Languages of India

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Item Code: IDK713
Publisher: National Book Trust, India
Author: Gopal Haldar, Translated by: Tista Bagchi
Language: English
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9788123729367
Pages: 212
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.3 X 5.3"
Weight 200 gm
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Book Description
Preface to the First Edition

In contemporary India there is no end to the debate on language. At times this debate has even led to conflict and bloodshed. India is a vast country, a country of nearly 45 crore (450,000,000) people, comprising a multilingual multitude. It is not surprising for such as country to have language problems. These problems get complicated further on account of our limited general understanding concerning the country's languages. For no reason, we even create new problems. The purpose of writing Bharater Bhasha (The Languages of India) is to present the general facts regarding the collectivity of India's languages to the general Indian reader. This book has not been written for the specialist. It is not a discourse on linguistics; nor is ti a discussion or analysis of present-day problems. Of course, such theories and problems have had to be mentioned wherever these are relevant. Mainly, I have attempted to inform the general India readers of the well established facts pertaining to the languages of India and to arouse in their India and to arouse in their minds a certain amount of interest in the forms of these various languages and their mutual inter-relations.

The authorities of the Lokhak Sambay (Writers' Guild) and especially the Shri Chittaranjan Bandyopadhyay, have induced and encouraged me to undertake this task. He and his colleagues and friends such as Dr. Mahadeva Saha and Shri Anil Kanjilal have assisted me in various ways in this task. I am grateful to each one of them.

I have ventured upon this task without reflecting on my own credentials simply because I considered it to be a useful piece of work. Renowned scholars such as the revered linguist Shri Suniti Kumar Chatterji and Professor Sukumar Sen have already passed the way ahead in this direction. I have merely sought to convey what they have said to a general Indian/Bangla audience. I have said nothing that is original; nor do I possess the ability to do so. Perhaps it is my errors and my various slips owing to carelessness that are original. I beg the reader's forgiveness for all of these.

Preface to the Second Edition

Bharater Bhasha (The Languages of India) after having been first published in 1967, is being published again in a new edition. There are always new things to say. As in the other sciences, newer horizons and new methods and techniques pf research are continually emerging in the science of linguistics as well. There is even the possibility that in the distant future language may evolve into al kind of formalized study via the medium of computers. As in the earlier edition, I have sought to say just a few simple things based on common sense. As a result, only a certain amount of general understanding alone will be created about the different languages of India. This book is not principally for the specialist. It has been written for the general reader. Language is an object of great wonder. Even today in this subcontinent, a number of languages are interrelated. Yet, each and every language has an original stage. These stages, too, are related to a few basic communities of people. All these languages have traversed routes of destruction and construction, routes of migration taken by those different races of people in search off odd and come to settle in the Indian subcontinent. Basically, they are the near-extinct languages of the Negroid people, the language of the Australoid group, the languages of the Dravidians; the Indo-Aryan (Indic) languages derived/obtained from the Indo-European language family; and the Sino-Tibetan language of the Mongoloid group. Since 1967, several revised opinions have appeared regarding the origins and grouping of these languages. Proto-Andamanese and Proto-Nicobarese are being found to have affinities along with the Malagasy language of Madagascar, the Dravidian branch, in its Proto-Dravidian stage, is now-a-days taken to be akin to language discovered in Mohenjo-Daro and the Brahur language of Baluchistan. This language is, yet again, considered to be in the same group as the Finno-Ugric (and) Magyar languages of the gigantic Uralo-Altaic family, surprisingly enough alongside the Korean language. The Amerindian language groups are placed together with Mangol (a substantially prominent branch of the Uralo-Altaic family), Chinese, Tibetan and Burmese. The Australoid group of languages and the groups of languages of the Indonesian, Polynesian, Malanesian, Tahitian and other islands are often taken to be of the same family.

All this discussion is to a certain extent historically based, i.e., on what is called the diachronic method. On the other hand, the study of language using the synchronic, or 'cross-section' method ignoring the former (method) almost entirely, is at present the most widely appreciated. These debates have been omitted in this book. The purpose of writing the book remains the same as it was before viz. to find a ground for the knowledge of languages, pure and simple, in this age of 'linguism', or linguistic chauvinism. It is found that every language has a prato-form, an organic, or 'primitive' form; at the second stage, phonology grammar and (lexical) semantics appear in these languages. At the third stage one finds literature encoded in languages in the different phases of human existence. All the three stages figure in this book. I have tried to elucidate/reveal a set of facts: this consists of the mutual locations of all these languages found in India and their mutually concurrent (inter) relations. For instance, let us take the word bani (in Bangla) 'crafting charge', used in connection with gold or goldsmiths. The word has come from banarig, which is a word used by our Hindi-speaking neighbours. The Semitic and Hamitic languages, received via the linguistic sphere of Urdu. Arabic and Persian (Farsi), are relatively new entrants in to this country. Even so, they have a distinct place among Indian languages of the present owing to a thousand years of rule and, even prior to that, through trade and commerce. Innumerable words and corrupted forms received because of the visits of different groups of European merchants also have a place here.

