Which language is oldest in India?

  • ok Sure. @Rajib – Maniprakash Chinnasamy Mar 7 '14 at 15:33
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    Difficult to tell what you are asking; what research have you done? – Mark C. Wallace Mar 7 '14 at 15:56
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    Define the question as well. India the country, India the subcontinent, etc. etc. Historically Pakistan and Bangladesh are part of India, maybe even parts of other countries, do those need to be considered? etc. etc. etc. – jwenting Mar 7 '14 at 16:07
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Kobunite Mar 7 '14 at 16:43
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    You really need to be more specific. Most likely, every language in the world evolved from one root language, so every language is equally "old". – T.E.D. Mar 8 '14 at 0:16

Some of the oldest known languages in the Indian Subcontinent were Pali, Sanskrit, Brahmi, Prakrit. Prakrit definitely predates Sanskrit, but Sanskrit was popularized as a "marga" or "higher" language by the monarchs at a certain point after the "Aryan" influence. Several scripts too were known, such as Kharoshti, derived from Aramaic. The Indus Valley "script" has not been deciphered. None of the older languages are in use today.

Regional languages as we know them today were later developments- some well into the 11th century CE. These languages were derived from both the Sanskrit as well as Dravidic roots. Tamil, Kannada, Telugu show greater Dravidic roots than say Hindi, Bengali, or Oriya, which show greater Sanskritic influence.

Sanskrit, however, is still studied by many for academic and religious reasons. By inference, smaller groups of specialists also study the other archaic languages. But these are not in use even to the extent that Sanskrit is.

The division of states on the basis of language is a post-independance phenomenon, and has been cobbled together from many kingdoms, princely states, British Presidencies and other non-linguistic political divisions.

While it has been criticized by many as "divisive", others have hailed it as a successful experiment.

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    What makes you say that "Prakrit definitely predates Sanskrit"? It's the other way around: Prakrit can be traced back to Vedic Sanskrit at any rate. Also, Brahmi is a script (used for writing Sanskrit and Pali, among others), not a language. And Pali is a kind of Prakrit too (Magadhi / Ardhamagadhi), which just acquired distinctive status for historical reasons (extensive use in Buddhism, etc). (Finally, it is debatable whether Sanskrit and the Prakrits (especially the early ones) should be classified as different languages or as different registers.) – ShreevatsaR Mar 13 '14 at 19:01

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