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The Languages of India

First Online: September 21, 2003
Page Last Updated: April 04, 2014

Introduction to the Linguistic Diversity of India

Depending on whom you ask, the number of languages in India vary from fifteen to two thousand. In other words, there is no definitive count of the languages in practice. The problem of counting and classifying the languages is compounded by the myriad of dialects, and mixed languages.

For what it is worth, I am compiling below a list of Indian languages that I have culled from several sources (references are at the bottom of the page). Where available, I have tried to provide a brief description, the parts of India they are spoken from, and links to potential content elsewhere on Kamat's Potpourri about the community speaking the language. 

The official languages (meaning those on Indian currency, or sanctioned as an official language by the Indian Government) is shown in bold letters. Please bear in mind that some languages are are only spoken languages, and some are extinct today.

If I have missed a language, please suggest addition by writing to me at Contact Kamats

-Vikas Kamat

 

List of Languages of India

  • Abor -- A tribal language spoken in north-eastern parts of India, especially in Assam
  • Abujmaria -- A tribal language spoken in Bastar district and neighboring areas. See: Village of Abujamara -- Kamat ventures into a deep tribal village of Abujamara and documents the experience.
  • Agaria -- Language spoken by a central Indian tribe by the same name. The Agaria are skilled  blacksmiths and artisans. See related topic The Tribes of Madhya Pradesh
  • Ahirani -- An Indo-Aryan language spoken in parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat states.
  • Aimol -- An Indo-Tibetan language found in Indias' north-eastern parts.
  • Aiton
  • Anal
  • Andamanese
  • Angani
  • Angika
  • Apatani -- Language spoken by a North-Eastern tribe with the same name.
  • Arabic -- Remnants of Arabic can be seen among descendants of Arabs who've settled in India.
  • Ashing
  • Assamese -- Language spoken in the state of Assam
  • Asuri -- Language found in Bihar, Gumla and Lohardaga districts of Chotanagpur plateau.
  • Awadhi -- An ancient Indo-Aryan language with considerable literature.
  • Badaga
  • Baghelkhandi
  • Bagri
  • Baigani
  • Bajania
  • Balti
  • Bangni
  • Banjari
  • Basturia
  • Bauria
  • Bawm
  • Bazigar Boli
  • Bengali -- An important language belonging to the Shouraseni Prakrit family of Indian languages, spoken in West Bengal, and neighboring Orissa, and Bangladesh. Bengali literature is very rich, Bengali being the mother tongue of many great thinkers and writers who were responsible for Indian renaissance in the late 19th century.
  • Bhanja
  • Bantu
  • Bharmauri
  • Bhairi
  • Bhili
  • Bhojpuri
  • Bhotia
  • Bhuiya
  • Bhumij
  • Bhunjia
  • Biate
  • Bilaspuri
  • Birhor
  • Birjia
  • Bishnupriya
  • Bodo
  • Bokar
  • Bondo
  • Bori
  • Braj Bhasha
  • Brijlal
  • Bugun
  • Bundelkhandi
  • Burmese
  • Bushari
  • Byari
  • Chakhesang
  • Chakma
  • Chambilai
  • Chameli
  • Chang
  • Changpa
  • Chattisgarhi
  • Chikari
  • Chinali
  • Chiru
  • Chote
  • Churasi
  • Dalu
  • Dakhani
  • Deori
  • Dhanki
  • Dhimal
  • Dhodia
  • Dhundhari
  • Didayi
  • Dimasa
  • Dingal
  • Dogri
  • Dommari
  • Droskhat/Dokpa
  • Duhlian-Twang
  • English -- Although not a native language, spoken widely in India to be regarded as an Indian language.
  • French -- Spoken in former French colonies like Pondychery
  • Gadaba
  • Gadiali
  • Gallong
  • Gameti
  • Gamit
  • Gangte
  • Garasia
  • Garhwali
  • Garo
  • Giarahi
  • Gondi
  • Gujarati -- Spoken by the people with roots in the state of Gujarat.  Gujaratis are spread all over the world, and it is not uncommon to learn this language in a school far away from India.
  • Gujjari
  • Gurumukhi
  • Gurung
  • Gutob
  • Hajong
  • Halam
  • Halbi 
  • Harauti
  • Haryanavi -- A distinct dialect used in the state of Haryana and Kashmir Valley
  • Hebrew -- Language used by Jews of India.
  • Himachali
  • Hindi -- The language spoken and understood by most number of Indians (about 30%). The effort to make Hindi the only official language of India was met with stiff resistance and has led to fragmentation of Indian languages, and separatist turmoil. Prominently spoken in northern parts of India, known as the Hindi-belt.
  • Hinduri
  • Hindustani
  • Hmar
  • Ho
  • Hrusso
  • Hualngo
  • Irula
  • Jabalpuri
  • Jangali
  • Jarawa
  • Jaunsari
  • Juang
  • Kabui
  • Kachanga
  • Kachari
  • Kachchi
  • Kadar
  • Kagati
  • Kakbarak
  • Kanashi
  • Kangri
