Minority languages and their status

Rakesh M. Bhatt, Ahmar Mahboob

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses the minority languages in South Asia, exploring the implications of their status in terms of various sociolinguistic processes. Although the empirical scope of this chapter is restricted mainly to India and Pakistan, the generalizations presented here can be extended to other South Asian countries, such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Minority languages: contexts of definition A numerical definition of the term minority languages renders all the languages spoken in India “minority,” since there is no language whose speakers constitute more than half of India's total population of roughly 1.1 billion. Hindi, the “official” language of India, has the highest number of speakers; yet they constitute less than 40 percent of the Indian population. Similarly, Urdu, one of the two official languages of Pakistan is spoken by less than 10 percent of the Pakistani population as a native language. In fact, according to the 2001 census, Urdu is the mother tongue of only 7.57 percent of the people in Pakistan (Census 2001: Table 2.7, cited in Rahman 2004: 2). A sociological definition of the term, based on functional or ethnolinguistic vitality, turns “numerical” majority languages (at the state level) into minority languages. A good example of this is Kashmiri in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Although Kashmiri is spoken by a little over 53 percent of the total population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, its functionality is severely restricted mainly to the home/family domains (Bhatt [Mohan] 1989; Kak 2001).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLanguage in South Asia
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780511619069
ISBN (Print)9780521781411
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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