The Languages of India.

The Indian Express reports on the linguistic aspects of a census of India:

More than 19,500 languages or dialects are spoken in India as mother tongues, according to the latest analysis of a census released this week.

There are 121 languages which are spoken by 10,000 or more people in India, which has a population of 121 crore, it said. […]

For assessing the correlation between the mother tongue and designations of the census and for presenting the numerous raw returns in terms of their linguistic affiliation to actual languages and dialects, 19,569 raw returns were subjected to thorough linguistic scrutiny, edit and rationalisation. […]

Of the total population of India, 96.71 percent have one of the scheduled languages as their mother tongue, the remaining 3.29 per cent is accounted for other languages.

There are total 270 identifiable mother tongues which have returned 10,000 or more speakers each at the all-India level, comprising 123 mother tongues grouped under the scheduled languages and 147 mother tongues grouped under the non-scheduled languages.

A crore (from Sanskrit koṭi) denotes ten million (10,000,000); we discussed the New Linguistic Survey of India back in 2013. Thanks, Trevor!

Comments

  1. SFReader says:

    Besides crore, I would also italicize “scheduled languages”.

    I know what it means. but I am pretty sure majority of non-Indian English speakers don`t.

  2. marie-lucie says:

    SFR, good idea. I think I understand the terms but the use of ‘schedule(d)’ in this context seems unusual.

  3. I have been really impressed with the work being done by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India:

    http://www.peopleslinguisticsurvey.org/news-and-events.aspx

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41718082

  4. Thanks for the links, Kerim!

  5. Lakh and crore are routinely used in India, but make no sense to anyone outside the country. I feel like this is a situation where you need footnotes in a text to explain those terms.

    Anyhow why don’t they use “million, billion” etc. In India?

  6. Lakh and crore are routinely used in India, but make no sense to anyone outside the country. I feel like this is a situation where you need footnotes in a text to explain those terms.

    I guess the Indian Express feels they can take that knowledge for granted in their readers. I provided an explanation for mine.

  7. Scheduled language = one of India’s 22 official local languages (English is also an official language). So called because listed in a schedule (attachment) to the Indian constitution.

  8. Bathrobe says:

    Italicisation would be strange because both ‘crore’ and ‘scheduled language’ are accepted English terms, at least in India. They are not nonce borrowings. (‘Scheduled language’ might be italicised in a textbook to draw attention to it as a word being defined for later reference.)

  9. Stu Clayton says:

    If “scheduled” in “scheduled language” here means “official”, then “official language” is equivalent to “scheduled language”. The advantage of the expression “official language” is that it is generally understood, whereas “scheduled language” is understood only by people who understand its use in Indian English.

  10. Not so simple. The only official languages of the Government of India are Hindi and English. Many of the 22 languages listed in the Eighth Schedule (i.e. appendix) to the Indian Constitution are the official languages of one or more state governments, but not all. For example, Santali (the only scheduled language belonging to the Austroasiatic family) is not the official language of any state government, though it has a recognized status in the state of Jharkand. Per contra, the official languages of the state governments of Mizoram and Tripura are not scheduled languages. However, the Indian Government is constitutionally committed to the further development of the 22 languages, and candidates for the civil service may ask to be examined in any of them. English is not a scheduled language.

    Furthermore, “scheduled tribe” means “aboriginal tribe”, and “scheduled caste” means “lowest-ranking (formerly ‘untouchable’) caste”, both beneficiaries of India’s version of affirmative action. Scheduled tribes often speak non-scheduled languages.

  11. Breffni says:

    Besides, the article was presumably written for an Indian audience. During the Troubles Irish people got used to hearing about “scheduled offences” (those covered by a schedule to the Offences Against the State Act); it didn’t require constant explanation.

  12. John Cowan: thanks for the clarification.

  13. Today Stu is appearing in the role of the Plain People of Ireland. Watch for him to reprise his fabled personification of the Abstruse Spirit of Sloterdijk!

  14. J.W. Brewer says:

    I’m a bit confused by the alternation between “123 languages” and “270 identifiable mother tongues” and the parallel alternation between 22 “scheduled languages” and “123 mother tongues grouped under the scheduled languages.” I guess the 22 scheduled languages collectively have 123 separate dialects that are distinct enough to be separate “mother tongues”? Or am I missing something?

  15. During the Troubles Irish people got used to hearing about “scheduled offences” (those covered by a schedule to the Offences Against the State Act); it didn’t require constant explanation.

    Whereas to the rest of us it suggests that they occurred according to a rigorously enforced timetable. (“If we must have crime, let it at least be organised crime” – Havelock, Lord Vetinari.)

  16. January First-of-May says:

    So called because listed in a schedule (attachment) to the Indian constitution.

    Now I’m wondering – if that particular attachment had been called an annex instead of a schedule, would we now be talking about annexed languages?

    (…Yes, this was basically a silly pun.)

  17. I’m a bit confused by the alternation

    Me too, but I was too lazy to try to unravel it.

  18. minus273 says:

    Seems that mother tongues are languages, while languages are groups of mother tongues that share the same literary language. It’s like “languages” and “dialects” in older European terms before we linguists changed it.

  19. J.W. Brewer says:

    I am btw distressed to see that Vicipeid in Gaeilge does not seem to duplicate the English wikipedia articles on the features of Irish criminal law that make “scheduled offences” a meaningful idiom. Google translate suggests that the corresponding phrase ought to be “cionta sceidealta,” but I don’t know how likely it is that that’s idiomatic.

  20. SFReader says:

    Also there are “scheduled substances” -ie, made illegal in schedule (annex) to some document. Usually refers to drugs or dangerous chemicals.

    For example, “CWC-scheduled chemicals” means stuff like sarin or mustard gas – prohibited by Chemical Weapons Convention.

    I fear some people will get an awfully wrong idea that scheduled languages, tribes and castes are actually outlawed in India.

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