  • Kannada -- A prominent Dravidian language spoken in the province of Karnataka. Read about the origins, history, and about some famous works in Kannada language in History of Kannada Literature.
  • Karbi
  • Karen
  • Karko
  • Kashmiri
  • Kathiawari
  • Khadiboli
  • Khaka
  • Khamba
  • Khampa
  • Khampti
  • Khampti-shan
  • Kharia
  • Khasi
  • Khaskura
  • Khatri
  • Kherwari
  • Khiangan
  • Khorusti
  • Khotta
  • Kinnauri
  • Kiradi
  • Kisan
  • Koch
  • Kodava -- A spoken language spoken by Coorgis, a warrior community of  Kodagu distrrict in Karnataka state.
  • Koi
  • Koireng
  • Kokni -- A dialect of Konkani language distinct enough to be regarded as an independent language.
  • Kolami
  • Kom
  • Komkar
  • Konda
  • Konicha
  • Konkani -- A spoken language practiced in the Konkan belt covering parts of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. Till recently, Konkani was considered as a dialect of Marathi, but new research has indicated that it is older than Marathi and is a different language. Read Kamat's article Origins and Development of Konkani. Dialects of the language include Kad-kokni, Daldi, Nawayati, Kharvi, and Khande-kharvi.
  • Konyak
  • Koracha
  • Koraga
  • Korava
  • Korku -- The language spoken by a native tribe of the same name in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Korwa
  • Kota
  • Kotwalia
  • Kudmali
  • Kui
  • Kuki
  • Kulvi
  • Kumaoni
  • Kunbi
  • Kurukh
  • Kutchi -- A language spoken in the Kutch region of Gujarat.
  • Kuvi
  • Ladakhi
  • Lahauli
  • Laihawlh
  • Lakher (Mara)
  • Lalung
  • Lambani
  • Lamgang
  • Laotian
  • Laria
  • Lepcha
  • Limbu
  • Lisu
  • Lodha
  • Lotha
  • Lushai -- A language spoken by aboriginals of Assam
  • Mag
  • Magahi
  • Magarkura
  • Mahal
  • Maithili -- Spoken in parts of Bihar state
  • Majhi
  • Makrani
  • Malankudi
  • Malayalam -- a prominent south Indian language spoken in the state of Kerala.
  • Malhar
  • Malto
  • Malvani
  • Malvi
  • Manchat
  • Mandiali
  • Mangari
  • Manipuri -- Language spoken in the province of Manipur in Northeast India.
  • Mao
  • Maram
  • Marathi -- Language spoken in the state of Maharashtra and some neighboring states.
  • Maria
  • Maring
  • Marwari
  • Mavchi
  • Meitei
  • Memba
  • Mewari
  • Mewati
  • Milang
  • Minyong
  • Miri
  • Mishing
  • Mishmi
  • Mizo
  • Monpa
  • Monsang
  • Moyon
  • Muduga
  • Multani
  • Mundari
  • Nagari
  • Nagpuri
  • Naikadi
  • Naiki
  • Nati
  • Nepali
  • Nicobarese
  • Nimari
  • Nishi
  • Nocte
  • Odki
  • Onge
  • Oriya  -- Predominantly spoken in the state of Orissa
  • Padam
  • Pahari
  • Paharia
  • Pali -- Now extinct, a lot of ancient Buddhist literature is found in this language. Some derivatives are still spoken in parts of Sri Lanka and Burma.
  • Palilibo
  • Paite
  • Panchpargania
  • Pang
  • Panja
  • Pangwali
  • Parimu
  • Parji
  • Paschima
  • Pasi
  • Pashto
  • Pawri
  • Pengo
  • Persian
  • Phom
  • Pochury
  • Pothohari
  • Punchi
  • Punjabi -- Spoken in the state of Punjab
  • Raikhura
  • Rajasthani
  • Ralte
  • Ramo
  • Rathi
  • Rengma
  • Riang
  • Sadri
  • Sajalong
  • Sambalpuri
  • Sanketi
  • Sangtam
  • Sanskrit -- The ancient Indian language in which most of Hindu scriptures are based. It is said to be mother of all
  • Sansi
  • Santali
  • Sadra
  • Saraji
  • Sarhodi
  • Saurashtri
  • Sema
  • Sentinelese
  • Shekhawati
  • Sherdukpen
  • Sherpa
  • Shimong
  • Shina
  • Shompen
  • Sikligar
  • Sindhi
  • Singpo
  • Siraji
  • Sirmauri
  • Soliga
  • Sulung
  • Surajpuri
  • Tagin
  • Tai
  • Tamang
  • Tamil -- An ancient language of South India, closely tied to the Dravidian culture.
  • Tangam
  • Tangkhul
  • Tangsa
  • Tataotrong
  • Telugu -- A prominent South Indian language spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh and parts of  Karnataka and Orissa.
  • Thado
  • Thar
  • Tharu
  • Tibetan
  • Toda -- Language spoken by a aborginal community by the same name (see: Todas)
  • Toto
  • Tulu -- A spoken language prominently spoken in Dakshina Kannada and Udupidistricts on the west-coast.
  • Urdu -- Indo-Iranian language spoken by significant number of Muslims all over India.
  • Vaiphei
  • Varli
  • Wagri
  • Wancho
  • Yereva
  • Yerukula
  • Yimchungre
  • Zakring
  • Zeliang
  • Zemi
 

See Also:

 

References for Further Study

  • Ethnologue Report on India  -- Page lists the languages and their geographic location, the number of speaking the language, based on prior census.
  • Languages of India -- Monthly online journal devoted to the study of the languages spoken in the Indian sub-continent.

 

 

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