Languages in India : National Language of India & 22 Official Languages of India List

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National Language of India & 22 Official Languages of India List

Throughout all of history, people’s writings have mirrored the culture, way of life, society, and government of the time. In this way, each culture developed its own language and a huge body of written works. This huge body of writing gives us a look at how each of its languages and cultures have changed over the course of hundreds of years.

Language in the literary sense is a way to talk to each other. It is a set of sounds that everyone in a group understands to mean the same thing.

• A language family is a group of related languages that share a shared ancestor from before history was written down.

Dialect is a type of language that people in a certain place speak. It’s interesting that one tongue can give rise to more than one dialect.

 If two similar ways of talking are close enough that people can talk to each other and understand each other, they are variations of the same language. If understanding them is hard or impossible, they are different languages.

There are many different language groups, but most of the languages spoken in India are from the Indo-Aryan Group of Languages. The Indo-European Family gave birth to this Indo-Aryan Group. But there are some groups of languages that are native to the Indian subcontinent.

Classification of Indian Languages

Six main groups can be made out of the different Indian languages. These things:

1. Group of Indo-Aryans 2. Group of Dravidians 3. Group of Sino-Tibetans 4. Group of Negroids 5. Group of Austrics 6. Other

• Over the centuries, these languages have influenced each other, which has led to the major linguistic splits of India today.

• The Indo-Aryan and Dravidian groups are the most important, and together they make up all of India’s main languages. They have changed each other’s languages and, in turn, the Austric and Sino-Tibetan languages have changed them.

Indo-Aryan Language Group

• It is related to the Indo-European languages, which the Aryans brought to India. It is the largest group of Indian languages and is spoken by about 74% of the country’s people. It includes Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Sindhi, Rajasthani, Assamese, Oriya, Pahari, Bihari, Kashmiri, Urdu, and Sanskrit, among other languages.

This group of languages is again split into three groups based on when they came into being. There are three Indo-Aryan groups: (i) the Old Indo-Aryan group (ii) the Middle Indo-Aryan group (iii) the Modern Indo-Aryan group

Old Indo-Aryan Group (1500–300 BCE):

• This group started to form around 1500 BCE, and Sanskrit came from it. Vedic Sanskrit, which is found in the Vedas, the most important book in Hinduism, is the oldest proof of Sanskrit. It is the oldest language in our country and is one of the 22 languages named in the Constitution.

Development of Sanskrit

• Panini codified and standardised the language in his book Asthadhyayi, which was written in the 4th century BCE. This was the first step in the creation of Sanskrit grammar.

• The main steps of how Sanskrit changed were Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit.

• Some Buddhist writings from the Mahayana school and the Hinayana school are even written in Sanskrit.

The book Mahavastu of the Hinayan school has many stories in it.

The most important Hinayana book, Lalitavistara, was also written in the Sanskrit language.

• Sanskrit is the only language that has been spoken in more than one place. No part of India, from the north to the south and from the east to the west, has not added to or been affected by the Sanskrit language.

• Between 300 BCE and 200 BCE, Sanskrit turned into its clean form. It was a more elegant form of Vedic Sanskrit. Rudradamana’s writings at Junagarh in what is now Southern Gujarat show that Sanskrit was used for the first time. However, it wasn’t until the Gupta era that Sanskrit was used in poetry. This is a time when pure writing was made, as shown by the Mahakavyas (epics) and Khandakavyas (semi-epics).

Middle Indo-Aryan Languages

• The Middle Indo-Aryan stage of the development of Indo-Aryan languages is thought to have lasted from 600 BCE to 1000 CE, which is more than a thousand years. This stage is often split into three main parts.

• The Edicts of Ashoka, which were written around 250 BCE, Pali, which is used by Theravada Buddhists, and Ardha Magadhi, which is used by Jainists, are examples of the early stage.

Because early Buddhists wrote a lot in Pali, it is the Middle Indo-Aryan language with the most written evidence.

There are canonical texts, canonical developments like Abhidhamma, and a strong history of commentaries that people like Buddhaghosa were a part of.

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• The different literary Prakrits, especially the Shauraseni language and the Maharashtri and Magadhi Prakrits, show that the middle stage is where things got interesting.

The Jain ‘Agamas’ were written in Prakrit and Ardha-Magadhi.

