Survey of the living languages of India in present time (PLSI) – carried out by persons who belong to the respective speech communities or have worked closely with them

The People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) is a comprehensive survey of the living languages of India in present time. The first such survey since George Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India carried out between 1894 and 1928, the PLSI is being carried out by persons who belong to the respective speech communities or have worked closely with them.

Prof. Ganesh Devy is a literary critic and cultural activist. He is Chair, People’s Linguistic Survey of India and Founder, Bhasha Research and Publication Centre and Adivasi Academy, Tejgadh

Source: Prof. Ganesh Devy, 19 jun. 2012

What is PLSI

The People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) was initiated in 2010 by Prof. G.N. Devy at the Language Confluence hosted by Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, Vadodara and envisions the creation of a Linguistic Survey rooted in people’s perception of language. Conceived as a project to capture how people identify, name and perceive what they speak, the survey in its published form will also contain the stories of people’s origin, dispersal and relationship with the neighbouring cultures.

Source: PLSI, nationwide survey, initiated by Prof. G.N. Devy, main objectives provide overview of the living languages of India and protecting them
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Date Visited: Wed Jun 20 2012 18:26:32 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Seven decades after independence, many tribal languages in India face extinction threat
To lose these indigenous languages means losing huge human capital and rich cultural diversity 

By Abhijit Mohanty, Down to Earth, 26 August 2020 | Read the full article here >>

Language is the only tool for expressing identity and culture as well as one of the greatest emblems of human diversity.

There are 7,000 living languages in the world and around 3,000 are considered as ‘endangered’. This means that almost half of the planet’s current linguistic diversity is under threat.

The situation in India is alarming. Some 197 languages are in various stages of endangerment in our country, more than any other country in the world. Ganesh N Devy, founder-director of the Bhasa Research and Publication Centre, Vadodara and Adivasi Academy at Tejgadh, Gujarat, said, “India may have lost 220 languages since 1961. There were 1,100 languages since 1961, based on the Census number of 1,652 mother tongues. Another 150 languages could vanish in the next 50 years.”

Linguistic expert Devy documented 780 living languages and claims that 400 of them are at risk of dying.  

There are five tribal languages that are moving towards extinction in India. Linguist experts say that the most threatened language is Majhi in Sikkim. According to a research conducted by People’s Linguistic Survey of India, there are just four people who currently speak Majhi and all of them belong to the same family. […]

Ayesha Kidwai of the Centre for Linguistics, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, told Down To Earth, “Tribal languages are a treasure trove of knowledge about a region’s flora, fauna and medicinal plants. Usually, this information is passed from generation to generation. However, when a language declines, that knowledge system is completely gone. With the loss of language comes the loss of everything in culture and loss of solidarity, the loss of Man himself.” 

While the danger of extinction looms large over some languages, many other languages have been thriving. For example, Gondi (spoken in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra), Bhili (Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat), Mizo (Mizoram), Garo and Khasi (Meghalaya) and Kokborok (Tripura) are showing an upward trend because educated people in these communities have started using these languages for writing

“They publish poems, write plays and perform them. In some of the languages, even films are being made. For instance, they have started making films in Gondi. The Bhojpuri film industry is prospering. The language itself is growing, probably the fastest in the country,” Devy said.  

Two major tribal languages that are included in the Eighth Schedule, namely Bodo and Santali, have also shown declines, though not negative growth. The number of Bodo speakers in Assam declined to 4.53 per cent of the total population in 2011, from 4.86 per cent in 2001. It shows a total decadal percentage increase of 9.81. On the other hand, Santali shows a total decadal percentage increase of 13.89. 

Situation in Odisha
Odisha has one of the most diverse tribal populations in India, with 62 tribes, including 13 particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs). There are 21 tribal languages and 74 dialects which immensely contribute to the linguistic diversity of the state.

Only six tribal languages — Santali, Ho, Soura, Munda and Kui — have a written script. Santali has already been included in the Eighth Schedule. The state government adopted the Multi-Lingual Education (MLE) programme in 2006 to address the issues of language barriers faced by tribal children. […]

Joy Daniel Pradhan, a Delhi-based development practitioner and an expert on tribal development issues said, “Components like teacher training, regular academic follow-up and comprehensive evaluation were largely ignored by the state government.”

If urgent steps are not taken, it is likely to affect the learning of tribal children in the classroom, since learning depends on continuous interest and eternal vigilance, pointed out Daniel. […]

Tribal languages should be endorsed through innovative, cultural and entertainment programmes, suggest linguistic experts. For example, in February this year, a local community radio channel called ‘Asur Mobile Radio’ in Jharkhand launched cultural programmes in the Asur language, which has only 7,000-8,000 speakers.

