Classical Languages present in India
A classical language is a language with an independent literary tradition and a large and ancient body of written literature. Classical languages are typically dead languages or show a high degree of diglossia, as the spoken varieties of the language diverge further away from the classical written language over time.
We look at a few classical languages spoken in India.
1) Which languages in India are considered classical languages?
Currently, six languages in India enjoy the ‘Classical’ status:
- Tamil (declared in 2004),
- Sanskrit (2005),
- Kannada (2008),
- Telugu (2008),
- Malayalam (2013),
- And Odia (2014)
2) On what grounds is a language classified as ‘classical’ in India?
According to information provided by the Ministry of Culture in the Rajya Sabha of Maharashtra in February 2014, the guidelines for declaring a language as ‘Classical’ are as follows:
(i) High antiquity of its early texts or recorded history over a period of 1500 to 2000 years,
(ii) A body of ancient literature or texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers,
(iii) The literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community,
(iv) A classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots
3) How are classical languages promoted in India?
In the Lok Sabha of July 2014, The Human Resource and Development Ministry notified that once a language is declared as a Classical Language, it enjoys the following benefits:
i) Two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages
ii) A Centre of Excellence for studies in Classical Languages is set up
iii) The University Grants Commission is requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for the Classical Languages so declared.
The Ministry of Culture in 2019 Lok Sabha listed the following institutions as ‘dedicated to Classical languages’:
i) Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi
ii) Maharishi Sandipani Rashtriya Ved Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain
iii) Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati
iv) And Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi
For Telugu and Kannada:
Centers of Excellence for Studies in the respective languages at the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) established by the HRD Ministry in 2011.
Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT), Chennai
4) Is there any use of learning these languages in today’s age?
Language enthusiasts, philologists, etc. all over the world would be interested in achieving excellent scores in the proficiency tests of these classical languages to add a feather in their caps.
Archaeologists will have an added benefit with the certificates of these proficiency tests in their stock of qualifications, and they will be the preferred candidates wherever extensive study and understanding of ancient, classical languages is required.
5) How can one learn these languages without having to spend a lot of time?
One can opt for online language learning courses which are an excellent model of learning today. This mode of learning can be accessed from anywhere, from any corner of the world, from the comfort of any premise! There is no need to travel or commute in order to attend physical classroom-based training of a language. Similarly, a lot of time is saved, since one only needs to get online over one’s laptop or mobile phone, and log into the app or website or software, and start learning a language. It is that simple. Moreover, online learning sessions facilitate interaction between a student and an instructor in real-time, thus allowing a student to listen to the pronunciations of each syllable and word pronounced by the instructor clearly, repeat them after the instructor, ask doubts if any, raise questions, and get them answered right during the sessions. Notes shared during the online language learning classes by the way of file-sharing or screen sharing helps a student to develop his or her reading and writing skills as well. Edtech platforms are utilizing this opportunity or the way of teaching to the fullest to connect with an increasingly greater number of students all around the globe.
We discussed the classical languages present in India
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