The linguistic classification of Indian tribes is very complex. According to a recent estimate, the tribal people speak 105 different languages and 225 subsidiary languages. Since, languages are highly structured and reflect the social structure and values of a society, this linguistic diversity indicates the great variety found
among the Indian tribes. However, for the purpose of clarity and understanding, the languages have been classified into following four major families:
A• Austro-Asiatic family: There are two branches of this family, namely,
Mon-Khmer branch and Munda branch. Languages of the first branch are spoken by Khasi and Nicobari tribes. Languages of the Munda branch are spoken by the Santhali, Gondi and Kharia tribes.
B• Tibeto-chinese family: There are two sub-families of this type, namely,
Siamese-Chinese sub-family and Tibeto-Burman sub-family. In the North- Eastern frontier of India, Khamti is one specimen of the Siamese-Chinese sub-family. The Tibeto-Burman sub-family is further sub-divided into several branches. Tribal people of Nagaland and Lepcha of Darjeeling speak variants
of Tibeto-Burman languages.
C• Indo-European family: Tribal languages such as Hajong and Bhili are included in this group.
D• Dravidian family: Languages of this family are spoken by Yeruva of Mysore and Oraon of Chota Nagpur.
This broad classification does not necessarily mean that there is a high degree of understanding of languages among the speakers of different languages within the same language family. For example, the Nagas are divided in about fifty different
language groups and quite often the speaker of one language variant does not understand the language spoken by another group.