It is no secret that South Asian culture is one of extreme linguistic diversity, 5 the parameters of which are on a scale and of a nature that are difficult to imagine for someone who is accustomed to conditions in a monolingual egalitarian society. But not only is there this great diversity and complexity, the culture is also one that is highly concerned with language; it is one that has been concerned with language, with the transmission of its culture through language, and with the codification and regulation of language from its earliest records. 6 The very existence of the earliest texts as we know them today is dependent on this concern for language and its control. That is, the existence of these concerns, myths, attitudes and elaborate cultural `baggage' about language are evidence for what I am calling not only linguistic culture, but a highly-developed, deeply-seated, long standing tradition of linguistic culture.
In India 7, language is tied up with religion, it is affiliated with caste and social structure, it differs from region to region, group to group, and it cannot be understood without reference to the long recorded history of the region.