Call to Make Tulu 24th Official Language in India

Language activists in India are calling for a new language to be added to the country’s list of 23 official languages: Tulu, a Dravidian language related to Tamil and Kannada. Recently, the movement to adopt Tulu as an official language of India has gained traction on social media, with more than 250,000 individuals sharing their support for the movement on Twitter in a month. The language, which is spoken by at least 1.8 million people, is mainly spoken in coastal regions throughout the southern states of Karnataka and Kerala.

The regions in which Tulu is spoken are often lumped together and informally referred to as Tulu Nadu; however, the language does not have a particularly prominent status, as it is not an official language and not widely used in education. While Karnataka students have the option to take their standardized exams in Tulu, very few actually do, according to a report from the Indian Express.

The language has been the subject of prior campaigns as well: In 2014, activists formed the organization Jai Tulunad in order to encourage the use of the language throughout the country. Last year, Jai Tulunad spearheaded another social media campaign with the hashtag #EducationInTulu to promote further use of the language in educational settings within the Tulu Nadu region.

Data on how many people speak the language can be difficult to collect because it is often lumped together with the Kannada language (although Tulu has its own script that was widely used throughout history, nowadays the Kannada script is more commonly used to write it), and as such, figures vary from source to source. Official data from the Indian census states that there are a little more than 1.8 million speakers; however, scholars of the Dravidian language family believe that speakers of Tulu outside the Tulu Nadu geographical area are recorded as speakers of Kannada rather than Tulu. Some estimates say the language has as many as five million speakers around the world.

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