|Native to||Hindi Belt, Pakistan, Deccan|
|409.8 million (2019)|
L2: 375.8 million (2019)
|o Devanagari (Hindi)|
o Nasta'l?q (Urdu)
o Latin (informally & unofficially)
o Kaithi (historical)
o Hindi Braille
o Urdu Braille
|o Indian Signing System (ISS)|
o Pak Urdu Signing
Official language in
|Regulated by||Central Hindi Directorate (Hindi, India);|
National Language Promotion Department (Urdu, Pakistan);
National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (Urdu, India)
Hindustani (Hindi: ,[a]Urdu: ),[b] also known as Hindi-Urdu and historically also known as Hindavi, Dehlavi and Rekhta, is the lingua franca of Northern India and Pakistan. It is an Indo-Aryan language, deriving its base primarily from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi. The language incorporates a large amount of vocabulary from Prakrit, Sanskrit (via Prakrit and Tatsama borrowings), as well as loanwords from Persian and Arabic (via Persian). It is a pluricentric language, with two official forms, Modern Standard Hindi and Modern Standard Urdu, which are its standardised registers. According to Ethnologue's 2019 estimates, if Hindi and Urdu are taken together as Hindustani, the language is the 3rd-most spoken language in the world (after English and Mandarin Chinese), with approximately 409.8 million native speakers and a total of 785.6 million speakers.
The colloquial registers are mostly indistinguishable and even though the official standards are nearly identical in grammar, they differ in literary conventions and in academic and technical vocabulary, with Urdu adopting stronger Persian and Arabic influences, and Hindi relying more heavily on Sanskrit.
Early forms of present-day Hindustani developed from the Middle Indo-Aryan apabhraa vernaculars of present-day North India in the 7th-13th centuries, chiefly the Khariboli dialect of the Western Hindi category of Indo-Aryan languages.Amir Khusrow, who lived in the thirteenth century during the Delhi Sultanate period in North India, used these forms (which was the lingua franca of the period) in his writings and referred to it as Hindavi (Persian: literally "of Hindus or Indians"). The Delhi Sultanate, which comprised several Turkic and Afghan dynasties that ruled much of the subcontinent from Delhi, was succeeded by the Mughal Empire in 1526.
Although the Mughals were of Timurid (Gurk?n?) Turco-Mongol descent, they were Persianised, and Persian had gradually become the state language of the Mughal empire after Babur, a continuation since the introduction of Persian by Central Asian Turkic rulers in the Indian Subcontinent, and the patronisation of it by the earlier Turko-Afghan Delhi Sultanate. The basis in general for the introduction of Persian into the subcontinent was set, from its earliest days, by various Persianised Central Asian Turkic and Afghan dynasties.
Hindustani retained the grammar and core vocabulary of the local Hindi dialect Khariboli. However, as an emerging common dialect, Hindustani absorbed large numbers of Persian, Arabic, and Turkic loanwords, and as Mughal conquests grew it spread as a lingua franca across much of northern India. Written in the Persian alphabet or Devanagari, it remained the primary lingua franca of northern India for the next four centuries (although it varied significantly in vocabulary depending on the local language) and achieved the status of a literary language, alongside Persian, in Muslim courts and was also used for literary purposes in various other settings such as Sufi, Nirgun sant, and Krishna Bhakta circles and Rajput Hindu courts. Its majors centers of development included the Mughal courts of Delhi, Lucknow, and Agra, and the Rajput courts of Amber and Jaipur.
In the 18th century, towards the end of the Mughal period, with the fragmentation of the empire and the elite system, a variant of Khariboli, one of the successors of apabhraa vernaculars at Delhi, and nearby cities, came to gradually replace Persian as the lingua franca among the educated elite upper class particularly in northern India, though Persian still retained much of its pre-eminence for a short period. The term Hindustani was given to that language evolved out of Khariboli.
For socio-political reasons, though essentially the variant of Khariboli with Persian vocabulary, the emerging prestige dialect became also known as Zab?n-e Urd?-e Mualla "language of the court" or Zab?n-e Urd? ? ?, "language of the camp" in Persian, influenced from Turkic Ord? "camp", cognate with English horde, or in local translation Lashkari Zab?n ?, which is shorted to Lashkari. This is all due to its origin as the common speech of the Mughal army. The language was also known as Rekhta, or "mixed", which implies that it was mixed with Persian.
