INDIA - LANGUAGES

 

There are thousands of languages currently being spoken by the local residents in India. These are divided into several linguistic families. Over 70% of the population speaks languages belonging to the Indo-Aryan family, while over 20% speak Dravidic languages. There are smaller families or groups, such as Austro-Asiatic one, as well as completely separate languages that are unique to a tribe or village, not belonging to any family. These form the minorities of the languages spoken.

During the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of North India spoke Old Indo-Aryan languages. An example of these is Sanskrit, which remains to be the origin of many modern Indian words. Gradually, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Assamese, Saraiki and Marathi began to emerge as separate languages in the northern areas. This is believed to have occurred in around 1000 CE (Common Era), although there is no concrete evidence for this claim as yet. The Dravidian languages originated in South India and include Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.
Image of stone tablet containing Tamil Vatteluttu script, 3rd century BC
Tamil Vatteluttu script, 3rd century BC

While there is no one official language for the whole of India, Hindi is, in principal, its official language. This is stated in the country’s Constitution as is the right of India not to have a specific national language. Each state can decide upon their own official language. Their decision will likely be based on the religion and culture of the majority of its inhabitants. English is the secondary language and is used in business and education. In addition to these official languages and other linguistic groups, there are also hundreds of languages that are only spoken by certain tribes. These are in the rural areas, isolated from outside influences. These ones also tend to adopt their own religions and cultures, based on their knowledge of the world and their exposure to the environment. The languages spoken in the urban areas of this subcontinent have been influenced mainly by the Persian, Portuguese and English tongues. This is due to the country’s proximity to Persia and its dealings with Europe during the time when the spice trade was creating a major industry for the English, Portuguese and French. These ones frequently had to deal with and live amongst the Indian folk. Their influence was widespread and significant. Today, Indian residents have access to the media. This has led to a culture of youths watching American and English film and listening to this music. Therefore, even Bollywood productions feature more and more English slang and “Americanisms” in its dialogue.


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