As per Ethnologue.com, there are over 400 languages spoken in India. Each language follows its descent from a common ancestral language and hence becomes part of a language family. With its wide cultures and complex history, languages change at every few hundred kilometres(sometimes even less) in India. There are many language families in India, and hence many languages. The major ones are the Indo-Aryan languages spoken by 78.05% of Indians and the Dravidian languages spoken by 19.64% of Indians. Languages spoken by the remaining 2.31% of the population belong to the Austroasiatic, Sino-Tibetan, Tai-Kadai and a few other minor language families and isolates.

I’ve visualised these language families in tree structures akin to the phylogenetic trees. This way, one can find the language they speak in one of the branches and then can trace it to its ancestor. And in the process, one will find siblings and close and distant cousins.

Indic Languages

Indic Languages

The Indo-Aryan or Indic languages, a subgroup of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family, are a major language family of South Asia.

The number of languages within the Indo-Aryan family varies between different studies. One of the primary reasons is that the choice between the appellations “language” and “dialect” is difficult, and any distinction made using these terms is obscured by their ambiguity. In one general colloquial sense, a language is a “developed” dialect: one that is standardised has a written tradition and enjoys social prestige. As there are degrees of development, the boundary between a language and a dialect thus defined is not clear-cut, and there is a large middle ground where the assignment is contestable.

Apart from the Indic languages, other Indo-European languages spoken in India include English, French, Portuguese, Persian, etc.

Dravidian Languages

Dravidian Languages

The Dravidian languages are a major language family of mainly in southern India. The Dravidian languages with the most speakers are Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam, all of which have long literary traditions. Smaller literary languages are Tulu and Kodava. There are also small groups of Dravidian-speaking scheduled tribes, who live outside Dravidian-speaking areas, such as the Kurukh in Eastern India and Gondi in Central India. The origins of the Dravidian languages, as well as their subsequent development and the period of their differentiation, are unclear, partially due to the lack of comparative linguistic research into the Dravidian languages. Though some scholars have argued that the Dravidian languages may have been brought to India by migrations in the fourth or third millennium BCE or even earlier, the Dravidian languages cannot easily be connected to any other language, and they could well be indigenous to India.

Tibeto-Burman Languages

Tibeto-Burman Languages

The Tibeto-Burman languages are the non-Sinitic members of the Sino-Tibetan language family. These languages are spoken across the Himalayas in the regions of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, and also in the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram. The name derives from the most widely spoken of these languages, namely Burmese and the Tibetic languages. These languages also have extensive literary traditions, dating from the 12th and 7th centuries respectively.

Andamanese, Austro-Asian, Tai-Kadai & Other Languages

Andamanese, Austro-Asian, Tai-Kadai & Other Languages

The Andamanese languages are spoken in Andamanese Islands; the Austro-Asiatic languages are spoken in Northeast India, the Nicobar Islands, and the East and Central India; the Creole languages are spoken in Andaman Islands, Kerala, Maharashtra, Daman and Diu Union Territory, and Nagaland; Majhwar(Language Isolate) is primarily spoken in Chattisgarh; Nefamese(Pidgin) is spoken in Arunachal Pradesh; Tai-Kadai languages are spoken in parts of Northeast India.

The information used for visualising the above tree diagrams was sourced from ethnologue.com. Some of the details mentioned in the texts were sourced from Wikipedia.