Of the non-scheduled regional languages spoken in the state, more than 75% are on the verge of disappearing in the next few decades, according to a recent linguistic survey.
In Maharashtra, 56 regional languages are spoken, of which Marathi and its nine regional varieties are scheduled languages and are entitled to be developed and preserved by the government. Some of these regional varieties are Varhadi, Tawadi, Jamneri, and Samvedi.
Among the other 46 languages, about 10 have a relatively sizeable number of speakers and at present show the signs of continuing for a considerable period of time, according to a survey conducted by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI), a language research and publication centre based in Baroda, Gujarat.
However, the survey revealed that the remaining 36 languages, spoken in places such as Amravati, Satara and Sangli among others, are rapidly losing their significance, with 20 expected to become extinct in the next two decades.
Although the other 16 languages are backed by enough speakers to continue for some more years, its speakers are also rapidly reducing in number.
“Languages that are mainly spoken by nomadic groups or denotified tribes are critically endangered,” said Ganesh Devy, chairperson, PLSI. “Siddi, a branch of Swahili, spoken by the people who came from Africa is one such example,” said Devy.
Such significant loss of languages can have an adverse impact on other domains. “The ecological knowledge of several flora and fauna in the state will become superficial, as their detailed descriptions among the local communities will be lost,” said ecologist Madhav Gadgil.
Marathi a popular option for students
mumbai: The Marathi language does not seem to be under threat of being overshadowed by other popular languages, and is in fact in demand among the youth.
Over the last few years, more than 500 city students have opted for Marathi for the Masters in Arts (MA) annually from Mumbai university and with students learning under distance education, the number is about 1,200 every year. February 27 was celebrated as Marathi Bhasha Diwas.
“There is still a good demand for studying Marathi, and the number of students opting for the subject has remained consistent over the years,” said Pushpalata Rajapure-Tapas, head of Marathi department at the university.
Some language experts also defended the significance of Marathi in present times. “It is a strong language, and has been growing because of its rich literature,” said Ganesh Devy, chairperson, People’s Linguistic Survey of India.
However, Devy highlighted areas of concern. “The language is losing its significance in medicine and healthcare, because people are not able to describe ailments in Marathi and even doctors are increasingly using English,” he said.
Some experts also felt the need for the language to be standardised.