While people in India presently speak in 780 different languages, the country has lost nearly 250 languages in the last 50 years, an expert said here Tuesday.
The People's Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) has completed a comprehensive linguistic survey of the country and would publish its reports in 50 volumes contained in 72 books in September.
This is the first linguistic survey carried out in the country after Irish linguistic scholar George Abraham Grierson conducted the Linguistic Survey of India from 1898 to 1928.
"Currently as many as 780 different languages are spoken and 86 different scripts are used in the country. While it surely is a fact to celebrate the diversity of the country, the sad part is we have lost nearly 250 languages in the last 50 years or so," PLSI chairperson G.N. Devy said here.
The PLSI -a public consultation and appraisal forum- collaborated with 85 institutions and universities in the country to conduct the research which was completed in four years involving the services of more than 3,000 experts.
"While the actual survey - the first such exercise undertaken in independent India - took four years, it took 17 years of prepatory work. So the reports are a fruit of 21 years of hard work that too without any governmental assistance," said Devy
The reports will carry various information about all the languages spoken in the country.
"From their historical and geographical details, to their origin and grammar as well as literature and other artistic and cultural works including folk songs would be available in the published work," said Devy.
Talking about West Bengal, Devy said, the state was the richest in the country in terms of number of scripts used.
"While 38 different languages are spoken in the state, Bengal by far is the richest in the country when it comes to scripts. As many as nine different scripts are used here and efforts are on to develop several other scripts," said Devy.
Devy, though, said that of the 38 languages in Bengal, about 10 were endangered and needed urgent attention for their survival.
Twenty two of the 780 languages are scheduled Indian languages. Of them, 122 have been declared by the census as spoken by a population exceeding 10,000 and the rest are spoken by less than 10,000 people.
Refusing to quantify the number of "endangered languages", Devy called for governmental assistance to ensure survival of all the languages.
"Without discriminating between languages by declaring some of them as endangered, we need governmental as well as public assistance to help all the languages grow and flourish," he added.