Cultural Loss: India Lost 250 Languages in Last 50 Years


India’s diversity is well evident from its 850 identified living languages, four times more than that of Europe; however, the country has lost 250 languages in the last 50 years, according to a recent survey.

“In India we have several hundred living languages. It could be more than 850, out of which we were able to study 780 languages. And if the benchmark is the 1961 census we have lost 250 languages in last 50 years,” Ganesh Devy, a noted linguist and Chairperson of People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) said in the survey, according to a Press Trust of India report.

Almost a century ago George Abraham Grierson did a similar study under the British colonial rule in the country; this survey provides a fresh insight on India’s linguistic status.

“We have prepared a baseline and it’s a first survey of living languages in India. We have also collected grammars and dictionary of about 400 languages,” said Devy, who is also a UNESCO Linguapax laureate.

Devy also mentions that Indian courts allow use of 22 languages, whereas UNESCO allows only 5 languages in its deliberations. The survey also found that in Indian metros cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Chennai people speak more than 300 languages.

“England has not more than four or five languages of its own at the most. Out of those only two, English and Welsh, are doing well. Meanwhile a state like Assam which is more or less the size of England has a good 52 languages,” said Devy comparing the language situation of India and Europe.

The survey has even taken into account the Majhi language, which is spoken by only four people in Sikkim state of the country.



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