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Bismillaah بسم الله…In the Name of God

Assalaamu ‘alaikum السّلام عليكم…Peace be with you

Hi there Readers:-),

Pakistan is one of India’s neighbouring countries, and before 1947, it was once a part of India (Hindustan). Urdu is the national and primary official language of Pakistan, while India’s principal official language is, Standard Hindi. These two languages share major similarities, but have you ever wondered what are the differences between Urdu and Hindi? Well, today we’re going to find out the differences and similarities of these two languages, InshaaAllah إن شاء الله (God willing)!

Discover Urdu and Hindi

Before establishing the similarities and differences between Urdu and Hindi, let’s discover both of these beautiful languages. Come learn about their definitions, origins, and histories! :-)

Urdu

Urdu, language belonging to the Indic group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. The official tongue of Pakistan, Urdu is also one of the 15 languages recognized in the 1950 Indian constitution. Urdu has been described as the written or literary variant of Hindustani that is used by Muslims. It is written in a modified form of the Arabic alphabet, and its basically Indic vocabulary has been enriched by borrowings from Arabic and Persian. Grammatically and phonetically, however, Urdu is an Indic language. About 100 million persons in Pakistan and India understand Urdu.

Hindi

Hindi, the most widely spoken of modern Indic vernaculars; spoken mostly in the north of India; along with English it is the official language of India; usually written in Devanagari script.

Where Did the Words: “Urdu” and “Hindi” Originate from?

According to Wikipedia, the word Urdu is derived from the same Turkish word that has given English horde. On the other hand, the word Hindi derived from Hindi hindī, from Hind India, and from Old Persian Hindu the river Indus.

The Word “Urdu” written in Perso-Arabic script.

The Origins of Urdu, and a Short History on Urdu

There are different views on the origins of Urdu, differing in both time and geographic location. Urdu may have originated anywhere in India: the Deccan, in Punjab, in Sindh or in the neighbourhood (neighborhood) of Delhi. These hypotheses are backed by Urdu literature having been found in these areas as far back as the period of the Delhi Sultanate. Keeping in mind the linguistic character of the areas around Delhi, it is said that Urdu originated in or around Delhi over a period of a few centuries.

Urdu is pronounced as, ”Or doo” which means: “Army” or “Hordes”; this language was created in the Indo-Pak sub-continent around 1000 years ago, when soldiers speaking different languages like: Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Hindi and other local languages fought together in armies of the rulers of India during those times. This is the time when the Aryan invaders from central Asia came and conquered large territories of India. These were the Moghul rulers who came with Turkish cavalry passing through Afghanistan and into India; recruiting soldiers from the areas they passed through. Since then, there were so many languages spoken within this army that a new language evolved. With its roots in the army barracks, it came to be known as Urdu. The first Mughal ruler was Zaheeruddin Baber and when he attacked India he had ten thousand Turkish Cavalry sent to him from the Ottomans. Baber’s army was predominantly Persian speaking, with a large group of Pashto speakers who mixed with Turkish speaking cavalry before they attacked India. Over the years Urdu evolved in the barracks of these soldiers and eventually found its self being spoken in most parts of the Moghul Empire, especially by the Muslims and eventually in the Moghul courts, where Persian was spoken.

The Origins of Hindi, and Its Profound Relationship with Sanskrit

Sanskrit, one of the most ancient spoken and written languages in the world and one of the earliest members of the Indo-European language family, is the primary source of Hindi. Hindi, like Sanskrit, is written in the Dev Naagari script, which is common to several other Indian languages as well. Much of the vocabulary of Hindi comes from Sanskrit, though Hindi also has a special relationship with Urdu, their grammar and much of their vocabulary being identical.

Get the Facts! :-)

It’s time to get the facts about Urdu and Hindi straight! Here you can find out about the similarities, and differences between these two South Asian languages.

