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Hindi Language

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Overview: Hindi, the main language of the South Asian nation of India, has also been called Hindustani, Urdu, and Hindi-Urdu. Certain sources distinguish between “Hindi” and “Urdu” as separate languages, while others claim that they are so closely linguistically related as to be considered one language. Hindi and Urdu share many similarities and have an intertwined history, but it is nevertheless a matter of contention as to whether or not they are entirely separate. There are greater differences between them that can be observed in the literary forms rather than the spoken forms, which for the most part are mutually intelligible.

If Hindi, Urdu, and all their related Indian dialects are taken together, then it is probably the third or fourth most commonly spoken language in the world. India has a concept of “Rashtra Bhasha” and “Raj Bhasha” loosely translated “national languages” and “government languages.” Hindi is one of the 22 official languages, one amongst 18 national languages, and one of the two languages (along with English) in which the central government carries out its work. The way different languages or dialects are treated in India is frequently a political matter, as many of the tongues spoken there carry with them an element of regional, ethnic, or religious identity.

Roots of the language: The land area of present-day India has always been host to a diverse range of indigenous cultures and several waves of invaders, who collectively created a complex linguistic background from which modern Hindi has arisen. One of the ancient languages, Sanskrit, provided the basis for many liturgical and artistic works in previous millennia and has been extensively studied. The Persian and Arabic languages also exerted a strong influence when they were brought by the conquering Mughal Empire between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

English is a newer influence on Hindi, as it was spread far and wide as the language of infrastructure while the East India Trading Company held control over the country in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Because of this, modern Hindi contains many loan words from English, especially with regard to bureaucratic or technological matters. Today, Sanskrit is held in high regard and has been re-infused into the language, especially in the aftermath of the British occupation. Persian and Arabic influences are also strong within the Hindi language, but are most clearly present in the Urdu branches of it.

Language characteristics: Because Hindi is based on a mix of both more modern and ancient languages, its structure and vocabulary must take a very wide range into account. Words tend to be divided into categories based on which language they were originally derived from, with Urdu and Hindi each supporting their own vocabularies (although there is much crossover). Most of the Hindi dialects are inflective, meaning that base words are modified in conversation to convey aspects of meaning such as tense and number.

Written form: Several different forms of writing have been created or adapted in what is now India, and the country has a long literary history. Written works such as poems, plays, and religious texts are available from many millennia ago, and involve hundreds of different kinds of script. Standard Hindi is usually written in the Devanagari script, as are the modern interpretations of Sanskrit. Urdu and its related dialects, on the other hand, uses a script derived from the Persian and Arabic alphabets. Calligraphy is important and is considered a high art form for both types of script. These days, Hindi and Urdu are also frequently presented in Roman characters for uses regarding international media or the Internet.

Last Updated : April 20, 2015



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