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A language originated at a particular place and diffuses to other locations through the migration of its speakers

A language originated at a particular place and diffuses to other locations through the migration of its speakers." Examine this statement in the context of language host spots and endangered language hot spots.
(UPSC geography optional paper 1 2019, 10 Marks)


Language is the way of human communication in written or voice forms. In the beginning, languages are originated at a particular place and diffusion of language happens with the spread of the population from that place.
For example,
  • The Latin language was originated from the italic tribals group in Latium areas of Italy. At present,  many languages derived from the Latin language such as French, Spanish, Italian, Portugues, and German are diffused all over the world.
  • Apart from India, the Hindi Language is also spoken in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Fiji, Singapore, and South Africa. It is due to the diffusion of the Hindi language through the migration of Hindi speakers.

Today language can have many languages tomorrow. In Medival time, the Hindustani language gets converted to Hindi and Urdu. In ancient times, the Sanskrit language gets converted into many languages such as Hindi, Rajasthani, Marathi, Maithili, Braj, Odiya, Bengali, Bhojpuri, etc.
In the world, the majority of languages can be grouped into six major language groups.
Six largest language group in the world:
  • Indo  European 
    •  450 languages, largest speakers
    • Europe, Russia, central Asia, northern Indian subcontinent,  north, and South America.
  • Afro Asiatic :
    • Nearly 400 languages
    • West Asia and Northern Africa
  • Niger-Congo:
    • largest genetic variation having more than 1500 language family
    • A large part of Africa is in the central and eastern parts.
  • Sino Tibetan :
    • More than 455 languages
    • Areas: Himalayan region of India, Burma, and China
  • Austronesian :
    • more than 1200 language family
    • Areas: from Madagascar to the East Pacific Ocean comprises southeast Asian nations, Newzeland.
  • Trans New Guineas:
    • More than 500 language family
    • New Guinea and neighboring islands are located in the north of Australia.

The following are major language groups are in India:
  • Indo Aryan language family in northern India
  • Dravidian family in southern India
  • Tibeto Burman family in NorthEast in Himalayan region
  • Munda or Autrofamily in central India, mainly tribal speaker.
As per India census: 
  • There are 22 scheduled languages and 100 nonscheduled languages which are spoken by more than 1 lakh population.
Extinction of language: 

  • More than 3500 languages in the world and more than 40 languages in India are heading to extinction as only a few thousand speakers are left.  
Why do we need to conserve the language:

  • When a language dies, a way of life dies, a way of thinking disappears, and culture also disappears. The death of the last speaker means the loss of the cultural biosphere. 
  • A famous Kannada person rightly said India is a country where illiterate workers speak five to seven languages and literate persons only speak one.
  • There is an immense knowledge gap, indigenous people know more about local life forms than society. For example, most tribal societies are oral societies. Language is the heart of culture and without language culture transmission from generation to generation could not be possible. As per UNESCO, at the end of 21 century 90% of world languages will disappear due to the expansion of majoritarian languages. Language shift causes the extinction of a language, language shift means people are leaving their own language and learning famous or majoritarian language. For example, In India, people are giving more preference to the English language over the local language.  

Language Hotspots:
The language hotspot concept was developed by Dr. Anderson and David Harrison. It is areas where:
  • Very High level of linguistic diversity both in the number of language families and genetic diversity( within language families).
  • Average high level of endangered
  • Low level of prior documentation

High level of linguistic diversity:

  • Roman language family has a high level of genetic diversity: that includes French, Spanish, Italian, Portugues, German.

Average high level of Endangered: 

  • The language will be endangered if only elderly speakers are left that they do not pass on to the younger generation.

Low level of documentation:

  • If grammar, dictionary, text to audio, are not documented properly then that language will have a low level of documentation.

Reasons for language extinction:

  • The spread of the dominant language and retreat of a minority language is the major cause of language extinction.
  • Schools generally teach in the majority tongue. For example, most of the teaching in India is in Hindi and English.
  • India has many oral societies and they do not have written text they used to transfer customs, the ritual to next-generation orally. 
Endangered language hotspot:

  • Northwest Pacific plateau in the USA, Canada 
  • Southwest Oklahoma in the USA 
  • Central South America 
  • Northern Australia Eastern Siberia
What can be done to conserve language; 

  • Technology can be used to record the endangered language. 
  • Extra efforts are needed to promote literature, art, culture, and music in an endangered language. 
  • All types of literature must be translated into regional and endangered languages. 
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