My belief is: Knowledge is power. It is knowledge that is one's principal source of strength and support. The potential conflict on the linguistic front that is sometimes obscure and sometimes evident may therefore be resolved/mitigated. Since 1967, this kind of linguistic conflict, the struggle to achieve recognition in the Constitution, has in one sense only been on the increase. It is also true, on the other hand, that there is an effort towards cultivation of each language. Literary endeavour continues to receive encouragement in every state (of the country) from the remuneration and recognition by the central Sahitya Akademi. But it is also correct that the conflict and the suppressed discontent cannot be eliminated by this kind of remuneration. What we should strive for in such a situation, are understanding and a certain amount of mutual tolerance and goodwill towards this purpose. As the author, I had – and still have – a certain objective in writing this book. No book is entirely successful in all possible ways. This book is not so either and this is not unknown to me. But if it arouses interest in some people, my effort will have borne fruit.

In the previous edition, I had taken the help of the Census Report of 1961. Relevant extracts from the Census Reports of 1971, 1981 and 1991 have been attached as appendices at the end of this edition keeping in view the fact that several people might find it of use of refer to these. These will provide an idea as to how many standard languages, mother tongue and dialects belonging to specific language groups there are. These have included in this edition because they merit mention even aside from the languages officially recognized in the Constitution. Sometimes even labels are of help. It is my belief that an interested reader, guided by these names, will come to view of languages spoken in his or her own particular geographical areas in a new light and that my successors will be able to proceed further ahead in pursuing research on these. My modest effort will bear greater fruit in this way.

Finally, there remains an undiluted pleasure in expressing gratitude and the unencumbered charting out of a journey to acknowledge debts over a vast field. Many of the people from whom I received encouragement in producing the first edition of my book are no longer present. My esteemed teacher and friend Anil Kanjilal is also now no more. There are Dr. Mahadevprasad Saha and learned Chittaranjan Bandyopadhyay, who have been providing me with co-operation and encouragement. Since the publication of this book, I remain extremely grateful to Manisha Granthalaya Private Ltd, and to my friend Shri Mani Sanyal of that organization for publishing this book and for his good judgement. Had they not been so helpful, the republication of this book would not have been possible for me at my advanced age of ninety years and in infirm physical condition. I express special and whole-hearted gratitude towards Shri Sunil Mitra, who is almost like a son to me. The company of this diligent, intelligent and much renowned person, who is yet a quiet worker with Manisha Granthalaya, is a source of pleasure for us. The printing and editing of this book was possible especially because of his untiring efforts and his genuine goodwill and co-operation. I wish him well. My good wishes remain for the perpetual fulfillment of the intellectual mission to which he and Manisha Granthalaya are dedicated.

Aside from th Census Reports of 1971 and 1981, Shri Sunil Sen Sharma (formerly Director, Geological Survey of India) has also provided me with an abstracts of the Census Report of 1991. He is comparable to a son in my affection for and closeness to him. His assistance is an invaluable supplement in the present context.

There is yet another debt that merits fulsome acknowledgement, Because of my physical and mental infirmities, Smt. Aruna Halder has been my collaborator and transcriber of press copies in many instances over a period of several years. The section 'On the Indian Scripts' appended at the end of this book is entirely by her. Her immeasurable assistance cannot be delimited by a mere expression of gratitude. It is therefore left as a debt that cannot be repaid.

While I was thinking about what was to be done regarding the revision of the numbers of speakers of different languages as recorded in the edition of this book published in 1967, help came as god-sent from a most enlightened and distinguished individual of India. This is the eminent Shri Ashok Mitra (I.C.S), the famed Director of the Census Report (1961). He has made me forever indebted to him by personally liaising on his own initiative and sending the Census Report of 1971 and 1981 through two of the former collaborating officers. The reports have been appended verbatim to this book. Shri Ashok Mitra, Shri Sukumar Sinha (Joint Director of Census Operations) and Dr. B.P. Mahapatra (Deputy General Editor, Language Division) –to these three I owe a debt that cannot be repaid. I am convinced that their invaluable contribution as captured in this book will not elude the attention of interested and appreciative people. When the co-operation of people comes at an opportune moment in is impossible to express its value by any means. Apart from this, help is needed from a variety of people and the concerned workers in a variety of ways for the publication of a book. I readily acknowledge with gratitude the effort and unstinting help of many such workers behind this publication as well. Finally, it is a matter of personal joy for me that I have been able to witness the publication of this book at the age ninety thanks to everyone, collective organizational effort. I am the offspring of a former Eastern Bengal of divided Bengal. The Bangla language is like water that quenches my thirst. Alongside this, as inhabitant of the modern age I know that it is also my duty to gain acquaintance to the best of my ability, with language groups of India as well as the world, which are related to the Bangla language. This book is a small and near-imperfect expression of this desire. It is my request that the interested reader be kind enough to forgive and rectify for himself the possible errors and shortcomings of this book.