 Middle Indo-Aryan languages are also often called Prakrit.

Prakrit is made up of:

o Pali: Many people in Magadha spoke it. It was popular between 500 BC and 100 BC. It has a lot in common with Sanskrit, and most Pali works were written in the Brahmi script. The Buddhist Tripitaka was also written in Pali. It is the language that everyone speaks in Theravada Buddhism. People think that Buddha himself didn’t speak Pali. Instead, they think that he preached in the Ardha-Magadhi language.

Magadhi Prakrit, also called Ardha-Magadhi, is the most important type of Prakrit. After Sanskrit and Pali fell out of use, more books were written in it. Buddha and Mahavira perhaps spoke in Ardha-Magadhi. Few Mahajanapadas and the Mauryan kingdom used it as their court language. In Ardha-Magadhi, many Jain texts and Rock edicts of Ashoka were also written. Later, it became Bengali, Assamese, Odia, Maithili, Bhojpuri, and other languages of Eastern India.

o Shauraseni: It was used a lot in mediaeval India to write plays. Dramatic Prakrit is another name for it. It was the language that came before the languages of Northern India. This form of Prakrit was mostly used to write by Jain monks. Shauraseni is the language used to write the oldest book of the Digambara Jains, called Shatkhandgama.

o Maharashtri Prakrit: This language was used before Marathi and Konkani. It was spoken until the 9th century AD. It was used a lot in the southern and western parts of India. It was the language of the government during the Satavahana Dynasty. Several plays, like “Gaha Kosha” by King Hala and “Gaudavaho” (the killing of the King of Gauda) by Vakpati, were written in it. Elu is an old form of Sri Lanka’s modern Sinhala language. It is related to Pali.

Paishachi: It’s also known as “Bhuta-Bhasa,” which means “dead language.” It is often called Prakrit, but it is just a small language. An old poem called Gunadhya’s Brihatkatha is written in Paishachi.

• The Apabhra, which was spoken before early Modern Indo-Aryan languages and dates back to the sixth century, is an example of the late stage. The Prakrits language gave rise to the apabhramsa language.

Patanjali used apabhramsa for the first time in his Mahabhasya (written around 200 BCE).

 Major books and writers are: Pushpadanta’s Mahapurana (Digambara Jain text), Dhanapala’s Bhavisayattakaha, etc.

The word comes from the Sanskrit word Apabhrasta, which means a wrong way of speaking Sanskrit.

Most of the holy language of the Jain people and the spiritual writings of the Siddhas were written in the Apabhramsa language.

Modern Indo-Aryan Languages

This group includes languages like Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujrati, Marathi, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Odia, Urdu, etc. These languages all came into being after 1000 CE. Most of the people who speak these languages live in the north, west, and east of India.

Dravidian Group:

Most of the languages in this group are spoken in Southern India. Before Indo-Aryan, the Dravidian language was spoken in India for hundreds of years.

It helps about 25% of the people in India. There are 21 Dravidian languages that came from Proto-Dravidian.

• There are three main groups of Dravidian languages: the Northern group, the Central group, and the Southern group.

(i) There are three languages in the Northern group. These are Brahui, Malto, and Kudukh. Brahui is spoken in Baluchistan, Malto spoken in Bengal and Odisha, while Kurukh is spoken in Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

 (ii) The Central group consists of eleven languages viz., Gondi, Khond, Kui, Manda, Parji, Gadaba, Kolami, Pengo, Naiki, Kuvi and Telugu. Only Telugu became a modern language; the rest stayed the way they were when they were spoken by tribes.

(iii) The southern group has seven languages: Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Tulu, Kodagu, Toda, and Kota.

Sino-Tibetan Group

• These languages are thought to be older than the Indo-Aryan ones. They are called Kiratas in the oldest Sanskrit writings.

• About 0.6% of the people in India speak a language from this group.

• There are two smaller groups within the Sino-Tibetan group:

 Tibeto-Burman

 Siamese-Chinese


• There are four main groups of Tibeto-Burman languages: Tibetan: Sikkimese, Bhotia, Balti, Sherpa, Lahuli, and Ladakhi; Himalayan: Kinnauri and Limbu;

Abor (Adi), Miri, Aka, Dafla, and Mishmi live in North-Assam.