Facts about Urdu and Hindi:

  • Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, is pretty much the same language as Hindi. In some cases it is also spoken about as, the Hindi-Urdu language. Differences, however, exist, mostly in vocabulary, primarily because of it being spoken in different countries. Since Urdu is spoken in an Islamic country, it has borrowed many words from Arabic and Persian, and thus it has an Arabic hue, whereas Hindi would rather use Sanskrit words. The writing system presents another difference, in that Hindi uses the Dev Naagari script, while Urdu uses a modified version of the Arabic script (or rather the script used by Persians). Urdu is written from right to left, opposed to Hindi which, like English, is written from left to right.
  • Urdu is very close to Hindi and the grammar is almost exactly the same.
  • Urdu uses the Persian script with a few additions to cater for the phonetics of local languages. The script is also referred to as, the Nasta’liq style, which is really the Perso-Arabic script. It is written from right to left unlike the Roman script which is written from left to right.
  • Hindi (हिन्दी) is a language spoken in most states in northern and central India. It is an Indo-European language, of the Indo-Iranian subfamily. It evolved from the Middle Indo-Aryan prakrit languages of the middle ages, and indirectly, from Sanskrit. Hindi derives a lot of its higher vocabulary from Sanskrit. Due to Muslim influence in northern India, there are also a number of Persian and Turkish loanwords.
  • Urdu is part of the Indo-Aryan group, which is a subgroup of Indo-Iranian Languages. The language itself is a hybrid of Turkish, Persian, Pashto, Arabic, Sanskrit and Hindi. The biggest influences are from the Turkish and Persian languages, followed by Arabic and Sanskrit. Urdu is very similar to Hindustani (commonly referred to as Hindi). Hindi has a greater Sanskrit influence as opposed to Urdu, but Urdu and Hindi speakers can communicate easily with little effort.
  • Urdu is a member of the Hindustani group of languages, which is a subgroup of the Indo Aryan group, which is in turn part of the Indo European family of languages.
  • Urdu is related to most of the languages of India and northern South Asia, all of them having similar grammatical structures and a certain common vocabulary.
  • The Punjabi language is very similar to Urdu. Written Punjabi (in Shahmukhi script) can be understood by speakers of Urdu, with a little difficulty, but spoken Punjabi has a different phonology and cannot be easily understood by Urdu speakers.
  • The closest linked language to Urdu is Hindi.
  • Linguists think of Hindi and Urdu as the same language, the difference being that Hindi is written in Devanagari and draws vocabulary from Sanskrit, while Urdu is written in Arabic script and draws on Persian.
  • After Chinese, Hindi is the second most spoken language in the world. About 500 million people speak Hindi, in India and abroad, and the total number of people who can understand the language may be 800 million.
  • More than 180 million people in India regard Hindi as their mother tongue. Another 300 million use it as a second language.
  • Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, is spoken by about 41 million in Pakistan and other countries.
  • Hindi became one of the official languages of India on January 26, 1965 and it is a minority language in a number of countries, including Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Hindi’s popularity has been helped by Bollywood, the Hindi film industry. These movies have an international appeal and now they have broken into the Western markets as well.
  • Urdu, Hindi and Hindustani are all segments on a long linguistic chain. At one end is a heavily Persianized language which is written in the Nasta’liq font and in a modified Arabic script. At the other end is a heavily Sanskritized language which is written in the Devanagari form. The progression from one to the other is continuous and slow. The basic grammars are the same. The words are replaced either by more Sanskritized or more Persianized forms. Urdu forms the segment of the chain more towards the Persian side and Hindi forms the segment of the chain more towards the Sanskrit side. The language spoken in the north of the Indian subcontinent is basically halfway between the two extremes and represents Hindustani.
  • Despite the above, the casual spoken languages are similar and in some cases not even distinguishable. For example, it is said that Indian movies (primarily of Bollywood) are made in Hindi, but the language used in many of these movies is similar to Urdu spoken in Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistani TV dramas are made in Urdu, and yet the language used in these dramas is similar to the language used by Hindi speakers in India.
  • In India, Urdu is spoken as a mother tongue by many in the central and northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. In Haryana it is spoken in the Mewat area as well as many of the urban areas. While in India, Muslims might be seen as tending to identify with Urdu; Hindus and Sikhs naturally speak Urdu regardless of religion, especially when they have grown up in such traditional Urdu-strongholds such as Lucknow and Hyderabad. Some would contend that the brand of Hindi spoken in Bollywood films is in fact closer to Urdu than Hindi, especially in filmi (film) songs/filmi sangeet.
  • Hindi, as recognized by the Constitution of India, is the official language (in addition to English) of the Republic of India, and the common second language of Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname.
  • In Pakistan, Urdu is spoken as a mother tongue by a majority of people in cities such as, Karachi and Hyderabad in the southern province of Sindh.
  • In spite of its status as the national language, only 8% of Pakistanis speak Urdu as their first language, with about 48% speaking Punjabi.
  • The separation between Hindi and Urdu is largely a political one; before the partition of India into India and Pakistan, spoken Hindi and Urdu were considered the same language, Hindustani. Since the partition, Standard Hindi has developed by replacing many words of Persian origin with Sanskrit words.
  • Hindi and Urdu presently have four standard literary forms: Standard Hindi, Urdu, Dakkhini (Dakhini), and Rehkta. Dakhini is a dialect of Urdu from the Deccan region of south-central India, chiefly from Hyderabad, that uses fewer Persian words. Rehkta is a form of Urdu used chiefly for poetry.
  • On the colloquial level, there is little difference between Hindi and Urdu. They sound similar, they have the same grammar and they both developed from the Khariboli dialect of North India. Khariboli, in turn, developed from Madhaydeshi which derived from Prakrit which derived from Sanskrit. So, essentially, both Urdu and Hindi evolved from Sanskrit. They are both members of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages.

