Language Groups in the World
1.50. There are about 3000 principal languages and numerous subordinate dialects in the world. There is no rule that one country shall have only one language. Many of the countries in the world have several languages. There are thousands of languages in the American continent alone. In India, the existence of 50 to 60 main languages and sub-languages is often considered a setback in political circles. It is no wonder that a continent of India’s size should have so many languages. Still most of these languages belong to few language groups.
1.51. There are about 132 languages in the Indo-European Group. About half of the world’s population speaks these languages. English is one of the principal languages in the Group. The English originated in England but worldwide as a common language of communication. There is an expansive and inexhaustible collection of literature in English. Major languages of India like Hindi, Hindustani, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarathi, Marathi, Sindhi, Punjabi, and Bihari and South Indian languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam have evolved independent scripts while Tulu, Kodava and Gonda etc language have to depend on other languages for the script.
Generally the languages of the North India are related to Sanskrit while the language of the south India are considered to be interrelated and part of the Dravidian Group.
1.52. Next to the Indo-European, Austro-Asiatic and Sino-Tibetan are major language groups spread in the region. In northern Europe Finno-Ugric or Ural languages and in the west mid-Asia Turkey-Mongolian or Altaic languages prevail. In the African continent, several languages exist but India is in contact with Egypt and northern Africa since ages. In northern Africa Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and other countries belong to Semitic Group of languages. West coast of India is in contact with Arabian countries since historical days especially for commerce. We shall look into some of the languages connected with the study of Tulu language.
(a) Indo-European languages: can be divided into four subgroups namely (1) Sanskrit-Iranian (2)Iranian –Slavic (3)Greek-Italic and (4) Germanic-Romance.
Sanskrit-Iranian includes Sanskrit, proto-Sanskrit and Sanskrit related languages like Nepali,Kashmiri,Hindi,Urdu,Gujarathi,Marathi,Sindhi,Punjabi,Oria,Bengali,Assami,Turkey,Baluchi, Afghan and Kurdish languages. Iranian –Slavic languages include Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Bylo-russian, Ukranian, Polish, Czech, Slavak etc.
Greek-Italic includes proto-Greece, modern Greek, Baltic, Lithuanian, Albanian, Indo-hitite, Latin, Oscon,Venetic etc.
Germanic-Roman languages includes German, Gothic, Dutch, Scandinavian, Keltic, Anglo-Saxon, modern English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, modern Italian, Romanian etc.
(b).Dravidian languages: Include Proto-Dravidian, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Tulu, Kodava, Gondi, Malto, Brahui etc.
(c).Austro-Asiatic languages: Munda languages of India (Chotanagapur and Himachal Pradesh)
(d) Sino-Tibetan: Also known as Indo-Chinese languages) include Chinese and Tibetan languages.
(e) Semitic languages: Include Arabic, Akkadian, Amharic, Tigrinya Hebrew, Maltese, etc.
(f) Finno-Uralic languages: include Finnish and Uralic languages.. Dr Caldwell showed that Ural languages were related to Dravidian languages.
(g)Turkey-Mongolian: Turkey and Mongolian languages.
1.53 Languages are related to social contacts rather than to races. In the words of Max Muller “Linguistics is the test of social contact and not of racial kinship. Any attempt at squiring the classification of races and tongues must necessarily fail.”
Another point of importance is that a language may be spoken by several communities originated from diverse racial groups. Even though there may be differences in pronunciation or accents of different people speaking a language it is considered variations of a single language. For example, in Tulu language has been divided into a Brahmin Tulu and Shudra Tulu. This is not a good development. A language is basically guided by its grammar and naturally shall have dialectical variations depending upon the composition of its speaking community, but it is not advisable to divide the languages along communal lines.
1.54 Based on the grammar, linguists have classified languages into five groups:
Isolative language is exemplified by Chinese. Words may have different meanings, depending on the position of the words in the sentences. Verbs usually are placed in between the noun and the predicate.
Agglutinative refers to Dravidian languages like Tulu, where the words are formed by the joining together of morphemes. Altaic, Tibeto-Burman, Bantu and Basque etc also are agglutinative languages.
Inflectional include Indo-European, Romance (Spanish, Italian, French and Romanian) and Basque languages .For example the word structure of ‘asmi’ (Sanskrit ) can be compared with that of ‘im’(Gothic).
Polysynthetic represents the language where words give elaborate meanings that need longer sentences in other languages to convey the same.
Incorporative represents languages where several word join mix in such away to change in meaning that word analyses becomes difficult.
1.55 In the context of Tulu language study of agglutinative (Dravidian) and inflectional languages (Sanskrit) are pertinent. In Tulu the four words namely:
Raame kadthe kudari mara
can be assembled into a sentence using appropriate morpheme such as
Rame kudariD’d maron kadthe.
This is an example of agglutinative Dravidian style of grammar, wherein the meaningful morphemes join without alteration onto the words. It is easier to identify the morphemes or cases and also the essential meaning of the sentence.
In inflectional languages, the morphemes diminish into a low or unidentifiable state. In the Sanskrit, ‘RaameNa’ the meaning of ‘eNa’ is not distinct.
Incorporative language are one step ahead in that assembly of words merge in such a way their original form is almost undecipherable. Sweet opined that “… if inflection is agglutinative run mad, incorporative is inflection run madder still.”.
Thus, in this regard it can be stated that Dravidian grammatic rules are clean and distinct.
(To be continued)