100 Year Old Sounds from India

Following the Anglo-Indian war of 1857, the British decided to conduct a linguistic survey of India. To compile the list of languages and dialects, people were asked to read the Parable of the Prodigal Son (with some Indian adaptations) from the Gospel of Luke. You can now listen to those sounds from almost a century back at the Digital South Asia Library (H/T Parag)

From the specimens Grierson identified the grammatical and other peculiarities of the language or dialect. He also provided a brief Introduction for each of the languages, distinguishing its various dialects, noting down the number of speakers, the habitat of the language, its literature, and concluding with a sketch of the grammar . In all 179 languages and 544 dialects in the Indian Empire, excluding some portions (Burma, Hyderabad and Mysore states and the Presidency of Madras) were described in the LSI’s eleven volumes in nineteen parts, published between 1903 and 1928 the Introductory volume was published in 1927, followed the next year by a tabular Comparative Vocabulary. Grierson estimated that the survey covered 224 million out of the total population of nearly 300 million of the Indian empire.[Introduction to LSI]

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