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LANGUAGES more or less allied to the ancient Sanscrit prevail through the whole of Hindustan. These languages are resolvable into three distinct divisions.
I. The languages which appear to be derived immediately from the Sanscrit, and which are spoken by the Hindoos, properly so called, in the northern provinces of the peninsula.-In this division, the three dead or learned languages of Hindustan, Sanscrit, Pracrit, and Pali, are included. It is evident that the race to whom these Sanscritic idioms are vernacular is connected with the Medo-Persian nations, from the close similarity between Zend, an ancient Medo-Persian language, and the idiom of the Vedas, an archaic form of Sanscrit, referred by some Sanscrit scholars to the fourteenth or fifteenth century before our era. Another proof of the original affinity of the Medo-Persian and Brahminical people lies in the fact, that some of the arrow-headed inscriptions in the Persepolitan language have been deciphered chiefly, if not solely, by the aid of the Sanscrit language. It seems probable that the Hindu race, at some remote epoch of history, separated from the Medo-Persian stock, and quitted the Iranian plateau for the plains of Hindustan. Their physical conformation appears to confirm this hypothesis, notwithstanding the slight variations from the original type which the peculiarities of the climate may have induced. With this race originated the two false religions which are now most widely disseminated through the Eastern world-Brahminism, and Buddhism.
II. The languages of the Deccan, or southern parts of the peninsula.-The race to whom these languages are vernacular appear to have preceded the Hindus in the occupation of Hindustan. They were, perhaps, driven to the south by the Hindu invaders, and were subsequently compelled to submit to the conquerors of the country, and to receive from them their laws, religion and civilisation. It is well known that the Hindoos subdued the Deccan at a very early period, and the languages of that region still bear the impress of Hindu influence. So many Sanscrit words have been engrafted on their vocabularies, that these languages till recently were considered to be merely Sanscritic dialects; their grammatical structure, however, still maintains the original non-Sanscritic character. The physical appearance of the nations of the Deccan approximates to the Mongolic, rather than to the Hindu type; and their religion, though nominally Brahministic, retains traces of their ancient Pagan superstitions.
III. The languages of the wild unconquered tribes of the mountains. It is supposed that these tribes were among the original inhabitants of the country, and that they sought refuge in their present mountainous abodes with the view of preserving their independence. In language and in physical appearance they present tolerably clear indications of their original community of origin with the civilised nations of the Deccan. These tribes, though exceedingly interesting and important in an ethnographical point of view, are at present little known, and their languages are as yet unwritten. Some of their vocables (as those of the Kol, Bhumij, Rajmahali, and Orissa) have been examined, and several curious instances of affinity have been detected between them and the Mongolian, and other languages of Central Asia.
I. LANGUAGES OF SANSCRITIC
HINDUWEE, the most general language of the Hindoo
section of the population throughout the whole of Hindustan. It is the result of the intermixture of Hinduwee with the Persian and Arabic languages spoken by the Mohammedan conquerors of India. BENGALEE may be said to be the predominant language of the province of Bengal, although Hindustani is spoken in the towns. Two languages, the Tirhitiya or Mithili, and the Maghadha, prevail in the eastern part of this province. The former nearly resembles the Bengalee, and the latter is a derivative of the ancient Pali.
ASSAMESE, the language of Assam, is supposed to be merely a form of Bengalee, which has superseded
the original monosyllabic language of the Assamese
URIYA, a dialect very analogous to Bengalee, is spoken to the south of the province of Bengal, in Orissa. NEPALESE, or KHASPOORA, is the prevailing dialect of Nepaul, an independent state to the north of Bengal, occupying part of the southern declivity of the Himalayas. This dialect exhibits the phenomenon of a Hinduwee element engrafted on a language of monosyllabic structure. A colony of Hinduwees is said to have settled in Nepaul at an early period, and to have commingled with the native inhabitants. Their descendants are called Parabatiya, or Parabutties; and hence the Khaspoora, their vernacular dialect, is sometimes designated Parbutti, or Mountain Hinduwee.
PALPA, KUMAON, and GURWHAL are border dialects, closely allied to Hinduwee, and prevailing to the north of the Hinduwee area.
CASHMERIAN is the most northerly of Sanscritic languages, with the exception of the Brahooe, in Beloochistan. Cashmere is a mountainous country north of the Punjab.
DOGURA, or JUMBOO, is an uncultivated dialect spoken in the hilly country north of the Punjab, but rather resembling Cashmerian than Punjabee.
PUNJABEE is the language of the Sikhs, the dominant people of the Punjab: it is said to be derived immediately from the Pracrit, formerly the vernacular language of this region.
MOULTAN or OOCH, SINDHEE, CUTCHEE, and GUJERATTEE are languages closely allied to Hinduwee, and are spoken on the western border of the area occupied by the Hinduwee dialects. Moultan is said to be the language to which Rommany, the singular dialect of the Gipsies, most closely approximates.
KUNKUNA, another language nearly resembling Hinduwee, is spoken in the Concan, a strip of country bordering on the Indian Ocean.
MAHRATTA may be ranked either with the languages of Northern India or of the Deccan, for it partakes of the character of both. The extensive region in which it is vernacular is bounded on the north by the Sautpoora Mountains, east by Gundwana, and west by the maritime district called the Concan. On the south it is conterminous with the Telinga and Canarese languages.
II. LANGUAGES OF INDIA OF
TAMUL, or TAMIL, with its cognate dialects, the Malayalim and the Tulu, or Tuluvu, occupies the southern extremity of the peninsula, and a considerable portion of the Malabar coast. These languages are sometimes designated the Dravirian, for Tamul was the language of the ancient kingdom of Dravira.
TELINGA, or TELOOGOO, a language radically connected with Tamil, is spoken through the greater portion of the Coromandel coast, and extends inland till it becomes conterminous with Mahratta and Canarese.
CANARESE occupies an extensive area in the eastern portion of the Deccan. It is conterminous with its cognate languages, the Tamil and Telinga on the east, and with the Tuluvu and Malayalim on the west and south, while on the north it extends as far as the Mahratta district.
CINGALESE is spoken in the south of Ceylon, Tamul being the language of the northern district. Cingalese appears to be connected with the languages of the Deccan rather than with those of Upper India. MALDIVIAN is spoken in the Maldive Islands, eastward of Ceylon, and is supposed to be a branch of Cingalese. The dialect of the Laccadive Islands is believed to be very similar to the Maldivian.
III. RUDE & UNWRITTEN LANGUAGES OF NON-SANSCRITIC ORIGIN. GONDEE, or GOANDEE, is spoken by a barbarous race in the northern part of the Deccan. The province of Gondwana is of great extent, stretching from Orissa on the east to the Mahratta country on the west, and from Hindustan Proper on the north to the Telinga country on the south; but the Gonds inhabit only the forest and mountain districts of this region, and the Mahratta language is predominant, especially in the western part, among the civilised classes of inhabitants. The Gonds have embraced Brahminism, but retain their peculiar Pagan rites. In language, customs, physical conformation, and mode of life, they resemble the Pulindas (a Sanscrit term equivalent to barbarian) of Orissa, the Bhils or Bheel of the Vindhya chain, and the various tribes of wild mountaineers scattered throughout the peninsula, but principally found among the mountain chains of the Deccan.