Linguistic Composition

India has also great deal of linguistic diversity like physical environment. The languages spoken and their dialects number is in hundreds. In 1961 census, 1652 languages were listed as mother tongues in India.

Out of these only 23 languages together accounted for 97% of total population of the country. Out of these 23 numerically major languages, Constitution of India recognizes only 18 languages besides English in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. These languages are Assamese, Bengali, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Oriya, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Sanskrit, Konkani, Sindhi, Nepali, Manipuri, Urdu.

Out of these 18 languages, Hindi is spoken by most of the people whereas Sanskrit is spoken by the least. The languages also vary slightly in terms of the meaning of different words and their pronunciation. Thus, the people speaking one particular languages speak it with some difference in vocabulary and pronunciation from one place to the other. Such variations in the way of speaking of a language lead to emergence of dialects of language.

Thus, a dialect is something akin to a part of some language and they can be thought as regional language also. Some of the examples of the dialects of Hindi Rajasthani, Harayanavi, Bhojpuri or Poorvi dialects.

Language is an important constituent of culture and various languages and their dialects are spoken in different parts of India. It makes Indian culture rich and diversified. Also, the languages have an almost complete regional identity in the country and the distribution of major languages has been considered as a basis for re-organization of states after independence.

On the basis of numerical strength, India can be divided into twelve principal linguistic regions. So linguistic region is an area in which most of the people speak a common language. The languages forming linguistic regions in India are; Kashmiri, Punjabi, Hindi/Urdu, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

Classification and Distribution of Indian Languages

Though all the languages spoken in India seem to be different from each other, they can be grouped into four Linguistic families on the basis of their roots and genesis. The four linguistic families are: Austric Family (Nishada), Dravidian Family (Dravida); Sino-Tibetan Family (Kirata) and Indo-European Family (Arya).

The speeches of the Austric family are spoken by tribal people in Maghalaya, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and in parts of Central Indian tribal belt, especially in the districts of Santhal Praganas, Ranchi and Mayurbhanj. The languages and dialects of Sino-Tibetan family are spoken by tribal people in North-Eastern region of the country and in the Sub-Himalayan region in the north and north west. These languages are spoken by people living in Ladakh (Jammu & Kashmir), parts of Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim also.

The speakers of the languages of Dravidian family are more numerous in southern part of India. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala are the states where these languages are spoken by the majority of population. A large number of tribals living in peninsular plateau region also speak speeches of this family.

The speaker of the languages of Indo-Aryan family are concentrated more in northern part of the country and also in central parts. The entire north Indian plain is inhabited by the speakers of this family. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh also have large population of speakers of these languages.

The proportion of the speakers of languages of different families in the total population varies significantly. While the Aryans (Indo-European Family) languages are spoken by more than 70% of the people, the Sino-Tibetan languages are spoken by only about 0.85 percent of the population and Dravidian languages are spoken by about 20 percent of the people.


  • Languages spoken in India belong to four major linguistic families. These families are Austric family, Dravidian Family, Sino-Tibetan Family, and Indo-Europen Family.
  • Languages belonging to different families have their major concentrations in different parts of the country. Austric Family in the North-Eastern part, Dravidian Family in the southern parts, Sino-Tibetan in the Sub-Himalayan region and Indo-Europen Family in the Northern and Central part of the country.
  • The language of Indo-Aryan Family are spoken by the largest number of people in India. The languages of Sino-Tibetan Family have the smallest number of speakers. More than 70 percent of the people in India speak languages and dialects of Indo-Aryan Family.