History of Languages in India

The history of languages in India is as fascinating as the country itself. There are varieties of assortment of languages that have originated due to India's diversity in cultural, traditional and geographical elements. If all the languages, including the dialects and accents have to be counted, the number will surely cross over two thousand. It is so increased because every foreign emperor that has come to India has brought in their own way of communication.

Generally, Indian languages can be classified into three main sections. They are: 1) Ancient, the base of which is Vedic Sanskrit. 2) Medieval, which is known as Prakrit which is derived by combining Sanskrit and Pali vernacular dialects. 3) Modern, this period is the 10th century AD and includes the northern and central regional languages spoken in the Indian subcontinent.

Vedic Sanskrit was used in ancient India to write books on the literatures and scriptures of Hinduism, religious songs written to praise a warrior and to worship god. It was also used for hymns and incantations to utter it during the rituals and prayers. This language was used for verbal communication and writing books on other subjects such as economics, politics, technology and general education. It was originated during the early to mid 2nd and mid 1st millennium which belongs to the old Indo-Aryan language group, the base of which is the oldest form of Sanskrit. It was basically the language of the Vedas and religious texts.

Prakrit languages was prevailing in the ancient India and is one of the oldest that belongs to the Indic language category. It was spoken by a particular group and was actually different in writing style. On the other hand, Sanskrit language was more refined which had different alphabets for writing. Prakrit had three different stages. The first stage was during the great Ashoka's period when all the inscriptions were in this language. The middle stage was when this language developed into different forms and reached far into Ceylon towards the extreme south. The last stage was the Apabhransha language.

Prakrit was status-conscious language as it was used by a special group. This classical form of Sanskrit language was spoken by nobles. Women of the royal family used Shauraseni. The ordinary people spoke in Magadhi. In a real essence, Prakrit was the language that provides mortars for the construction of the Indian caste system. It was continued till the 12th century AD in daily verbal communication.

The Indo-Aryan is the modern language that started gaining its root during the 10th century and is still spoken by millions of Indians. It is the Indo-Iranian languages which was further developed and form their independent lines. Rig-Veda was the hymns and incantations that were recorded in the Indo-Aryan languages. There were many variations in the way the hymns were sung. The difference or variations in vernacular dialect are noticeable when you hear the language spoken in the east of Punjab and the Indo-Gangetic plain. It soon spread to the central region of the country known as Madhyadesh and to the south of the Vindhya hills. In these regions, the literary scholars of those times worked on the language and refined it giving a name of Sanskrit.

The modern Indo-Aryan is the hugely spoken by the Indians in this present day. Another form of this language is also spoken in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In India, major languages according to the geographical region are Hindi (almost spoken entirely in the country, except the south), Urdu, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Bengali, Oriay, Bihari, Gujrati, Marathi, Konkani, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu.

Since Hindi is widely used and official language of India, there are two forms of this language. One that has developed around the northern region of India. And the second that originated in the central region and eastern parts of Madhya Pradesh. This language was also influenced by the usage of Urdu as most of central portions of the country were ruled by Muslim rulers. Hindi is actually the Devanagari script which is used in many regional languages for writing purposes. It has given birth to many different dialects some of which are Khariboli, Brajbhasa, Awadhi, Maithlli, Marwari, and Bhojpuri.

Among these various dialects, Bhojpuri, Magahi, and Maithlli are used by Bihari people from the northeastern India. Though these languages are frequently used by the people in Bihar, they are not yet included as the official languages in the Indian constitution and Hindi is still the official language and medium of education.

Bengali is another language that is used by Indians as well as Bangladesh. This language is also formed from Sanskrit and is one of the sweetest modern languages in India. In fact, this language has the maximum literature as compared to any other languages of this time.

Gurmukhi script is another interesting script developed by the Sikh gurus and still used in Punjab and in some places of Pakistan. When the guru culture flourished in the religion, the leaders developed their own script and wrote many sacred books in this script. Though Punjabi is mostly similar to Hindi, this language when spoken in Pakistan has totally different dialect and accent.

So to conclude, we can say the history of languages in India revolves around three stages: the Vedic Sanskrit, the Prkrits and the modern Indo-Aryan languages. Among these, a number of speakers and writers used the latest modern language.