People’s Linguistic Survey of India: An Approach to Safeguard India’s Cultural Diversity

The People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) is a thorough linguistic survey launched in 2010 to update existing knowledge about the languages spoken across India. The survey was conducted by Professor Ganesh Devy and by his team of around 3,000 volunteers, including 2,000 language experts, social historians, writers, activists and the staff at the NGO Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, Baroda.

The survey was to find, document and recognize the state of Indian languages, especially languages of tribal, coastal, island and forest communities.

Objectives of the PLSI

• Provide an outline of the existing languages of the day by 2011-2012.

• Create a network of members dedicated to sustainable development, irrespective of their diverse social and cultural backgrounds.

• Build bridges among various linguistic communities to support the foundations of multilingual Indian society.

• Create closer associations between the government and linguistic communities to bring the government’s developmental strategies in harmony with the diverse communities.

• Develop teaching material and capability for encouraging education in the mother tongue.
• Provide a strong base for any survey to be done in future with respect to India’s linguistic and cultural composition.


During British rule, the first linguistic survey was done from 1894 to 1928 by George A. Grierson. The survey recognized 179 languages and 544 dialects. But owing to a lack of trained personnel as this survey had many shortages.

The PLSI is a comprehensive survey done by persons belonging to speech communities or who have worked with them for many years.

On January 7, 2012, the first six volumes were released at the Bhasha Vasudha Global Languages Conference in Vadodara. The survey was completed in December 2012.

The earlier census counted 1,652 Indian languages, but the PLSI survey counted 780 Indian languages in 2010. According to “UNESCO Atlas of World’s Language in Danger”, India has a total of 197 languages that are in the vulnerable category, and India is on top of the list of countries where most languages are in crisis.

In India, the language policy has been pluralistic in nature, giving importance to the usage of the mother tongue in the areas of administration, education and other fields of mass communication. Accordingly, the Language Bureau of the Ministry of Human Resource Development has been set up to enforce and monitor the language policy of the government.
In the Eight Schedule of the constitution, India has recognized the following 22 languages:

Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Kannada, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Among these languages, Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada have been recognized by the Government of India as classical languages having special status and recognition.

Additionally, to these scheduled and classical languages, the Constitution of India has incorporated the clause to protect the linguistic minorities as a fundamental right to its people. The Constitution of India makes a provision for the appointment of a special officer for the linguistic minority category, with its responsibility being to safeguard the interest of languages spoken by the minority groups.

People's Linguistic Survey of India

Causes of Language Crisis in India

Cultural imperialism because of continuous invasions of India for centuries has threatened the indigenous languages of Indians.

English gained class status because of the long colonial rule in India. And due to the increasing usage of English in governance, administration and law in India, the acceptance of other Indian languages reduced.

. Owing to globalization, and as a result of foreign trade and other activities with many other countries of the world, Indians are continuously learning new languages like German and French, because of which the leaning of the people towards these languages is increasing.
.The Government of India recognizes only those dialects as languages that have a script; in this circumstance, many languages that are just spoken are threatened. India’s official language count is 122 languages, which is lower than the 780 calculated in the linguistic survey. The reason for this inconsistency is that the government will not recognize a language that has speakers of less than 10,000.

Thus, funding is not available for many of these languages. More than 220 languages have ended in the past 50 years.

Many tribes under British rule were given criminal status due to which these tribals tried to hide their language and dialect. After independence, efforts are not being made to protect these tribes, which have endangered their languages. And these tribes do not have much contact with the mainstream of society because of which their language is not spreading.

In a democracy, issues pertaining to the majority group are given due importance. Therefore, there is a lack of political ambition to preserve extinct languages.

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(With Inputs from careerindia)