Assamese or Axomiya is the official language of Assam, one of the ‘seven sister states’ of India. The easternmost of the Indo-Aryan languages, Assamese originated as an offshoot of the Maghadhan Prakrit before 7th century A.D. Apart from Assam, the language is also spoken in parts of other north-eastern states of India such as Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Small pockets of Assamese speaking people are found in Bangladesh and Bhutan as well. With over 20 million native speakers, the language has four dialect groups as identified by recent linguistic studies-Eastern, Central, Kamrupi and Goalpariya. In terms of the writing system, Kamrupi script was used historically, which developed from the Gupta script. However, modern Assamese uses the Assamese script.
Bengali or Bangla is the state language of Bangladesh, West Bengal, Tripura, Assam (Barak Valley), Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Jharkhand (secondary). With about 230 million speakers spread all over the world (sizable immigrant communities in the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Middle East), the Bangla Language is the fifth most spoken language in the world. Bengali is an eastern India-Aryan language that originated in 10th Century CE from the dialects MaghadhanPrakrit and Pali. The Bengali alphabet is derived from the Brahmi alphabet. The National Anthem of India and the national song of India were first composed in the Bengali language.
Gujarati is a language spoken by about 54.6 million people in India and is native to the west India region of Gujarat as well as of the adjacent union territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. As Gujarati speakers are spread all over the world, the language is highly prevalent in different pockets and estimated to have about 65.5 million speakers worldwide. Gujarati language is believed t o have been developed from the ancient languages of Sanskrit via Prakrit and Apabhramsha by the end of 12th century CE. The Gujarati script is derived from the Devanagari script which is the primary script of the Hindi language. It is recognized as one of the twenty-two official languages and fourteen regional languages of India.
The national language of India, Hindi is spoken and understood widely throughout the subcontinent. Outside of Asia, Hindi is also the official language in Fiji apart from English and Fijian. While the total speakers of the language in the world are approximately 490 million, the native speakers count to about 370 million out of which 180 million regard Hindi as their mother tongue. As far as the history of Hindi is concerned, Hindi emerged from Sanskrit through Prakrit and Apabhramsha in the 7th cent CE. The script is Devanagari and is phonetic, which means that unlike English, hindi is pronounced as the way is written. Hindi is considered to be very similar to the Urdu language as their grammar is virtually identical and they have commonalty in terms of words. However, Urdu differs from Hindi as it is written in the Perso-Arabic script and uses more Arabic and Persian words.
Kannada or Canarese is the language of the Kannadigas, i.e. the natives of the state of Karnataka in India. Some of the adjoining areas also have Kannada speakers such as in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharshtra. The Kannada language evolved from the 5th century Kadamba script and is now spoken by roughly 40 million people. Kannada, like Telegu, Malayalam and Tamil originated from the Dravidian family of languages. The Kannada script evolved from the Ashokan Brahmi script and is very similar to the Telegu script. In 2008, Kannada was granted the ‘classical language’ status.
Malayalam is the youngest of all developed languages of the Dravidian family. It is spoken in various parts of south west India but bears official language status in the state of Kerala and in the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry. The language is spoken by over 8 million people and has at least five main regional dialects and a number of communal dialects. Malayalam originated as a distinct language in the last quarter of 9th Century CE. The language developed from the Brahmi script. Due to its lineage deriving from both Tamil and Sanskrit, the Malayalam alphabet has the largest number of letters among the Indian languages. Malayalam is alternatively also referred to as Alealum, Malayalani, Malayali, Malean, Maliyad, and Mallealle.
Marathi is the southernmost language among the Indo-Aryan languages that originated from Sanskrit. It is the official language of Maharashtra and has the fourth largest number of native speakers in India (71 million). Apart from Maharashtra, Marathi is also the co-official language in the union territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Marathi has a number of dialects such as Standard Marathi and Varhadi which are the major ones and Ahirani, Dangi, Vadvali, Samavedi, Khandeshi, and Malwaniwhich are the sub-dialects. Marathi as a distinct language can be dated to 8th century CE. The current Marathi script is called ‘balbodh’ which is modified version of Devanagari and Modi script.
Oriya, also called Odiya is the principal language of the state of Orissa in India. It is spoken in various parts of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh as well. The language which is native to 33 million people is the result of continued evolution of the old Indo Aryan languages. Oriya language is very similar to its sister languages-Assamese and Bengali which also originated as an offshoot of the Maghadhan Prakrit spoken in eastern India over 1,500 years ago. Oriya language has numerous dialects- Baleswari (Balasore), Bhatri (Koraput), Laria (Sambalpur), Sambalpuri (Sambalpur and other western districts), Ganjami (Ganjam and Koraput), Chhatisgarhi (Chhatisgarh and adjoining areas of Orissa) and Medinipuri (Midnapur district of West Bengal).
Punjabi, is one of the most popular languages of India. It is spoken by about 130 million people in West Punjab in Pakistan and in East Punjab in India. There are also pockets of Punjabi speakers in the UK, Canada, the UAE, the USA, Saudi Arabia and Australia which makes it the 10th most widely spoken language in the world. Punjabi gained a separate identity as a language during the 11th century CE when it descended from the Shauraseni language of medieval northern India. The major dialects of Punjabi are Majhi, Doabi, Malwai, Powadhi, Pothohari, and Multani. Punjabi is written in two different scripts, called Gurmukhī and Shahmukhī.
Tamil is the first language of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as well as the union territory of Puducherry. It is also an official language in Sri Lanka and Singapore and speakers of the Tamil language are found in regions of Malaysia, Mauritius, Fiji Islands, South Africa amongst others. There are more than 70 million native speakers of Tamil and an estimated 8 million who regard it as their second language. Tamil is believed to be few of the longest surviving classical languages in the world. It originated from the southern branch of the Dravidian languages. The script is derived from the Brahmi script.
Telugu is a South-Central Dravidian language and ranks third by the number of native speakers in India. The approximate number of Telugu speakers in the country is 75 million. It is one of the six classical languages as recognized by the Govt. of India and primarily spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and in the union territory of Yaman, where it is also an official language. Telugu speaking people are also found in small numbers in several neighbouring areas. The language has been greatly influenced by Sanskrit and Prakrit. The Telugu script can be traced by to the Brahmi script of ancient India.
Urdu, the language of love and poetry is an Indo-Aryan language with about 104 million speakers. It is the national language of Pakistan and the official language of six Indian states-Bihar, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal. There are large sections of Urdu speaking communities in the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States as well. Urdu developed in the 12th century CE from Apabhramsha of northwestern India. The language originated from Khariboli—a Prakrit, by strong influence of Persian and Arabic. Urdu has a close connection to the Hindu language in India with its own significant distinctions.