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Archaeology Publication


InArchCenter ID: - IACBN0035


The languages of the Indian subcontinent are divided into various language families, of which the Indo-Iranian and the Dravidian languages are the most widely spoken. There are also many languages belonging to unrelated language families such as Sino-Tibetan, spoken by smaller groups.

The Indo-Iranian group can be further classified into Indo-Aryan, Dardic and Iranian of which Indo-Aryan is mostly spoken in India.


Old Indo-Aryan (1500/1200BCE – 600BCE): - It had both literary and spoken varieties. The spoken variety could be classified into three-Northern, Central and Eastern. However, not much of the spoken variety is known because of the lack of written evidences. The earliest literary variety was the Vedic Sanskrit. Vedic Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas, a large collection of hymns, incantations, and religio-philosophical discussions which form the earliest religious texts in India and the basis for much of the Hindu religion. Modern linguists consider the metrical hymns of the Rig-Veda to be the earliest. The hymns preserved in the Rig-Veda were preserved by oral tradition alone over several centuries before the introduction of writing, the oldest among them predating the introduction of Brahmi by as much as a millennium .The end of the Vedic period is marked by the composition of the Upanishads, which form the concluding part of the Vedic corpus in the traditional compilations, dated to roughly 500 BCE. It is around this time that Sanskrit began the transition from a first language to a second language of religion and learning, marking the beginning of the Classical period.

The oldest surviving Sanskrit grammar is Pāṇini's Aṣtādhyāyī (“Eight-Chapter Grammar”) dating to c. the 5th century BCE. It is essentially a prescriptive grammar ,i.e., an authority that defines (rather than describes) correct Sanskrit, although it contains descriptive parts, mostly to account for Vedic forms that had already passed out of use in Pāṇini's time. When the term arose in India, Sanskrit was not thought of as a specific language set apart from other languages (the people of the time regarded languages more as dialects), but rather as a particularly refined or perfected manner of speaking. Knowledge of Sanskrit was a marker of social class and educational attainment and was taught mainly to Brahmins through close analysis of Sanskrit grammarians such as Pāṇini. Vedic Sanskrit and Classical or "Paninian" Sanskrit, while broadly similar, are separate varieties, which differ in a number of points of phonology, vocabulary, and grammar.

Middle Indo-Aryan (600BCE-900/950/1000CE): - Language of the Middle Indo-Aryan period was Prakrit. The word Prakrit, in Sanskrit, means “original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual”, i.e. "vernacular", in contrast to samskrta “excellently made”. Prakrit is the broad family of Indic languages and dialects spoken in ancient India. Some modern scholars include all Middle Indo-Aryan languages under the rubric of “Prakrits”, while others emphasize the independent development of these languages, often separated from the history of Sanskrit by wide divisions of caste, religion, and geography. The Prakrits became literary languages, generally patronized by kings identified with the kshatriya caste. The earliest inscriptions in Prakrit are those of Ashoka, emperor of the Maurya Empire, and while the various Prakrit languages are associated with different patron dynasties, with different religions and different literary traditions. The various Prakrits – Paisaci, Sauraseni, Magadhi, Ardha Magadhi, Maharashtri, as well as Jain Prakrit each represent a distinct tradition of literature within the history of India.

Pāli -Pali is the Middle Indo-Aryan language in which the Theravada Buddhist scriptures and commentaries are preserved. Pali is believed by the Theravada tradition to be the same language as Magadhi, but modern scholars believe this to be unlikely. Pali shows signs of development from several underlying prakrits as well as some Sanskritisation.

Apabhraṃśa - The Prakrits (which includes Pali) were gradually transformed into Apabhraṃśas which were used until about the 13th century CE. The term apabhraṃśa refers to the dialects of Northern India before the rise of modern Northern Indian languages, and implies a corrupt or non-standard language. A significant amount of apabhraṃśa literature has been found in Jain libraries. While Amir Khusro and Kabir were writing in a language quite similar to modern Hindi-Urdu, many poets, especially in regions that were still ruled by Hindu kings, continued to write in Apabhraṃśa.

New Indo-Aryan (900/950/1000CE - present): - The various Prakrits diversified into many dialects during this period which later on went on to become different languages. The dialectal divisions of New Indo-Aryan can be summarized as follows:


The Dravidian language family is one of the world's primary language families. The Dravidian languages are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. Proto-Dravidian languages were spoken in India in the 4th millennium BCE and started disintegrating into various branches around 3rd millennium BCE. Dravidian languages has 80 varieties, spoken by over 200 million people in south, central and north India. Interestingly, the Kurukh language of Nepal and the Brahui language of Pakistan and Afghanistan belong to the Dravidian family. Certain languages of the Dravidian language family are known to have been written for over 2000 years, and influenced Vedic Sanskrit and modern Indo-Aryan languages, thus playing a significant role in contact between Indo-European and Austroasiatic language families. The Dravidian language family was first recognized as an independent family in 1816. The term Dravidian was introduced by Robert A. Caldwell in his Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages (1856). Previous linguistic studies have tried to understand the relationship between various Dravidian language subgroups. The Dravidian languages are classified in four groups: North, Central, South- Central and South Dravidian.

The South Dravidian subgroup consists of Tamil, Malayalam, Irula, Kodava, Kurumba, Kota, Toda, Badaga, Kannada, Koraga and Tulu, among others.

The South Central Dravidian subgroup has Telugu, Gondi and Kuvi, and others.

The Central Dravidian subgroup comprises Gadaba, Parji and Kolami,

The North Dravidian subgroup has Brahui, Kurukh and Malto languages.

To Be Continued >>>>>


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