I.History and Linguistic Classification

The Santals are numerically the largest homogenous tribal groups in India with its major concentration in Jharkhand State. The Jharkhand state is one of the most thickly populated tribal areas in India. The major tribal groups in this area are Santals, Oraon, Munda, Kharia, Ho, Gonds, Bhumij and Khond. When compared with the other Adivasi groups in India, the Adivasis of this area are more organised, educated and are aware of their problems. Santal and other tribal communities, who inhabit the Chotanagpur palateau of Jharkhand and the adjoining areas in the states of old Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal, Assam and Tripura have a certain amount of culture homogeneity, particularly with regard to language, culture, and ownership rights on land. Like the other tribal communities elsewhere in India, these tribes too lived in comparative isolation for a long time. But during the British rule, with the development of communication facilities, they came in steady contact with various caste groups, who had penetrated to this region from the adjoining areas. They facilitated and brought in a gradual process of acculturation among the tribes of the region, and in course of time a symbolic relationship grew up between the artisan and vocational castes and tribal communities living side by side in the rural area.

Santali language is the mother tongue of Santals. As per 1981 census the total number of speakers of this language were 43,32,511 ( census 1981, Pt, IV-B (1); Table 7). In Jharkhand State, nine major languages belong to three linguistic groups namely Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian and Indo-Aryan. Santali, Mundari, Ho, and Kharia belong to the Austro-Asiatic group, Kurukh and Malto to the Dravidian and Nagpuri, Kurmali, Khortha and Panchpargania to the Indo-Aryan group which are spoken mainly by the indigenous non-tribal people of this area locally known as Sadani. The Austro-Asiatic and Dravidian groups are mainly spoken by the tribals of this area. The Austric languages of India have various derivative or formative elements, such as the prefix, suffix and infix. The formation of the words by the means of these affixes is very clear, but some words tend to become rather long.


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