John Fletcher Hurst in his book published in 1891 mentioned that the Hindustani or camp language of the Mughal Empire's courts at Delhi was not regarded by philologists as a distinct language but only as a dialect of Hindi with admixture of Persian. He continued: "But it has all the magnitude and importance of separate language. It is linguistic result of Muslim rule of eleventh & twelfth centuries and is spoken (except in rural Bengal) by many Hindus in North India and by Musalman population in all parts of India". Next to English it was the official language of British Raj, was commonly written in Arabic or Persian characters, and was spoken by approximately 100,000,000 people.
When the British colonised the Indian subcontinent from the late 18th through to the late 19th century, they used the words 'Hindustani', 'Hindi' and 'Urdu' interchangeably. They developed it as the language of administration of British India, further preparing it to be the official language of modern India and Pakistan. However, with independence, use of the word 'Hindustani' declined, being largely replaced by 'Hindi' and 'Urdu', or 'Hindi-Urdu' when either of those was too specific. More recently, the word 'Hindustani' has been used for the colloquial language of Bollywood films, which are popular in both India and Pakistan and which cannot be unambiguously identified as either Hindi or Urdu.
Although, at the spoken level, Hindi and Urdu are considered registers of a single language, they differ vastly in literary and formal vocabulary; where literary Hindi draws heavily on Sanskrit and to a lesser extent Prakrit, literary Urdu draws heavily on Persian and Arabic. The grammar and base vocabulary (most pronouns, verbs, adpositions, etc.) of both Hindi and Urdu, however, are the same and derive from a Prakritic base, and both have Persian/Arabic influence.
The standardised registers Hindi and Urdu are collectively known as Hindi-Urdu. Hindustani is perhaps the lingua franca of the north and west of the Indian subcontinent, though it is understood fairly well in other regions also, especially in the urban areas. A common vernacular sharing characteristics with Sanskritised Hindi, regional Hindi and Urdu, Hindustani is more commonly used as a vernacular than highly Sanskritised Hindi or highly Arabicised/Persianised Urdu.
This can be seen in the popular culture of Bollywood or, more generally, the vernacular of North Indians and Pakistanis, which generally employs a lexicon common to both Hindi and Urdu speakers. Minor subtleties in region will also affect the 'brand' of Hindustani, sometimes pushing the Hindustani closer to Urdu or to Hindi. One might reasonably assume that the Hindustani spoken in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh (known for its usage of Urdu) and Varanasi (a holy city for Hindus and thus using highly Sanskritised Hindi) is somewhat different.
Standard Hindi, one of the official languages of India, is based on the Kharibol dialect of the Delhi region and differs from Urdu in that it is usually written in the indigenous Devanagari of India and exhibits less Persian and Arabic influence than Urdu. It has a literature of 500 years, with prose, poetry, religion and philosophy, under the Bahmani Kings and onwards. It is prevalent all over the Deccan Plateau. Note that the term Hindustani has generally fallen out of common usage in modern India, except to refer to "Indian" as a nationality and a style of Indian classical music prevalent in northern India. The term used to refer to it is Hindi or Urdu, depending on the religion of the speaker, and regardless of the mix of Persian or Sanskrit words used by the speaker. One could conceive of a wide spectrum of dialects and registers, with the highly Persianised Urdu at one end of the spectrum and a heavily Sanskrit-based dialect, spoken in the region around Varanasi, at the other end. In common usage in India, the term Hindi includes all these dialects except those at the Urdu spectrum. Thus, the different meanings of the word Hindi include, among others:
Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and an officially recognised regional language of India. Urdu is the official language of all Pakistani provinces and is taught in all schools as a compulsory subject up to the 12th grade.
In a specific sense, Hindustani may be used to refer to the dialects and varieties used in common speech or slang, in contrast with the standardised Hindi and Urdu. This meaning is reflected in the use of the term bazaar Hindustani, in other words, the "street talk" or literally "marketplace Hindustani", as opposed to the perceived refinement of formal Hindi/Urdu, or even Sanskrit.
According to Rizwan Ahmad, many book stores in Old Delhi contain both Arabic and Devanagari versions of Hindustani. With the Partition of India into Pakistan and India, Urdu became to be seen as a language of the poor, uneducated, the Muslims, and of Pakistan separatism in India. In India, Urdu is not taught in schools, and writing in Devanagari is seen as patriotic. Purushottam Das Tandon said that
The Muslims must stop talking about a culture and civilization foreign to our culture and genius. They should accept Indian culture. One culture and one language will pave the way for real unity. Urdu symbolizes a foreign culture. Hindi alone can be the unifying factor for all the diverse forces in the country. (Khalidi 1995:138)
Urdu originates from India. By adopting Urdu as the official language of Pakistan, it made it harder to gain traction in its homeland. It got to the point where many Urdu speakers had to lie about their identity to assimilate into India.
