Dravidian languages, family of some 70 languages spoken primarily in South Asia. The Dravidian languages are spoken by more than 215 million people in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
The Dravidian languages are divided into South, South-Central, Central, and North groups; these groups are further organized into 24 subgroups. The four major literary languages—Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, and Kannada—are recognized by the constitution of India. They are also the official languages of the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka (formerly Mysore), respectively.
There is considerable literature on the theory that India is a linguistic area where different language families have developed convergent structures through extensive regional and societal bilingualism. It is now well established that the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian language families developed convergent structures in sound system (phonology) and grammar owing to contact going back to the 2nd millennium BCE. The earliest varieties of Indo-Aryan are forms of Sanskrit. More than a dozen Dravidian loanwords can be detected in the Sanskrit text of the Rigveda (1500 BCE), including ulūkhala- ‘mortar,’ kuṇḍa ‘pit,’ khála– ‘threshing floor,’ kāṇá– ‘one-eyed,’ and mayūra ‘peacock.’ The introduction of retroflex consonants (those produced by the tongue tip raised against the middle of the hard palate) has also been credited to contact between speakers of Sanskrit and those of the Dravidian languages.
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