Thursday, August 1, 2013

Over 780 languages and 66 scripts in India - PLSI

It is a year since our last post on the People's Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI), and we have the welcome news that the 50 volumes of the Survey will appear between September 2013 and December 2014.

Ganesh N Devy, Chairperson PLSI, announced this in press conferences in Kolkata and Guwahati in July. As the report in The Hindu said: "There are over 780 languages and 66 different scripts in India. Arunachal Pradesh is the richest among the States with 90 languages.... Researchers found that Assam with 55 languages, Gujarat 48, Maharashtra 39, and West Bengal 38 are among the most linguistically diverse States.... The survey, Dr. Devy said, has revealed that the north-eastern parts of the country have one of the highest per capita language densities in the world."

A report in The Telegraph informs us that there are "130 living languages, including variants, in five states of the Northeast, some of them probably spoken by only four or five people".

Reflecting on this, another report quotes Devy as saying, "While it surely is a fact to celebrate the diversity of the country, the sad part is we have lost nearly 250 languages in the last 50 years or so."

Indeed, as Dr Devy remarked in a February 2013 interview: "While PLSI would easily be the world’s largest language survey, let me tell you that I am not proud of doing it. It was like going for rehabilitation work after an earthquake. It should have been done 50 years ago....

"We called a confluence of language experts in Vadodara in 2010 and called the place ‘ground zero’. This term (ground zero) was widely used by victims of the nuclear attacks in Japan in World War II. India, and the world, is becoming a graveyard of languages and we wanted to draw attention to that."