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Language |Perspectives in Human Geography | Human Geography |Geography optional notes

Table of Contents:
  • Language
  • Diffusion of Language
  • Major Language Group of the world
  • Major Language Group of India
  • Language Hotspot
  • Endangered language Hotspot
  • Extinction of Language
  • Why do we need to conserve the Language
  • Reason for Extinction of Language
  • Method to conserve the Language

Language is the way of human communication in written or voice forms. There are more than 7000 major languages in the world.
As per the Indian census, There are 22 scheduled languages and 100 non-scheduled languages that are spoken by more than 1 lakh population.
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 Medieval times, 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.
Diffusion of language:
Diffusion of language happens in the following ways:
  • Migration
  • Government Policy
  • Language shift

The language also spread with the Migration of people. For example, during colonial times, a large number of Indian labor is migrated to Maldive and Fiji and as of now, Hindi has a widely spoken language in these countries.

Government Policy:
Government policy to promote a particular language will enhance the diffusion process of language. For example, 
  • During the Mughal era Farsi, the Arabic language spread in India.
  • English was introduced during the colonial period in many countries during colonial times resulting in the diffusion of the English language.

Language Shift:

The convergence of many languages in one place resulted in the dominance of majoritarian languages and the extinction of minority languages.
In the world, the majority of languages can be grouped into six major language groups.
Major language groups of the world
Major language groups of the world

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 Madagaskar 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.
Major language group of India
Major language group of India

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 the Himalayan region
  • Munda or Autrofamily in central India, mainly tribal speaker.
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:

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

Endangered language hotspot:
The following are the region where a large number of language is going to extinct due to language shift and other diffusion processes of language.
  • Northwest Pacific plateau in the USA, Canada 
  • Southwest Oklahoma in the USA 
  • Central South America 
  • Northern Australia Eastern Siberia

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, by the end of 21 century, 90% of the 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 the famous or majoritarian language. For example, In India, people are giving more preference to the English language over the local language.  
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, and the ritual to the next generation orally. 
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. 

Previous year UPSC Question

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)

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Click here for Comments
2 November 2020 at 08:04 ×

Thanks for providing us analysis on PYQs of Geog optional of UPSC. These are very helpful. Do you have any portal where students can write answers and evaluate each others' answer on Geog optional questions? Please let me know.

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