There are over 780 languages and 66 different scripts in India. Arunachal Pradesh is the richest among the States with 90 languages. These findings and more, are set to come to light with the publication of a baseline survey of Indian languages by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India. Comprising 50 volumes, the survey would be published between September 2013 and December 2014.
Work on the independent survey, now in its final stages, has so far thrown up interesting results. For instance, it has been found that West Bengal has the highest number of scripts at nine, PLSI president G.N. Devy told The Hindu over telephone from New Delhi.
Researchers found that Assam with 55 languages, Gujarat 48, Maharashtra 39, and West Bengal 38 are among the most linguistically diverse States.
“As per the 2011 Census, there are about 122 languages spoken by more than 10,000 people. Of them 22 are the scheduled languages. Other than the 122 languages, the survey has come up with languages that are spoken by less than 10,000 people many from tribal areas, nomadic communities and from the interiors of north-eastern part of the country,” Dr. Devy said.
Biggest such survey
This is claimed to be the biggest linguistic survey undertaken in this century. Irish linguistic scholar George Abraham Grierson had conducted the Linguistic Survey of India from 1898 to 1928.
Referring to tribal languages, he pointed out that Jharkhand had only a couple of scripts, but 16 different tribal languages. “In West Bengal, people believe that writing something makes it more authentic so there are as many as nine scripts,” researchers claim.
The survey, Dr. Devy said, has revealed that the north-eastern parts of the country have one of the highest per capita language densities in the world. According to him, the difficult topography of the region and the history of the tribal communities could have led to such a situation.
Of the 50 volumes, about 30 will be devoted to the States and the Union territories of the country, and the remaining will showcase the scheduled, tribal, coastal and sign languages.
The publication will be a result of four years of arduous work by people cutting across different sections of society from highly rated academicians to bus drivers, he said. “Inputs have been collected from the cross section of society,” he explained
“We are doing what the government should have done much earlier. The endeavour is to come up with a baseline study of languages in the country and see how they are evolving,” Dr. Devy said, pointing out that over the past 50 years the country has lost about 250 languages.
The PLSI is a rights-based movement for carrying out a nationwide survey of Indian languages.