Languages of India

Languages spoken in India belong to several language families, the major ones being the Indo-Aryan languages spoken by 78.05% of Indians and the Dravidian languages spoken by 19.64% of Indians.[6][7] Languages spoken by the remaining 2.31% of the population belong to the Austroasiatic, Sino–Tibetan, Tai–Kadai and a few other minor language families and isolates.[8]:283 India has the world's fourth highest number of languages (447), after Nigeria (524), Indonesia (710) and Papua New Guinea (840).[9]

Languages of India
Official
ForeignEnglish – 200 million (L2 speakers 2003)[5]
Signed

Article 343 of the Indian constitution stated that the official language of the Union is Hindi in Devanagari script instead of the extant English. Later, a constitutional amendment, The Official Languages Act, 1963, allowed for the continuation of English alongside Hindi in the Indian government indefinitely until legislation decides to change it.[2] The form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union are "the international form of Indian numerals",[10][11] which are referred to as Arabic numerals in most English-speaking countries.[1] Despite the misconceptions, Hindi is not the national language of India; the Constitution of India does not give any language the status of national language.[12][13]

The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution lists 22 languages,[14] which have been referred to as scheduled languages and given recognition, status and official encouragement. In addition, the Government of India has awarded the distinction of classical language to Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. Classical language status is given to languages which have a rich heritage and independent nature.

According to the Census of India of 2001, India has 122 major languages and 1599 other languages. However, figures from other sources vary, primarily due to differences in definition of the terms "language" and "dialect". The 2001 Census recorded 30 languages which were spoken by more than a million native speakers and 122 which were spoken by more than 10,000 people.[15] Two contact languages have played an important role in the history of India: Persian[16] and English.[17] Persian was the court language during the Mughal period in India. It reigned as an administrative language for several centuries until the era of British colonisation.[18] English continues to be an important language in India. It is used in higher education and in some areas of the Indian government. Hindi, the most commonly spoken language in India today, serves as the lingua franca across much of North and Central India. Bengali is the second most spoken and understood language in the country with a significant amount of speakers in eastern and northeastern regions. Marathi is the third most spoken and understood language in the country with a significant amount of speakers in South-Western regions.[19] However, there have been concerns raised with Hindi being imposed in South India, most notably in the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.[20][21] Maharashtra, West Bengal, Assam, Punjab and other non-Hindi regions have also started to voice concerns about Hindi.[22]