There have been suggestions within the Muslim community of using Devanagari to write Urdu. Ahmad calls this 'Ur-Nag'.Rahi Masum Raza, an Urdu novelist, advocates this change. However some like Dalvi fear this would mean wiping the distinction between Urdu and Hindi as well as making a century of literature go to waste. Faruqi counters by saying that the distinction can still be maintained without the Arabic script.
Amir Khusro ca. 1300 referred to this language of his writings as Dehlavi (; 'of Delhi') or Hindavi (?; ). During this period, Hindustani was used by Sufis in promulgating their message across the Indian subcontinent. After the advent of the Mughals in the subcontinent, Hindustani acquired more Persian loanwords. Rekhta ('mixture') and Hindi ('of the Indus') became popular names for the same language until the 18th century. The name Urdu (from Ordu or Orda) appeared around 1780. During the British Raj, the term Hindustani was used by British officials. In 1796, John Borthwick Gilchrist published a "A Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language". Upon partition, India and Pakistan established national standards that they called Hindi and Urdu, respectively, and attempted to make distinct, with the result that Hindustani commonly, but mistakenly, came to be seen as a "mixture" of Hindi and Urdu.
Grierson, in his highly influential Linguistic Survey of India, proposed that the names Hindustani, Urdu, and Hindi be separated in use for different varieties of the Hindustani language, rather than as the overlapping synonyms they frequently were:
We may now define the three main varieties of Hind?st?n? as follows:--Hind?st?n? is primarily the language of the Upper Gangetic Doab, and is also the lingua franca of India, capable of being written in both Persian and D?va-n?gar? characters, and without purism, avoiding alike the excessive use of either Persian or Sanskrit words when employed for literature. The name 'Urd?' can then be confined to that special variety of Hind?st?n? in which Persian words are of frequent occurrence, and which hence can only be written in the Persian character, and, similarly, 'Hind?' can be confined to the form of Hind?st?n? in which Sanskrit words abound, and which hence can only be written in the D?va-n?gar? character.
Hindi, a major standardized register of Hindustani, is declared by the Constitution of India as the "official language (?, r?jabh) of the Union" (Art. 343(1)) (In this context, "Union" means the Federal Government and not the entire country - India has 23 official languages). At the same time, however, the definitive text of federal laws is officially the English text and proceedings in the higher appellate courts must be conducted in English. At the state level, Hindi is one of the official languages in 10 of the 29 Indian states and three Union Territories (respectively, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal; Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Delhi). In the remaining states, Hindi is not an official language. In states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, studying Hindi is not compulsory in the state curriculum. However, an option to take the same as second or third language does exist. In many other states, studying Hindi is usually compulsory in the school curriculum as a third language (the first two languages being the state's official language and English), though the intensiveness of Hindi in the curriculum varies.
Urdu, also a major standardized register of Hindustani, is also one of the languages recognized in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India and is an official language of the Indian states of Bihar, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Although the government school system in most other states emphasizes Modern Standard Hindi, at universities in cities such as Lucknow, Aligarh and Hyderabad, Urdu is spoken and learnt, and Saaf or Khaalis Urdu is treated with just as much respect as Shuddha Hindi.
Urdu is also the national language of Pakistan, where it shares official language status with English. Although English is spoken by many, and Punjabi is the native language of the majority of the population, Urdu is the lingua franca.
Hindustani was the official language of the British Raj and was synonymous with both Hindi and Urdu. After India's independence in 1947, the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights recommended that the official language of India be Hindustani: "Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Perso-Arabic script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union." However, this recommendation was not adopted by the Constituent Assembly.
Besides being the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan in South Asia, Hindustani is also spoken by many in the South Asian diaspora and their descendants around the world, including North America (in Canada, for example, Hindustani is one of the fastest growing languages), Europe, and the Middle East.
Hindustani was also one of the languages that was spoken widely during British rule in Burma. Many older citizens of Myanmar, particularly Anglo-Indians and the Anglo-Burmese, still know it, although it has had no official status in the country since military rule began.
Hindustani contains around 5,500 words of Persian and Arabic origin.
Historically, Hindustani was written in the Kaithi, Devanagari, and Urdu alphabets. Kaithi and Devanagari are two of the Brahmic scripts native to India, whereas Urdu is a derivation of the Persian Nasta?l?q script, which is the preferred calligraphic style for Urdu.
Today, Hindustani continues to be written in the nastaliq alphabet in Pakistan. In India, the Hindi register is officially written in Devanagari, and Urdu in the nastaliq alphabet, to the extent that these standards are partly defined by their script.
