It is quite amazing to note that India is the 9th largest linguistically diverse nation of the planet based on the Linguistic Diversity Index (LDI) score of 0.930 as determined by UNESCO. The top five linguistically diverse nations based on their UNESCO-LDI scores are: 1. Papua and New Guinea (0.990), 2. Vanuatu (0.972), 3. Solomon Islands (0.965), 4. Tanzania (0.965) and 5. Chad (0.960). It is also quite fascinating to note that out of the top ten native languages spoken around the world, three Indian languages are included; namely Hindi (4th), Bengali (8th) and Punjabi (10th). Currently around 780 languages are spoken in India of which around 183 are showing serious signs of endangerment and their future does not look quite promising. UNESCO uses nine factors to determine the level of endangerment of a language such as intergenerational language transmission, number of speakers and proportion of global speakers using that particular language, community attitude towards their own language, level and quality of documentation, available language resources, language response in current media, academia, literature and daily usage as well governmental and institutional policies towards that language. It is quite alarming that a significant number of endangered languages are reported from Himachal Pradesh, North East India and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Lack of opportunity to teach and learn native or indigenous languages and their dwindling number of speakers are important factors pushing towards their slow extinction. It is therefore important for all stakeholders to come forward and work on a common platform to protect endangered languages in India from becoming extinct. Both Sate and Central Governments need to think about encouraging native speakers to use their traditional languages and develop policies for the conservation of such rear culture treasures. It is important that language research institutes with advanced language laboratories are developed across the country to preserve and protect languages, archive language resources and document them as sincerely as possible. We all need to come together and join hands to protect the endangered languages of the nation from becoming extinct.
Saikat Kumar Basu,