The Asur community is among the few PVTGs in the state to preserve their language. The Asur language features in the UNESCO list of ‘definitely endangered’ languages.      

Manoj Lakra, a Jharkhand-based tribal development expert said, “The Asur community started popularising the language in their area. This has significantly aided the revival of the dying language.” […]

Therefore, it is high time for others to appreciate the important contribution of tribal languages in enriching the world’s rich cultural and linguistic diversity.    

Source: “Seven decades after independence, many tribal languages in India face extinction threat” by Abhijit Mohanty, Down to Earth, 26 August 2020
Date Visited: 5 September 2022 

Read the inaugural Speech by Dr. Ivy Hansdak: “Is tribal identity relevant in today’s world?” delivered during the conference titled “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” | Conference report >>

In his play Muktadhara (The Waterfall), Tagore robustly employs this element of freedom. The play relates the story of an exploited people and their eventual release from it. [Today, when] tribal populations across India are being uprooted with impudence Tagore’s message of freedom, in all its shades, is of utmost relevance.

Bhaswati Ghosh in Freedom in Tagore’s Plays | Learn more >>

[T]he Constitution gives equal respect to all communities, sects, lingual and ethnic groups, etc. The Constitution guarantees to all citizens freedom of speech (Article 19), freedom of religion (Article 25), equality (Articles 14 to 17), liberty (Article 21), etc.

Supreme Court judgment quoted by The Hindu in
India, largely a country of immigrants” >>

Learn more about “The world’s largest democracy“, its Constitution and Supreme Court and linguistic heritage, and why Democracy depends on Accountability in the face of Modernity and Globalization >>

Table of the number of endangered languages with the states that they are spoken in according to India Today | Learn more >>

Indian states No. of languages Endangered Languages
Andaman and Nicobar Islands 11 Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Lamongse, Luro, Muot, Onge, Pu, Sanenyo, Sentilese, Shompen and Takahanyilang
Manipur 7 Aimol, Aka, Koiren, Lamgang, Langrong, Purum and Tarao
Himachal Pradesh 4 Baghati, Handuri, Pangvali and Sirmaudi
Odisha 3 Manda, Parji and Pengo
Karnataka 2 Koraga and Kuruba
Andhra Pradesh 2 Gadaba and Naiki
Tamil Nadu 2 Kota and Toda
Arunachal Pradesh 2 Mra and Na
Assam 2 Tai Nora and Tai Rong
Uttarakhand 1 Bangani
Jharkhand 1 Birhor
Maharashtra 1 Nihali
Meghalaya 1 Ruga
West Bengal 1 Toto

The Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, has been working for the protection and preservation of endangered languages in India under a central scheme […]

Central Institute of Indian Languages (Official website):

Source: International Mother Language Day: 42 Indian languages heading towards extinction, India Today, 21 February 2018
Date visited: 21 July 2020

Learn from M S Swaminathan – a world renowned scientist – how biological diversity contributes to public health, people’s livelihood and environmental security in addition to food security: his call on fellow citizens to use and share resources in a more sustainable and equitable manner; outlining the long journey from the 1992 Earth Summit to a commitment to foster inherited knowledge through India’s Biodiversity Act and Genome Saviour Award; an award intended to reward those who are “primary conservers” – guardians of biological diversity!

More about the work of his foundation which “aims to accelerate use of modern science and technology for agricultural and rural development to improve lives and livelihoods of communities.” – | Regarding the issues of food security raised above, and the nutritional value of indigenous grains, seeds and millets, read an in-depth report that concludes that “the tribal food basket has always been ­diverse and nutritious” >>

Find up-to-date information provided by, for and about Indian authors, researchers, officials, and educatorsMore search options >>
Search tips: in the search field seen below, combine the name of any particular state, language or region with that of any tribal (Adivasi) community; add keywords of special interest (health, nutrition endangered language, illegal mining, sacred grove); learn about the rights of Scheduled Tribes such as the Forest Rights Act (FRA); and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women’s rights, and children’s right to education; specify any other issue or news item you want to learn more about (biodiversity, climate change, ecology, economic development, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, global warming, effective measures to prevent rural poverty, bonded labour, and human trafficking).

For a list of websites included in a single search, click here. To search Indian periodicals, magazines, web portals and other sources safely, click here. To find an Indian PhD thesis on a particular tribal community, region and related issues, click here >>

Related posts

Tip: click on any red marker for details on endangered languages in a particular region of India.
Please note: the facts and figures cited (via hyperlinks) links call for updates and fact checking >>
Learn more: Endangered languages: Peoples’ Linguistic Survey of India >> 

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