Assam-Burmese is further split into four main subgroups: the Kuki-Chin, the Mikir, the Bodo, and the Naga. The most important language of the Kuki-Chin subgroup is Manipuri or Meithi.


One of the languages in this group is Ahom. However, this language is no longer spoken on the Indian subcontinent.

Austric Group:

• The Austric languages of India are part of the Austro-Asiatic subfamily. They include the Munda or Kol Group languages, which are spoken in the central, eastern, and north-eastern parts of India, and the Mon-Khmer Group languages, which include Khasi and Nicobarese.

• These are very old languages that were spoken long before the Aryans arrived. They were called Nisadas in ancient Sanskrit literature.

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• The most important Austric language is Santhali, which is spoken by more than 5 million Santhals and is the most widely spoken Adivasi language. Mundari, which is spoken by about a million Mundas, is another important Austric language.


Some Dravidian adivasi languages, like Gondi, Oraon or Kurukh, Mal-Pahariya, Khond, and Parji, are very different and can’t be put into the groups above.

Difference between the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian language groups:

The words’ roots are different in the two language groups. The way the two groups of words are put together is different.

• (a) The Dravidian language family has an agglutinative grammatical structure, which means that when root words are put together, there is little or no change in form or loss of words.

• b) Indo-Aryan Group grammar is inflected, which means that the end of a word or how it is spelt changes based on how it is used in a sentence.


Official Languages of India

• The official language of the Republic of India is spelt out in detail in Part 17 of the Indian Constitution (Articles 343 to 351). The Official Language of the Union is Hindi written in the Devanagari style.

• “Unless Parliament decided otherwise, English was to stop being used for official purposes 15 years after the Constitution went into effect,” which is January 26, unless Parliament decided otherwise. It means that Hindi will replace English as the national language of India 15 years after the Indian Constitution went into effect. Parliament can decide if English can be used as the official language. People who didn’t understand Hindi protested all over the country because of this clause. They didn’t want the official language to change from English to Hindi.

• Because of the protest, the Official Languages Act of 1963 was passed. This Act says that the official language of the Union is Hindi written in the Devanagari style. English is now a “subsidiary official language” of the Union.

• The Constitution of India also says that each Indian State can choose its own legal language for use in State-level communications. In the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, there is a list of many languages that can be used by the States for government business. Under the Eighth Schedule, the following fourteen languages were chosen at first.

 Assamese  Hindi  Malayalam  Punjabi  Telugu  Bengali  Kannada  Marathi  Sanskrit  Urdu  Gujarati  Kashmiri  Odia  Tamil

• Sindhi became the 15th language when the 21st Amendment Act of 1967 was passed.

• The 71st Amendment Act of 1992 added three more languages. They speak Konkani, Manipuri, and Nepali.

• The Eighth Schedule now has four more languages because of the 92nd Amendment Act of 2003. They are called Bodo, Maithili, Dogri, and Santhali.

• So, at the moment, the eighth section of the Indian Constitution lists 22 different languages.

 Assamese  Bodo  Gujarati  Kannada  Konkari  Malayalam  Marathi  Odia  Sanskrit  Sindhi  Telugu  Bengali  Dogri  Hindi  Kashmiri  Maithili  Manipuri  Nepali  Punjabi  Santhali  Tamil  Urdu

Official Languages in States:

Hindi is India’s official language, but each state can choose one or more of the languages spoken in that state or Hindi as the official language or languages for all or some of that state’s official functions.

Language of communication between Union and States:

• According to Article 346, the official languages for communication between two states or between a state and the union are:

• For the time being, the official language of communication between the Union is English.

• If two or more states agree that Hindi should be the official language for communication between those states, that language can be used.

Language of Courts:

Article 348 says that the Supreme Court, high courts, bills, acts, and other legal documents will be written in English until government passes a law saying otherwise.

Special directive for promoting Hindi:

Article 351 says that it is the Union’s job to spread the Hindi language, develop it so that it can be used to express all parts of India’s culture, and make it richer by assimilating, without changing its genius, the forms, styles, and expressions used in Hindustani and the other Indian languages listed in the Eighth Schedule, and by draping them over it.

First Official Language Commission:

• In 1955, B.G. Kher was put in charge of the first official language commission. In 1956, the commission gave its report, which was given to parliament in 1957 and looked at by a joint parliamentary committee.


