An Introduction to Indian Languages and Dialects
The number of Indian languages and dialects makes a study of them difficult. This is especially true for those which have been placed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, a designation which gives them recognition, status and official encouragement.
However, the fact remains that some of these languages are dead. What can be done to revive them?
Linguists believe that the Indo-Aryan languages completed themselves through several phases.
As the Indo-Aryan languages developed, they began to morph into new lects. These lects were influenced by social differences, such as caste, religion, and regional differences. These linguistic changes made the Indo-Aryan language family more distinct from other language families.
Indo-Aryan languages have a rich grammatical system that includes many affixes and verb forms. They also have a strong honorific system. This honorific system is based on prefixes, suffixes, and replacements. The honorific is used to show respect for other people. For example, Mahatma Gandhi was referred to as Gandhi-ji.
The Indo-Aryan language family is the largest in the world, with more than 800 million speakers. Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, and Punjabi are some of the most popular Indo-Aryan languages. Many Indians are bilingual and speak multiple languages on a daily basis. This multilingualism is due to cultural and religious differences, as well as the fact that India is a large country with different regions. It is common for people to code-switch between different languages.
The Negroids were the first people to arrive in India.
Although it is not clear as to when the Negroids first arrived in India, they occupied a substantial portion of its territory before being assimilated into the dominant cultures of their regions of habitation. This assimilation was the result of a number of factors including language.
It is quite possible that they spoke Austric languages. In fact it is likely that they brought with them domesticated animals and cultivated crops and perhaps also the outrigger canoe. Traces of Pygmy ancestry still persist in inland tribes in New Guinea and, to a lesser degree, in the Melanesia.
As far as the Indian languages are concerned, the Indo-European family dominated the western and northwestern part of India. Its sphere of influence extends from Rajasthan on the west to Assam in the east, and from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Goa in the south. Besides Hindi and Urdu, 13 of the 14 Indo-European languages are mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution: Bhili and Gondi belong to the northern group; Kannada, Marathi and Bengali to the eastern; and Oriya, Assamese and Hindi (all belonging to the central group). Santali, a major Austric language with 5.22 million speakers, did not find a place in the Eighth Schedule.
The Indo-Aryan languages were the ancestors of the modern vernaculars.
Among the Pisaca languages (Caucasians) there is still preserved a very archaic type of Sanskrit. It is so far removed from modern Hindi that a philologist in his day pronounced it a barbaric language, and even today, a person unfamiliar with Sanskrit would have difficulty recognizing it as such.
In Middle Indo-Aryan, the voiced aspirated stops (p, t, and k) were replaced by the sound h, and the distinction between the active and the mediopassive forms of the verb was eliminated; for example, li ‘I go’ corresponds to the present participial ik
The vowel systems vary from one language to another, largely due to diachronic mergers and splits. Vowel typologies are arranged as follows, per Masica (1991: 108-113):
The modern vernaculars are the descendants of the Prakrits.
During the nineteenth century, many Indians spoke about how their classical languages were not capable of reflecting modern ideas. The implication was that India needed to improve its vernaculars so that they could be used to convey contemporary thoughts.
As a result, scholars began to study the history of India’s vernaculars. This became a major focus of colonial philology and linguistics.
A peculiar tension existed in the way that linguists approached these issues. Some viewed rustic speech as pollution, while others thought that it was an important part of the language’s heritage and should be preserved.
The development of the Indian vernaculars has been an intriguing process. They have incorporated some of the elements from Sanskrit, while retaining their own identity. The result is a kind of organic plurality in the language. In spite of this, India’s masses have developed a common way to interpret, share experiences and think. This has created a kind of unity in the country.Read More