42 Indian languages may be heading for extinction

A list prepared by UNESCO has mentioned about the 42 languages or dialects in India which are endangered and they may be heading towards extinction.


Feb 20, 2018 12:59 IST
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More than 40 dialects or languages in India are considered to be dying out and they are believed to be heading towards extinction as only a few thousand people speak them.

Earlier in 2013, comprehensive linguistic survey in India was done by People's Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) which said that in India people speak 780 different languages, It also said that in the last 50 years, India lost nearly 250 languages.

As per the government’s census data, India has 1635 rationalised mother tongues, 22 major languages in the country and 234 identifiable mother tongues.

Report of the census directorate

However, according to a report of the census directorate, there are 22 scheduled languages and 100 non-scheduled languages in India which are spoken by one lakh or more people.

The Scheduled languages of India refer to the list of language in the Schedule VIII in the Constitution of India. It means government of India has the obligation to promote and develop these languages.

Apart from these 22 scheduled languages, there are 31 other Indian languages which have been given the status of official language in various state governments and UTs.

As per this report, 42 languages are spoken by less than 10,000 people.
Languages or dialects which were considered endangered

The endangered list was prepared by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) on the basis of number of people speak the language and other various parameter.

The languages or dialects which were considered endangered, include 11 from Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Lamongse, Luro, Muot, Onge, Pu, Sanenyo, Sentilese, Shompen and Takahanyilang), seven from Manipur (Aimol, Aka, Koiren, Lamgang, Langrong, Purum and Tarao) and four from Himachal Pradesh (Baghati, Handuri, Pangvali and Sirmaudi), three from Odisha (Manda, Parji and Pengo), two from Karnataka (Koraga and Kuruba), two from Andhra Pradesh (Gadaba and Naiki), two from Tamil Nadu (Kota and Toda), two from Arunachal Pradesh (Mra and Na), two from Assam (Tai Nora and Tai Rong), One frm Uttarakhand (Bangani), one from Jharkhand (Birhor), one from Maharashtra (Nihali), one from Meghalaya (Ruga) and one from West Bengal (Toto).

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Protection and preservation

Under a central scheme, the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore is working for the preservation and protection of endangered languages in India.
Under this protection and preservation programme, all the languages or dialects especially those spoken by less than 10,000 people are being prepared with grammatical descriptions, monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, anthologies of folklore, language primers, and  encyclopedias.


Apart from the initiatives taken by the government, there are lots of other things one can do to contribute towards preserving a language. Every language or dialect has a rich oral or story based literature which is the essential thing to preserve for a language which is set to extinct.

Various cultural aspects like folk songs, folk storytelling, and other narratives like the local festival celebration, local food cooking, performing art forms,   and other things can be preserved in audio-visual forms.

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