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Santali Language

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Introduction of Santali Language

Santali, a language spoken by about six million people in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, is a language in the Santali subfamily of Austro-Asiatic, related to Ho and Mundari. The literacy rate in Santali speaking regions is very low, just around 20-30%. It is basically spoken by the tribal people of India. The tribe that speaks this language is quite backward as far as the standard of living is concerned. Most of them work in the coal mines or the steel factories of Asansol and Jamshedpur. The tribe that speaks this language is known as Santhal. There is not a very regular distribution of people who speak the Santali language. States like Jharkhand, Assam, Bihar, Orissa, Tripura and West Bengal are some of the place where one can easily find the speakers of this language. This language is actually a dialect of the Munda language.



Santali verbal communication is more a part of the Austro-asiatic family. The Santali alphabets are generally known as the Ol chiki. Until early 20th century this language did not have any proper script to write it in it was generally written in the native bangle devnagari or the Latin writing systems. It was generally the oral communication that this language was used vastly. There was a need for correctly expressing the Santali language which was felt by some of the sandals and thus the Ol chiki script came into existence in 1920’s , as a result of effort of the Pandit raghunath murmur. Pandit raghunath is commonly known as the guru gomke title given to him. He provided Santal with a language of their own script so that they can easily communicate among themselves. He helped the tribal’s in uplifting their status and providing a common platform to the people who were using Santali language. He was one of the highly acclaimed linguistics of India.



Santali language is a dialect of other language known as the munda language. It includes both the southern and the northern dialects santali language being the major member of one of the sub-group of the kherwarian branch of north munda. Another notable aspect of the Santali verbal communication is that it makes extensive use of the suffixes and a very small number of the prefixes.


Contribution of Pandit Raghunath Murmu

Some Santals felt a need for a separate script, as none of the existing scripts were able to phonetically represent the Santali language. This resulted in the invention of a new script called Ol Chiki. This script was invented by Pandit Raghunath Murmu in 1925. He is popularly known as Guru Gomke among the Santals, a title awarded to him by the Mayurbhanj Adibasi Mahasabh.


Writing System

Even though the language is not much in use these days, some educated Santhals still use it to write books and other literary pieces. This language was written in the Roman script during the British rule. But now, Santhali is written in the Devanagari script. Due to its similarities with the Bengali language, many educated Santhali writers prefer writing it in Bengali. The reason for doing so is because of its similarities in the use of phonetics. It is estimated that the Santali language is older than the Aryan languages. The Santhal script is a relatively current advancement. Until the twentieth century, Santhali did not have a written language and it used Latin or Roman, Devanagari and Bangla writing systems.


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