India does not have an official language. Hindi is not one of our official languages. The word “national language” isn’t defined in the Constitution or any other law. The Constitution doesn’t tell States what language they should use for government business. States can choose their own legal language if they want to.

• States don’t have to choose one of the languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule. Several states have made a language that is not on the Eighth Schedule their official language.

 Examples:

Tripura-Kokborok is part of the Sino-Tibetan family.

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o French Puducherry

o Mizoram-Mizo

According to the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, English is not one of the 22 official languages.

The only states where English is the only national language are Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.


Status of Classical Language

Calls for Classical Languages

• Tamil scholars made the first call for a classical language. They said that the Sangam anthologies should be thought of as ancient languages. It is an old language, and the old Tamil is the first of the Dravidian languages.

The government made a note of it and then talked to the Sahitya Academi’s experts. Later, a committee was set up, and some standards were set up to decide which languages could be called “classical.”

Criteria for Classical Languages in India

• Right now, the government of India uses the following factors to decide if a language can be called a “classical language”:

High age of its earliest writings and written history, which dates back between 1500 and 2000 years.

A collection of old books or texts that have been passed down from generation to generation.

The literary history should be unique and not taken from another language group.

Modern language and literature are different from classical language and literature. There may also be a break between classical language and its later forms or offshoots.

Current Classical Languages

  1. Tamil (in 2004)

2. The Sanskrit language (in 2005)

3. In the year 2008, Kannada

4. The Telugu language (in 2008)

5. In the year 2013, Malayalam

6. In the year 2014, Odia

Benefits of the Status:

A decision from the Government of India says that a language that is named a “Classical Language” will get the following:

There are two big international awards given out every year to experts in the Classical language.

It is possible to set up a “Centre of Excellence for Studies in Classical Languages.”

The University Grants Commission can be asked to set up, at least at first in Central Universities, a certain number of professional chairs for classical languages for experts in Classical Indian Languages.


National Translation Mission

• The National Translation Mission (NTM) is a plan by the government of India to make translation a business and to help higher education by making knowledge books available in Indian languages to students and academics. The goal is to break down language boundaries and make a “knowledge society.”

• NTM wants to spread knowledge in all Indian languages listed in the VIII schedule of the Constitution. • It does this by orienting translators, encouraging publishers to publish translations, keeping databases of published translations from, into, and between Indian languages, and becoming a clearinghouse for information on translation. Through these efforts, NTM wants to make translation a business in India. • It is hoped that translation will help languages become more modern by creating new words and ways of talking. Translators would be very important to the process of modernising Indian languages, especially in the academic world.

• Knowing how to translate text is the first step towards making translation a business. The corpus of information Texts for NTM is all of the written materials that are meant to spread information.

• At the moment, NTM is working on translating all college-level teaching materials into 22 Indian languages. NTM wants to make the world’s vast amount of knowledge more accessible by translating college texts, which are mostly written in English, into Indian languages.

• It is hoped that this process will lead to the building of an information society that includes everyone.

Linguistic Diversity Index

• Greenberg’s Diversity Index (LDI) is the chance that two people picked at random from a community will speak different languages. It goes from 0 (everyone speaks the same language) to 1 (no two people speak the same language).

• The ILD shows how the LDI has changed over time. A world ILD of 0.8 means that diversity has decreased by 20% since 1970. However, ratios above 1 are possible and have been seen in regional indices.

• The variety index is worked out by dividing the number of people who speak each language by the total number of people.

• The index can’t tell you everything about how alive a language is. Also, the line between a language and an accent is often political and can change over time.

• Some experts think that a lot of languages are just different ways of saying the same thing, while others think that they are their own languages. The index doesn’t look at how different the languages are from each other or how often they are used as second languages. It only looks at how many different languages there are and how often they are used as mother tongues.

Lingua Franca

• A “lingua franca,” also called a “bridge language,” “common language,” “trade language,” or “vehicular language,” is a language or dialect that people who don’t speak the same native language or dialect use to talk to each other. This is especially true when it is a third language that is different from both native languages.

Over the course of human history, lingua francas have been created all over the world, sometimes for business reasons, but also for cultural, religious, diplomatic, and administrative reasons, and as a way for scientists and scholars from different countries to share information. English is the best example.