The Dravidian languages are a language family of approximately 85 languages spoken by about 217 million people. They are mainly spoken in southern India and parts of eastern and central India as well as in northeastern Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, and overseas in other countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. The most widely spoken Dravidian languages are Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu. There are also small groups of Dravidian-speaking scheduled tribes, who live beyond the mainstream communities. It is often speculated that Dravidian languages are native to India. Epigraphically the Dravidian languages have been attested since the 6th century BCE. Only two Dravidian languages are exclusively spoken outside India, Brahui and Dhangar, a dialect of Kurukh. Dravidian place-names along the northwest coast, in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and to a lesser extent in Sindh as well as Dravidian grammatical influence such as clusivity in the Marathi, Gujarati, Marwari, and to a lesser extent Sindhi languages, suggest that Dravidian languages were once spoken more widely across the Indian subcontinent.
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“It is time for dead languages to be quiet.”
—Natalie Clifford Barney (18761972)