From the above facts, we can deduce that the obvious differences between Urdu and Hindi are:

  • Hindi is written from left to right in the Devanagari script.
  • Urdu is written from right to left in a modified Persian-Arabic script called Nasta’liq.
  • Hindi uses vocabulary from Sanskrit.
  • Urdu uses vocabulary from Persian and Arabic.

But, just to keep everyone on their toes, Hindi also uses words from Persian and Arabic, and Urdu also uses words from Sanskrit.

A Short Article about Urdu and Hindi

Written by: Sonal Panse • Edited by: Rebecca Scudder

Urdu gained prominence during the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal era. The administrative language was Persian, and Khariboli began to incorporate many Persian and Arabic words into its fold. The word “Urdu” originated from the Turkish word for tent, army or horde, “ordu”. Urdu was the language of the army and the common people before it became, as the poet Mir called it “Urdu-e-Mu’alla اردوِ معلہ” or a courtly language of the Mughals of Delhi and the Nawabs of Lucknow.

Hindi, for most part, retained its closeness to Sanskrit, although it didn’t shy back from adapting some Persian either. In their everyday lives, people switched effortlessly from Hindi to Urdu or vice versa. It wasn’t considered a very big deal. Certainly there weren’t many people taking umbrage over or making an issue about language differences at this point.

A Map Illustrating the Partition of India and Pakistan

Note:

"Western Pakistan" is the Pakistan of today, and "Eastern Pakistan" is today’s Bangladesh.

When the British gained ascendancy in India, it suited them, as part of their Divide-and-Rule policy, to encourage a rift between Hindi and Urdu. Language is capable of taking on a nationalistic or communalistic turn, inflaming emotions all around, and that’s what happened here. Along with script and vocabulary differences, social, cultural and religious differences began to be emphasized.

Hindu intellectuals like Acharya Ramchandra Shukla and Muslim intellectuals like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Bahadur did their bit in widening the conscious differences. Urdu began to be known as “the language of the Muslims” and Hindi began to be known as “the language of the Hindus”. Gandhi tried to bridge the differences by merging the two into a common national language, Hindustani, and kept the script option open. It didn’t work.

The rift widened, along with the widening rift between the people, and the country split into two. After the partition of India in 1947, Pakistan embraced Urdu as their national language and India adopted Hindi as one of her 23 national languages. Ever since, the politicians have joined the linguists in demarcating the language differences.

A Modern Map of the Indian subcontinent

Most people in Pakistan speak Urdu either as a first or second language. In India, Urdu retains its stronghold in the cities of Lucknow, Aligarh and Hyderabad, and in the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh. However, few Hindi speakers in other states in modern India can write and read in Urdu. Urdu - one of the most beautiful languages in the world - also maintains its presence in both the Indian and Pakistani Film Industries.

Sources and Further Reading:

Related Blog Post:

Okay readers, I’ll close this blog post here :-). I hope you guys enjoyed what I put together on the differences between Urdu and Hindi, InshaaAllah إن شاء الله (God willing)!!! :-) ;-) Please be aware that the majority of the information in this blog post was not written by me, and it was taken from the various sources above. Jum’ah Mabroukah…جمعة مبروكة! Keep well, Wassalaam ‘alaikum و السّلام عليكم…and Peace be with you

Sam سام

Post Script:

InshaaAllah إن شاء الله, I will post the final part of the blog post series based on Arabic adverbs soon. Bye bye :-h :-)