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The Urdu Language

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 pronounced “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 time. This is the times 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.

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 Nastaliq 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.

Urdu is spoken by over a 100 million people as a first or second language. Urdu is the National language of Pakistan and one of the 23 official languages of India. The official language of Pakistan is English, but Urdu is also used officially by the Law enforcement agencies and local governments. It is also spoken widely in parts of Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Urdu speakers are also found in Europe, USA and the Middle East. It spread in these regions as people immigrated to these parts looking for work.

Urdu has four main dialects Pinjari (Pin Ja ree), Rekhta (Ray kha ta), Deccani (Duck nee) and Khairboli (Khai Boalee). Pinjari, Deccani and Rekhta have almost disappeared, but most probably merged with the modern day accent which is Khairboli. Rekhta had the highest Persian influence, followed by Khairboli and Deccani. Rekhta is the language of Urdu poetry and is therefore considered a dialect. Khairboli is the Modern Vernacular Urdu and is spoken in Karachi, Delhi and Lucknow. Pinjari and Deccani which were spoken in Hyderabad and Anderpardesh regions of India have almost disappeared.

The modern day dialect is the Modern Vernacular Urdu. People who speak this language are also referred to as Ahal-e-zuban, (People of the tongue or language). People who have Urdu as their first language are referred to as Urdu speaking in most parts of Pakistan. The people who actually speak Urdu as their second language have a very different accent, especially people from the Punjab and Pashto speaking regions. The accent in the Punjab regions is influenced by the Punjabi language and many Punjabi words form the common vocabulary of Urdu in these regions. Pashto speaking people have a very neutral accent and are very clear; however most Pashto speakers who speak Urdu very commonly confuse gender in the language. There is also a considerable English influence on Urdu in Pakistan and in India. Words like import, export, genuine (pronounced gen yun when used in Urdu), kitchen, glass, chicken, table, latrine and many more words are used as part of modern day Urdu.

Urdu was given its name in 1751, when a very famous writer Saraj-uddin Aarzoo referred to this language as Urdu. The first Urdu book is called “Woh Majlis” (means that gathering of literary activity) in 1728 and the first Urdu Poet was Ameer Khusro (1253-1325 A.D.)

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