Hello everyone, welcome to the Langfocus channel and my name is Paul
Today we're going to talk about one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world.
That country is India.
The exact number of languages spoken among India's 1.3 billion people is hard to pinpoint exactly.
Different sources give different numbers, and that's partly because they have different ideas
about what can be classified as a separate language as opposed to a dialect.
According to Ethnologue, there are 448 languages.
According to the People's Linguistic Survey of India, there are 780 languages,
and then there is the Indian Census data.
On the Indian census, people can call their mother tongue whatever they want,
and there was a total of 19,569 different language names among the responses.
Of course that's way too high. There aren't even that many languages in the whole world.
Some people probably just call the same language by different names depending on their locality or ethnicity.
Those 19,969 names were grouped into 1369 mother tongues,
and each of those mother tongues are further grouped under one of 121 languages.
But that only includes languages with 10,000 or more speakers, so there must be more.
India has two official languages at the national level. Hindi, and English
There are also 22 scheduled languages.
These are recognised and encouraged by the national government.
The Indo-Aryan family, a branch of the Indo-European language family, which is predominant in northern India,
and the Dravidian language family, which is predominant in southern India.
The remainder, mostly belong to the Austro-Asiatic, Sino-Tibetan, and Tai-Kadai language families.
These are the top ten most spoken languages in India according to the census.
For each language, the numbers include all of the mother tongues associated with that language.
If we define the language more narrowly, then the numbers might be lower for each language.
For example, the total for Hindi includes the languages of the Hindi Belt,
the area where Hindi-proper forms a dialect continuum with related languages
like the Rajusthani languages, and most of the Bihari languages, and the Pahari languages.
These languages are linguistically distinct from Hindi but are closely related to it,
and since Hindi is the main official language in the states of the Hindi Belt,
people often think of their languages as local varieties of Hindi.
It does not, however, include Urdu, even though Urdu and Hindi are essentially the same language with different standard forms.
For more information about the relationship between Hindi and Urdu,
check out my video on that subject from a couple of years ago.
The origin of the Dravidian languages is not known,
and they share no clear links with any other language family.
However, there are theories that the Dravidian languages could could be linked with the Uralic language family,
including Hungarian and Finnish, or the disputed Altaic language family,
which includes Turkish, Mongolian, Korean and Japanese.
The oldest existing Dravidian writings are the Tamil Brahmi inscriptions,
some of which date back to the 3rd or 4th century BCE.
Some more recently discovered inscriptions may be even older.
though we don't have original inscriptions of those.
Keep in mind that these are just the oldest inscriptions and literature that we know about,
The languages are certainly older than that.
But of course they've all developed a lot since those early days.
In terms of grammar, Dravidian languages are agglutinative,
This sentence means, "I eat mango".
This is the root verb, meaning "eat", this suffix shows the present tense, and this suffix shows the first-person singular.
Now in the future tense, "I will eat mango".
Here's the verb root, this suffix indicates future tense, and again this is first-person singular.
The most common word order is (Subject - Object - Verb) as we just saw in those sentences above,
but the word order is flexible.
For Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam, I've seen claims that Sanskrit words account for
65-80% of the vocabulary, but I'm not sure there's a way to calculate that with precision.
It's true that in writing and in educated speech,
a lot of Sanskrit words are used, but much less so in the rural areas and among less literate people.
While the Dravidian languages have been influenced by Sanskrit,
the Indo-Aryan languages are directly descended from Sanskrit.
But Sanskrit, and its associated dialects, developed over time into Prakrits.
These Prakrit languages then developed into the Indo-Aryan languages of northern India,
much in the same way that Latin developed into Vulgar Latin, and then into the Romance languages.
One well-known Prakrit is Pali,
Magadhi is the ancestor of the eastern Indo-Aryan languages, including Bengali and others.
Shauraseni Prakrit is the ancestor of the central Indo-Aryan languages,
which include the Hindi languages.
Maharashtri Prakrit is the ancestor of the southern Indo-Aryan languages, including Konkani, Marathi,
as well as Sinhala, of Sri Lanka, and Dihevi of the Maldives.
Just as the Dravidian languages have been an influenced by Sanskrit,
the Indo-European languages have also been influenced by Dravidian languages,
due to contact over the millenia.
Even Sanskrit contains some Dravidian vocabulary, phonetic influence, and grammatical influence.
But influence has also taken place over time since then, due to continuous contact,
especially in languages bordering the Dravidian areas,
like Marathi and Odia.
As part of the Indo-European language family,
One important feature of the Indo-Aryan languages is that
Here are a few simple examples of every-day words in Hindi, that came from Persian.
Those are just a few examples of the many words that are used.
It's interesting to note that in Urdu, these words are the same, but look exactly like the Persian words,
because Urdu is written in the Perso-Arabic script.
There was much less Persian influence on the Dravidian languages.
That's probably because northern India was more consistently under Muslim control than the south.
It's also probably because the Indo-Aryan languages are closer to Persian to begin with.
which borders Bhutan.
Meitei is the official language of the state of Manipur, which borders Myanmar.
The many Sino-Tibetan languages in north-eastern India belong to the Tibeto-Burman sub-family,
and are grouped geographically into a branch of Tibeto-Burman,
but the exact relationship between many of these languages is unclear.
despite its relatively small area and population.
and the other official lanuage of Assam.
While its vocabulary is based on Assamese, its grammar is rooted in Tibeto-Burman languages.
One of the 22 scheduled languages,
spoken in a number of states in eastern and north-eastern India.
There are numerous other languages in India belonging to the same Munda branch of Austro-Asiatic.
Austro-Asiatic doesn't sound indigenous to India, does it?
The Austro-Asiatic language family is the family that includes Vietnamese
and the Khmer language of Cambodia.
Scripts are one of the most intriguing aspects of India's linguistic diversity.
According to the People's Linguistic Survey of India,
All of these Dravidian scripts are also used to write a number of minority languages and Sanskrit,
in their respective regions
Even though these scripts all derived from the same source,
being able to read one doesn't mean you can read the others without first learning them.
And that brings me to an important question.
With all of this linguistic diversity, how do Indians communicate with people who speak different native languages?
Well, my understanding is that, in northern India, because the Indo-Aryan languages are closely related,
they can become mutually intelligible through exposure.
But, without exposure, their speakers can probably just pick out certain words in the other language.
Many non-Hindi speakers can understand Hindi through exposure,
even though they may not be able to speak it very well.
So if they talk to a Hindi speaker, then there may be one-way intelligibility,
or asymmetric intelligibility.
But if the Hindi speaker learns to understand their language through exposure,
then they may speak to each other in their own languages, and understand each other.
But many Indians are multi-lingual, so they might fully communicate in Hindi, or in the other language
Or, they might communicate in English.
English becomes even more important when Indo-Aryan speakers communicate with Dravidian speakers,
since their native languages are very different,
and there may be some pride that prevents them from speaking the other language.
Of course this is also true for the other languages belonging to the Sino-Tibetan
and Austro-Asiatic familys, among others.
It's worth emphasising that every state or area has many languages spoken,
but one particular language might dominate, and be used as a lingua franca,
and it may not be Hindi or English.
It might be the official language of that state,
or it might be the most predominant language in that area.
But, many Indians have told me that, in general,
they just tend to spend more time with people who speak the same language as them.
Leave your answers in the comments below this video.
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