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Monday, August 3, 2009

Urdu/Hindi today by Viv Edwards, BBC UK

Urdu/Hindi today by Viv Edwards، BBC, UK

Following partition in 1947, Urdu became the official language of Pakistan but there are also large numbers of speakers in India. Well over a 100 million people use it either as a first or second language. Hindi is one of the official languages of India. It is the first language of an estimated 400 million people, and is spoken as a second language by a further 90 million people.

The Urdu community in the UK is very much larger than the Hindi community. Most of those who identify themselves as Urdu speakers use a variety of Panjabi as the language of the home, and speak Urdu as a second language for religious and cultural reasons. The overwhelming majority comes from the west Panjab and the Mirpur district of Azad Kashmir, but smaller groups of Gujarati Muslims from both India and East Africa also use Urdu for religious purposes.

The main areas of settlement for Urdu speakers are the northern textile towns, the West Midlands and London. In a survey of London school children conducted in 2000, Hindi/Urdu formed the fifth largest language community in the capital with the highest density of speakers in Ealing. Although Hindi and Urdu were merged for the purpose of this survey, almost ten times more children reported that they spoke Urdu than Hindi.

Most people in the UK who speak Hindi as a first language are professionals - doctors, teachers, engineers - who have no close networks of relatives and tend to be dispersed all over the country.

Two weekly Hindi magazines serve the Hindi speech community; Urdu speakers have one daily, two weekly and one monthly Urdu publications. Several local radio stationsincluding the BBC Asian Network, Sunrise Radio in West London, Asian Sound Radio in Manchester, Me FM in Aberdeen, Radio XL in the West Midlands and Sunrise Radio-Yorkshire broadcast some programmes in Hindi/Urdu. Several satellite TV stations also broadcast in Hindi/Urdu, including Prime TV, the channel for viewers who understand Urdu and Panjabi in Europe.

The history of Urdu/Hindi

Urdu/Hindi belong to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages.

'Urdu' comes from the Persian zaban-e-urdu-e-mu'alla (language of the imperial court), a gloss which gives important clues to its history. Originally it was one of the languages spoken in the Hindi region of India. During the sixteenth century, however, large areas of India fell under the rule of Muslims whose language and culture were predominantly Persian. While the structure of Urdu remained essentially Indian, the vocabulary was greatly influenced by Persian. Urdu spread all over India through administrative structures, army encampments and bazaars.

The linguistic status of Urdu/Hindi has been the subject of fierce debate. Some argue that they be treated as the same language; others that they should be treated separately on the grounds of differences in vocabulary and word order.

More about Urdu

The writing system
Urdu and Hindi also have separate scripts.

Urdu writing

Urdu is written right to left in the Nastaliq script, which differs in small but important respects from the Naskh script used for Arabic. It is a consonantal system in which vowels are indicated by marks above and below the letters. Letters also change according to their position - initial, medial, final or isolated - in the word.

A high value is attached to calligraphic skills.

Hindi writing

Hindi is written in the Devanagari script. It runs from left to right with an almost continuous horizontal line running along the top.

Urdu names

Males have a personal name (e.g. Akram, Aziz, Arif) which can come first or second and is used only by family and friends; and a religious name (e.g. Mohammed, Abdul) which can come first or second but is never used alone. The two names together (e.g. Mohammed Arif) form a 'calling name' which is used by acquaintances. Some men also use a hereditary name, (e.g. Qureshi, Chowdrey), or a male title (e.g. Khan).

Women have a personal name which always comes first and a second name which is either a female title (e.g. Bano, Begum, Bi, Bibi) or another personal name.

Girls and boys usually take their father's personal name as a family name; married women usually take their husband's personal name.

Hindi speakers will use Hindu names. The family priest consults an almanac to suggest syllables that can be used in the baby's name. Then, in a ceremony that usually takes place on the twelfth day following the birth, the father whispers the chosen name in the baby's ear.

Children can be given one or two personal names; in the case of two, the first name is usually the one used. The family name is shared by all members of the family and usually indicates the sub-caste.

Personal nameFamily name

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