The term “Adivasi” is referred to the ethnic and tribal communities of India. These indigenous people are believed to be the original inhabitants of India.
According to the 2011 census, their population stood above 10 crores. They are a distinct group. They lack the intellectual alertness, adaptability and education that we find in more sophisticated communities. They, therefore, deserve special attention and care from the State. They have to be approached from a view-point of the Science of Anthropology. The study of their languages as an element or expression of their culture thus assumes an important aspect.
The Santali Language is one of the most important tribal language of India. The Austric-speaking people and the Mongoloids, together with some tribes speaking Dravidian languages, comprise the Adivasi population of India at the present day.
Formerly, the Hindu or Muslim neighbors of the Adivasi peoples picked up their languages only to be in touch with them in business matters for the barter of goods, or for employing them as agricultural laborers. Incidentally, the Adivasis also found it profitable to know the languages of their more cultivated neighbors. There was, however, no systematic study of their languages among the educated Indians generally.
The study of Adivasi languages in India was taken up by the Christian missionaries of various denominations. Some of these missionaries were also actuated by the attitude of curiosity, to know more about their fellow human beings.