Even if you travelled the length and breadth of India and dedicated your entire life to the cause, it's unlikely that you would encounter every single language in one of the world's most linguistically diverse countries. At last count, there were more than 400 living languages in India and dialects run into thousands.
However, these unique recordings could give you a head start.
Between 1903 and 1928, Irish linguist George A Grierson compiled a masterpiece – the Linguistic Survey of India, a monumental publication that documented 179 languages and 544 dialects across the extensive and diverse borders of India. Supplementing this magnum opus were gramophone recordings. The University of Chicago's Digital South Asia Library and British Library made digital versions of these available to the world, at the click of a button, on the internet.
Almost 100 years later, this epic work found a companion, when eminent Indian linguist Ganesh Devy’s People’s Survey of India was published. He identified 780 languages: some dead, some in the process of dying, some non-verbal and some that reflect the ones Grierson recorded.
This episode of The Intersection goes back more than a century to colonial India, to listen to some of the earliest recordings of Indian languages and about the man behind them.
This is the latest episode of The Intersection, a fortnightly podcast on Audiomatic. For more such podcasts, visit audiomatic.in.