Major: English Language and Literature

Concentration: Linguistics

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Kristen DiGennaro

Document Type



The Indian subcontinent is one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world. The 2011 Census of India reports over 1,950 languages and 720 dialects are spoken in India. Although India itself has speakers of four distinct language families, its people have a shared culture, genetics, and history that spans thousands of years. The languages spoken in India have grown, stymied, and influenced each other before reaching their current state. The multiplicity of languages led to implementation of institutionalized language protection measures during the Independence period. Despite these efforts, many languages remain at risk for endangerment and extinction. Language endangerment is not a problem unique to India. Ethnologue estimates approximately 42% of the world’s languages- about 3,018 languages- are endangered in 2021. Section Ⅰ of this paper will provide background information on language endangerment. Section Ⅱ will discuss the linguistic families that are spoken in India, their history, development, and current speaker range. Section Ⅲ will detail the history of language policy in India in three phases: during the Pre-British Colonial Period, the British Colonial Period, and during the Independence Period. Finally, Section Ⅳ will discuss the divergent nature of language vitality in India today.