Languages spoken all over India includes several language families, the major ones being the Indo-Aryan languages which are spoken by 78.05 percent of the Indians, and the Dravidian languages spoken by 19.64 percent of the Indians. Languages are spoken by the rest of the 2.31 percent of the population belonging to the Austroasiatic, Sino-Tibetan, Tai-Kadai, and a few other language families and isolates. India has the world’s second-highest number of languages, i.e., 780, after Papua New Guinea with 839 number of languages.
The official languages of India are :
Article 343 of the Indian constitution lays that the official language of unified India is “Hindi” which is in “Devanagari” script. But later The Official Languages Act, 1963, i.e. a constitutional amendment provided for the continuation of the practice of English besides Hindi in the Indian government (undoubtedly and unlimited until the legislation itself decides to change it).
The type of numerals to be practiced for the official purposes of the Union is “the international form of Indian numerals”, referred to as the “Arabic numerals” in most of the countries who speak English. Despite the misconceptions, Hindi is yet not known as the national language of India. The Constitution of India does not recognize any language for the crown of the national language.
The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution gives a list of 22 languages, which are regarded as “scheduled languages” and are recognized and is given the status and official encouragement. Moreover, the Government of India awarded the classification of the classical language to Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu. Languages having a rich heritage and independent nature receive Classical language crown.
Census of India :
According to the Census of India 2001, India has 122 significant languages and 1599 other languages. But approximations from different sources vary basically due to the differences in the definition of the terms “language” and “dialect”.
The 2001 Census reported around 30 languages, spoken by more than a million native speakers and 122 languages which were spoken by higher than 10,000 people. Two major contact languages played a vital role in the history of India, i.e. “Persian” and “English”. “Persian” was as the court language during the Mughal period in India. It ruled as an administrative language for many centuries until the British era. And hence, English continued to be an essential language in India. It still finds its use in higher education Universities and some areas of the Indian government. Hindi is the most frequently and commonly spoken language in India today serves as the “lingua franca” across most of the North and Central India.
Bengali, Marathi :
Bengali is the second largest spoken language in India with a significant amount of speakers in Eastern and Northeastern regions. While Marathi is the third most understood and spoken language in the country with a substantial amount of speakers in the south-western areas. But concerns were being raised with the imposition of the Hindi language in South India, most notably in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Maharashtra, Assam, Punjab, and other non-Hindi regions of India also started to raise concerns about Hindi.
Sir George Abraham Grierson did the first official survey of language diversity in India from 1898 to 1928, with the title as the Linguistic Survey of India which reported a total of 179 languages and 544 dialects. Moreover, the results received criticism due to problems in the distinction between “dialect” and “language”. The use of non-practiced personnel and under-reporting of data from South India were missing in the survey.
Different sources give entirely differing signs; based on the definition and grouping of “language” and “dialect”.
Census of India :
The Census of India reports and publishes data related to the number of speakers for languages and dialects but uses their unique terminology, differentiating between language and mother tongue. The mother tongues are rounded off within each language. Most of the mother tongues aligned were considered a language rather than a dialect, by linguistic standards.
1951 Census :
Separate data for Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi did not receive the issue because the returns were deliberately recorded incorrectly in states such as East Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, PEPSU, and Bilaspur.
1961 Census :
The 1961 census recognized 1,652 mother tongues spoken by 438,936,918 people summing up all the announcements made by an individual at the time when the census was going on. Still, the significant individuals often mixed names of languages with the terms of dialects, sub-dialects and dialect clusters or even castes, professions, religions, localities, regions, countries, and nationalities. Hence, the list includes languages with hardly a few individual speakers as well as 530 non-distinct mother tongues and more than 100 idioms that are non-native to India like “African”, “Canadian” or “Belgian”.
1991 Census :
The 1991 census counts 1,576 distinguished mother tongues. As per the 1991 census, 22 languages had more than a million native speakers, 50 of them had more than 100,000 speakers, and 114 of them had more than 10,000 native speakers. The rest of the speakers recognized a total of about 566,000 native speakers (out of a total of 838 million Indians in 1991).
2001 Census :
According to the census of 2001, there are 1635 rationalized mother tongues, 234 recognizable mother tongues, and 22 major languages. Out of these 29 languages have more than a million native speakers, 60 have more than 100,000, and 122 of them have more than 10,000 native speakers. There are a few other languages like “Kodava” that do not have any script but have a group of native speakers in Coorg.
Ultimately in 1946, the condemnation of national language was a bit contested topic in the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly of India. The primary concern was specifically of what should be the language to write the Constitution of India, and in which language to speak during the proceedings of Parliament and hence is liable for the epithet “national”.
Members who belonged to the northern parts of India made a note that the constitution should be drafted in Hindi with the unofficial translation in English as well. This was not agreeable to the drafting Committee on the terms that English was way better to craft the nuanced prose on constitutional edges.
The efforts of making Hindi the pre-eminent language received resistance by the members from non-speaking natives of India.
Gradually and ultimately, a compromise was made not to include any mention to a national language. Instead, Hindi in the Devanagari script was announced as the official language of the union constitution. But for “fifteen years since the commencement of the Constitution, the English Language continues to make its way into the official purposes of the Union, even before such commencement.”