However, in popular publications in India, Urdu is also written in Devanagari, with slight variations to establish a Devanagari Urdu alphabet alongside the Devanagari Hindi alphabet.
|Letter||Name of letter||Transcription||IPA|
|?||ba he||h||/h ~ ?/|
|?||re||r||/r ~ ?/|
|?||v?'o||v, o, or ?||, , or|
|?, ?, ?||cho he||h||/h ~ ?/|
|?||do chashm? he||h||or|
|?||ba ye||ai or e||, or|
Because of anglicisation in South Asia and the international use of the Latin script, Hindustani is occasionally written in the Latin script. This adaptation is called Roman Urdu or Romanised Hindi, depending upon the register used. Because the Bollywood film industry is a major proponent of the Latin script, the use of Latin script to write in Hindi and Urdu is growing amongst younger Internet users. Since Urdu and Hindi are mutually intelligible when spoken, Romanised Hindi and Roman Urdu (unlike Devanagari Hindi and Urdu in the Urdu alphabet) are mostly mutually intelligible as well.
Following is a sample text, Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the two official registers of Hindustani, Hindi and Urdu. Because this is a formal legal text, differences in formal vocabulary are maximised.
? ? ? ? ? ? ?
:? 1 ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
The predominant Indian film industry Bollywood, located in Mumbai, Maharashtra uses Hindi, Khariboli dialect, Bombay Hindi, Urdu,Awadhi, Rajasthani, Bhojpuri, and Braj Bhasha, along with the language of Punjabi and with the liberal use of English or Hinglish for the dialogue and soundtrack lyrics.
Movie titles are often screened in three scripts: Latin, Devanagari and occasionally Perso-Arabic. The use of Urdu or Hindi in films depends on the film's context: historical films set in the Delhi Sultanate or Mughal Empire are almost entirely in Urdu, whereas films based on Hindu mythology or ancient India make heavy use of Hindi with Sanskrit vocabulary.
... Hindustani is the lingua franca of both India and Pakistan ...
... By the time of British colonialism, Hindustani was the lingua franca of all of northern India and what is today Pakistan ...
On this there are far more reliable statistics than those on population. Farhang-e-Asafiya is by general agreement the most reliable Urdu dictionary. It twas compiled in the late nineteenth century by an Indian scholar little exposed to British or Orientalist scholarship. The lexicographer in question, Syed Ahmed Dehlavi, had no desire to sunder Urdu's relationship with Farsi, as is evident even from the title of his dictionary. He estimates that roughly 75 per cent of the total stock of 55,000 Urdu words that he compiled in his dictionary are derived from Sanskrit and Prakrit, and that the entire stock of the base words of the language, without exception, are derived from these sources. What distinguishes Urdu from a great many other Indian languauges ... is that is draws almost a quarter of its vocabulary from language communities to the west of India, such as Farsi, Turkish, and Tajik. Most of the little it takes from Arabic has not come directly but through Farsi.
On the issue of vocabulary, Ahmad goes on to cite Syed Ahmad Dehlavi as he set about to compile the Farhang-e-Asafiya, an Urdu dictionary, in the late nineteenth century. Syed Ahmad 'had no desire to sunder Urdu's relationship with Farsi, as is evident from the title of his dictionary. He estimates that roughly 75 per cent of the total stock of 55.000 Urdu words that he compiled in his dictionary are derived from Sanskrit and Prakrit, and that the entire stock of the base words of the language, without exception, are from these sources' (2000: 112-13). As Ahmad points out, Syed Ahmad, as a member of Delhi's aristocratic elite, had a clear bias towards Persian and Arabic. His estimate of the percentage of Prakitic words in urdu should therefore be considered more conservative than not. The actual proportion of Prakitic words in everyday language would clearly be much higher.
... Hindustani is the basis for both languages ...
Whilst the Muhammadan rulers of India spoke Persian, which enjoyed the prestige of being their court language, the common language of the country continued to be Hindi, derived through Prakrit from Sanskrit. On this dialect of the common people was grafted the Persian language, which brought a new language, Urdu, into existence. Sir George Grierson, in the Linguistic Survey of India, assigns no distinct place to Urdu, but treats it as an offshoot of Western Hindi.
Apabhramsha seemed to be in a state of transition from Middle Indo-Aryan to the New Indo-Aryan stage. Some elements of Hindustani appear ... the distinct form of the lingua franca Hindustani appears in the writings of Amir Khusro (1253-1325), who called it Hindwi[.]
Note: Gurk?n? is the Persianized form of the Mongolian word "kürügän" ("son-in-law"), the title given to the dynasty's founder after his marriage into Genghis Khan's family.