Indian linguistic area as envisaged by late Prof MB Emeneau in his seminal paper entitled ‘India as a Linguistic Area’ (1956) is home to a total of 234 mother tongues with over ten thousands speakers (2001 Census) and numerous smaller and lesser known languages belonging to at least five major language families viz the Indo Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Austro Asiatic and Andamanese spoken by a vast population spread across Indian subcontinent. Not going much deep into the reasons, it is important to mention that the number of mother tongues which are accounted in the census data have seen an increase from 184 in 1991 to 234 in 2001. Notwithstanding the conservative estimate of Ethnologue (2008) that 20 percent of world’s living languages are moribund including the ones spoken in India, this increase in number of mother tongues has shown us the ray of hope by increasingly visible assertion by people to identify with their languages. Surprisingly the situation for Indo Aryan language family with almost 15 languages out of the 22 recognized in the eighth schedule of the constitution of India does not seem to be too well with respect to its smaller and lesser known members. Gradually many of these lesser known languages are losing their speakers in face of bigger and mightier languages and eventually dying an unnatural death resulting in loss of precious bio-cultural knowledge accumulated over many centuries.
One of the measures to counter this unwanted situation is the centuries-old practice of building grammars and dictionaries. It is true that complete language revitalization cannot be achieved by mere preparation of grammars and dictionary. There is lot more which needs to be done in this respect. However it is sure that development of these resources paves the way for wider community involvement and awareness culminating in the preservation of the precious traditional knowledge for future generations. To read more of this article (published by ICFAI books http://www.iupindia.org/) click below