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Major Project To Map India’s Many Languages

June 2007
Major Project To Map India’s Many Languages

India's National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), launched in April this year, is a massive undertaking that won't be completed till 2017. No other nation at any time has embarked on such an ambitious project involving its languages. Makes sense because India's linguistic diversity remains unmatched. More than 10,000 experts across 44 institutions are involved and the detailed report is expected to cost $100 million. NSLI will take on 114 languages in the first five years alone, leaving the other languages for the second half of the decade-long project. There are 22 official languages, but as per Ethnologue, of the 428 languages listed for India, 415 are still spoken. "A reasonable lexicon and grammatical sketch for each language" will become available, according to Outlook magazine, and "the survey has also been designed to help research in genetics, physical and cultural anthropology, sociology and psychology." Apart from linguistic atlases, charts and graphs, NSLI will also come out with online programs and audio-visual products. An earlier linguistic survey of India was much less sophisticated, given the times, and didn't include large portions of southern India.

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