How to count every language in India
Friday, July 6, 2018
Posted by: Dana Walker
In 1898, George A. Grierson, an Irish civil servant and philologist, undertook the first ever
Linguistic Survey of India. It took Grierson 30 years to gather data on 179 languages and 544 dialects. The survey was published in 19 volumes, spanning 8,000 pages, between 1903 and 1928.
For a very long time, Grierson’s achievement remained unsurpassed. After India became independent, the government initiated but never completed a second language survey. In 1961, the Census of India published The Language Tables, which identified 1,652 “mother tongues.” But the data for the Language Tables was obtained while collecting other census information and is not considered an authoritative language survey. In the absence of an extensive modern-day audit, the government cites 122 languages as the official number based on available data. The state does not individually recognize those languages spoken by less than 10,000 people.