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Santali language

Native to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan
Ethnicity Santal and Teraibasi Santali
Native speakers
6.3 million (2001 census – 2011)
  • Mahali (Mahli)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 Either:
sat – Santali
mjx – Mahali
Glottolog sant1410  (Santali)
maha1291  (Mahali)

Santali ( Roman script and Ol Chiki script: ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱞᱤ) is a language in the Munda subfamily of Austroasiatic languages, related to Ho and Mundari.

It is spoken by around 6.2 million people in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Most of its speakers live in India, in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, Tripura, Mizoram, Assamand West Bengal.

Till the nineteenth century Santali remained an oral language and all collective traditional knowledge, history, stories, songs etc. were transmitted by word of mouth from generation to generation. The interest of Europeans in the study of Indian languages led to the first efforts at documenting Santali language. Bengali and the Roman scripts were first used to write Santali before 1860s by European anthropologists, folklorists and missionaries like Campbell, Skrefsrud and Bodding. Their efforts resulted in Santali dictionaries, documentation and translations of collected folk tales, study of the basic morphology, syntax and phonetic structure of the language.

In the 1970s the separate Ol Chiki script for Santali by Pandit Raghunath Murmu, which is used exclusively by the Santali speaking people of Singhbhum and Odisha.

There is no single script which is uniformly accepted by all Santals. Devanagari remains the script recognised for teaching learning of the language in Jharkhand, Bengali script in West Bengal.However, Roman script has been widely used by majority of the educated intellectuals. A major share of the original documented corpus as well as the most authentic and scientific research efforts are available in the Roman Script.