Back of the Book

Languages of India' explores the rich linguistic heritage of the country. Originally published in Bangla more than three decades ago, the book gives a window-view of the languages spoken and written in India. It discusses the script and literature of each of India's major languages recognised by the Indian Constitution. In a milieu where language disputes have become contentious issues, the book analyses its importance as a nation-binding force.

About the Author

Gopal Haldar (1902-1994), an eminent essayist and novelist was born in Bangladesh. After completing his post-graduation in English and also a degree in law from Calcutta University, he practised law for some time. Discontinuing law, he did a pioneering research survey on 'East Bengal Dialects' under Suniti Kumar Chatterjee. Among his important works include Sanskriti Rupantar, (Evolution of culture, 1942), Bangali Sanskriti Rup, (Character of Bengali Culture, 1947) Baje Lekha (Nonsense writings, 1942), Adda (1956), E Yuger Yuddha (Modern Warfare, 1947) and Bangla Sahitya O Manab Svrikriti (Bengali literature and Recognition of Humanity 1956). His novels include, Ekade (one day, 1939), Anyadin (Other Day, 1950), Arekdin (Another Day, 1951), Bhangan (Erosion, 1947), and Bhumika (Preface, 1952).


.Preface to the Second Edition ix
Preface to the First Edition xv
Abbreviations xvii
1.General Remarks 1
Multilingual Landmasses 1
The Vastness and Diversity of Bharatavarsha 2
Unity in Diversity 3
Linguistic Affinities between India and Pakistan 4
The Multilingual Nation and the National Language 5
The Difference Between Script and Language 7
A Forest of Languages 9
Statistics Pertaining to Mother Tongue 11
'Language' and '(Geographical) Dialect' 12
The Major Languages are 15 in Number 15
2.A Land of Four Lineages 18
The Basic Language Families 18
3.The Austro-Asiatic or 'Nishada' Languages 23
Kol or Munda 24
Santhali 26
Khasi 29
Mundari 29
4.The Tibeto-Murman or 'Kirata' Languages 31
The Himalayan Tibeto-Burman Linguistic Group 33
Newari 34
Manipuri 35
5.The Dravidian Language Family 38
General Overview 39
The Basic Nature of the Dravidian Languages 41
Basic Facts 44
Tamil Literature 47
Telugu Literature 50
Kannada Literature 53
Malayalam Literature 55
6.The Indo-Aryan Languages: The Earlier History 58
The 'Aryan'/ Indo-European Group of Languages 59
The Routes of Expansion of 'Aryan' Languages 61
The Coming of the 'Aryans' (Indo-Europeans) into India 63
The Old Indo-Aryan (OIA) Age 65
The Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA) Age, or the Age of the Prakrits (500 B.C.-C.1000A.D.) 69
The First Stage of Prakrit: 500(?)-200 B.C. 71
The Transitional Period of Prakrit (Transitional MIA): 200 B.C.-200 A.D.) 71
The Middle Stage of Prakrit: 200A.D.-500A.D. 72
The Last Stage of Prakrit: Apabhramsa, 500-900 A.D. 74
Background of 'Bhasha' 75
The Modern of New Indo-Aryan Languages (NIA): Subgrouping (1000 A.D.) 77
The General Direction of Change 80
General Characteristics of Old Indo-Aryan Languages 85
General Characteristics of Middle Indo-Aryan Languages 86
General Characteristics of Modern Indo-Aryan Languages 87
'Synthetic' and 'Analytic' Languages 87
7.The Modern Indo-Aryan Languages 90
General Introduction 90
The Linguistic Subgroups 90
The National Languages 93
Common Constituents of Modern Indian Literature 94
Eastern Forms of Indo-Aryan Language 96
Assamese 99
Bangla 105
The Spread of the Language 105
A Preliminary Introduction 106
The Dialects 107
The 'Sadhu' and Calti' Forms of Languages 111
Characteristics of the Language 112
Bangla Literature 116
Oriya 122
Hindi 129
The 'Family of Hindi' 129
Urdu 143
Panjabi 148
Gujarati 151
Marathi 155
Kashmiri 160
Maithili 163
Sindhi 164
Conclusion 166
Appendix 1: Indian Scripts 174
Urdu 143
Panjabi 148
Gujarati 151
Marathi 155
Kashmiri 160
Maithili 163
Sindhi 164
Conclusion 166
Appendix 1: Indian Scripts 174
Appendix 2: National Integration and the Language Problems of India 184
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