Manipur.
The plateau and the adjoining coastal region are inhabited by the people speaking Dravidian language. Telegu is spoken in Andhra Pradesh; Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Kannada in Karnataka and Malayaiam in Kerala. The tribal people like Gonds of Madhya Pradesh and Central India and the Oraons of Chotanagpur plateau also speaks some of Dravidian language.
The plains of India have languages of the Indo-Aryan family. The people living as far as south as the Konkan coast speak the Indo-Aryan language. Hindi is spoken in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Delhi. Urdu is closely akin to Hindi and is widely distributed in this belt.
A major concentration of those people who declare Urdu as their mother tongue is found in U.P. Bihar, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. Kachchi and Sindhi are mainly concentrated in Western India.
Marathi the most important language of Southern group is spoken in Maharashtra. The languages of the Eastern group such as Oriya, Bengali and Assamese are spoken in Orissa, West Bengal and Assam respectively. The language of the Central group like Punjabi and Gujarati are confined to Punjab and Gujarat respectively. The speakers of the various forms of Pahari and the Nepali inhabit the Himalayan and sub Himalaya’s area of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
As the states of India are language-based, the Scheduled languages are spoken by majority of the population in respective states. In Kerala, for instance, 96 per cent of the population speaks Malayalam, and in Andhra Pradesh more than 85 per cent of the people speak Telugu. Thus, every Scheduled language has its specific region and core of these exists in specific state.
The boundary of a linguistic region is, however, not a demarcated line but a transitional zone over which one language gradually loses its dominance and gives way to another. There is an intermingling of languages among the various linguistic groups. People are often bilingual or tri-lingual in several areas. Further, in many states, the major language of one of the adjacent states is the second most important language spoken by the second largest group of people in the state.
In the Indian Union, most of the States have been delineated on the basis of linguistic pattern of languages. Based on the principle of numerical strength about a dozen major languages constitute the principal linguistic regions.
However, the tribal languages do not fit into this scheme of regions as the tribal groups are concentrated in enclaves in Central, Eastern and North-Eastern parts of the country. The regional mosaic of the tribal language is highly complex and does not lend itself to a simplified scheme of regions. Broadly speaking the principal languages of India constitutes the following 12 linguistic regions.
Besides the above mentioned States based on languages all north-eastern States like Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya etc. are carved on the basis of languages spoken by the people living in these States. The above mentioned linguistic region generally corresponds with the States of Indian Union.
But the State boundaries do not always correspond with the linguistic boundaries. The linguistic boundary in itself is not a line but a zone of transition over which one language gradually loses its dominance and gives way to the other. Even because of diverse languages and dialects India is not a country of diversities but of unity.
Unifying Influences of Languages and Dialects:
It can be concluded that different languages and dialects are spoken in the country from the above discussion. A fact should be recognised that there have been strong forces of integration in spite of the linguistic diversities. The process of social interaction between the different linguistic groups over centuries had led to the development of a common all-India vocabulary.
The major role in this process of integration has been played by Sanskrit, Persian and English—all three serving as the State language at one or the other stage of our history. Sanskrit exercised a binding role among the Indo-Aryan languages themselves on the one hand and the Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian on the other. During the medieval period Persian influenced the indigenous languages especially Marathi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Bengali.
English has performed the similar role in modern times. The process of linguistic integration has been strengthened both by Hindi and Urdu. Films made in this language are understood in all part of the country.
The linguistic diversities has a other sides also. The variations in the language have caused problems by encouraging generally the tendencies of regionalism. This has been proved by the formation of many Indian States on a linguistic basis, according to the languages spoken by parts of the country.
The people of the South India particularly Tamil Nadu have been antagonostic to Hindi language of the North and they have agitated so many time it’s being imposed as official language of Union of India. Because of these attitudes and to accommodate their sentiments the language for official transactions in India is allowed to differ from one State to the other States.