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India - Overview


MAJOR LANGUAGES OF INDIA


There are 1652 different languages in India and 350 are recongized as major languages. Most of the languages of India belong to two families, Aryan and Dravidian. Languages spoken in the five states of south India belong to the Dravidian family and most of the languages spoken in the north are of Aryan family. The general script of the Aryan languages is different from the general script of the Dravidian languages. The Indians also distinguish between the general north Indian accent and general south Indian accent. Along with these two main language families, there are others from Sino-Mongoloid family spoken in the East India.

The Constitution has recognized Hindi, in the Devanagiri script, as India's official language. However English continues to be the working language. For many educated Indians, English is virtually their first language, and for a great number of Indians who are multi-lingual, it will probably be the second. The regional languages have been recognized as official languages of the States. In many cases, the state boundaries are drawn along linguistic lines.

Listed below are the 18 languages officially recognized by the Indian Constitution.

Assamese
is the language of Assam and is spoken by nearly 60 per cent of the state's population. It has developed as a literary language from the 13th century.

Bengali one of the leading Indo-Aryan languages, is the official language of West Bengal. It developed as a language in the 13th century and is now spoken by nearly 200 million people in West Bengal and Bangladesh.



Gujarati is the official language of Gujarat and is spoken by 70 per cent of the State's population. It is now one of the most developed languages in India.

Hindi is numerically the biggest of the Indo-Aryan family and is the official language of India. Among the various dialects of Hindi, the dialect chosen as official Hindi is the standard Khariboli, written in Devanagiri script.

Kannada is the state language of Karnataka and belongs to the Dravidian family. It is spoken by 65 per cent of the state's population. This language originates in 9th century.

Kashmiri is a language of the Indo-Aryan group and is often mistaken as the state language of Jammu and Kashmir. Urdu is the state language of Jammu and Kashmir. 55 per cent of the population speaks kashmiri. Kashmiri literature dates back to ad 1200.

Konkani the official language of Goa, is principally based on classical Sanskrit and belongs to the southwestern branch of Indo-Aryans. It is spoken by thousands of Konkanis in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala also.

Malayalam a branch of the Dravidian family is the official language of the state of Kerala. Malayalam developed as an independent language by the 10th century AD. Itt is the youngest of all developed languages in the Dravidian family.

Manipuri belongs to the Indo-Tibetan branch of language and is the state language of Manipur.

Marathi the Indic language, dates back to the 13th century. It is the official language of Maharashtra. Though Marathi separated from the main Indo-Aryan stock at a very early date, it has today fully developed as a literature of the modern type.

Nepali has 6,000,000 speakers in India in West Bengal, Darjeeling area, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Oriya a branch of the Indo-Aryan family, is the official language of Orissa state, where Oriya speaking people comprises some 82 per cent of the population. Oriya is found recorded as far back as the 10th century. However, its literary career began only in the 14th century.

Punjabi belongs to the Indo-Aryan family and is the official language of the State of Punjab. Punjabi, though very old, turned literary around the 15th century. It is written in Gurmukh script, created by the Sikh Guru, Angad.

Sanskrit the classical language of India, is also one of the oldest languages in the world- perhaps the oldest to be recorded. It starts with the Rig Veda, which appears to have been composed around 2000 BC.

Sindhi a member of the Indo- Aryan family, is spoken by a great number of people in the Northwest frontier of the Indian subcontinent comprising parts of India and Pakistan.

Tamil is the oldest language of the Dravidian languages and is the state language of Tamil Nadu. Tamil literature goes back to centuries before the Christian era. It is spoken by more than 73 million people.

Telugu is a Dravidian language spoken by the people of Andhra Pradesh. It is perhaps the biggest linguistic unit in India. Telugu is found to be recorded in the 7th century AD. However, it is only in the 11th century that it broke out into a literary language.

Urdu is the State language oh Jammu and Kashmir and is spoken by more than 28 million people in India. Urdu and Hindi have proceeded from the same source i.e., Khariboli. Urdu is written in the Persio-Arabic script and contains many words from the Persian language.

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