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How many languages are dying in India?

May 21, 2018 17:03 IST

India has the world's second highest number of languages.

At present, Indians speak in 780 different languages.

However, 183 of these languages are in different degrees of endangerment.

An endangered language is at a risk of falling out of use as its speakers die out or shift speaking to another language.

To determine the language as endangered, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization) outlines 9 factors.

They are:-

1. Intergenerational language transmission

2. Absolute number of speakers

3. Proportion of speakers existing within the total (global) population

4. Language use within existing contexts and domains

5. Response to language use in new domains and media

6. Availability of materials for language education and literacy

7. Government and institutional language policies

8. Community attitudes toward their language

9. Amount and quality of documentation

UNESCO operates with five levels of language endangerment beyond safe and they are:-

  • Vulnerable: Not spoken by children outside the home
  • Definitely endangered: Children not speaking
  • Severely endangered: Only spoken by the oldest generations
  • Critically endangered: Spoken by few members of the oldest generation
  • Extinct: There are no speakers left.

Rediff Labs analysed the data on endangered languages from UNESCO atlas of the world languages in danger.

The above map shows the total number of endangered languages in each states of India.

The states where there are high numbers of endangered languages are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha.

The states where there is only one endangered language are Bihar, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.

Rediff Labs