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Urdu in Perso-Arabic script
(Nastaʿlīq style)
Pronunciation Hindustani: [ˈʊrd̪u]
Native to Pakistan, India, Bangladesh ("Bihari"), Nepal[1]
Native speakers

66 million  (2007)[2]
Total (only Urdu): 104 million (2010)[3]

Total (including Hindi): 490 million (2010)[4]
Language family
Writing system Arabic (Urdu alphabet [Nastaʿlīq)
Urdu Braille
Official status
Official language in  Pakistan
 India (states of Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi)
Regulated by National Language Authority (Pakistan);
National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language[6] (India)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ur
ISO 639-2 urd
ISO 639-3 urd
Linguasphere 59-AAF-q (with Hindi,
including 58 varieties: 59-AAF-qaa to 59-AAF-qil)
Urdu official-language areas.png
     Areas where Urdu is official or coofficial      (Other) areas where Hindi is official

Urdu is the name of one of the languages which is spoken in South Asia. It is the national language of Pakistan. It is spoken in Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir and is an official language of the country. It is also an official language in India. It is spoken all over India and particularly in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh.

History[change | change source]

The Origin of the Urdu Language is derived from the Mughal Empire's word for army, Ordu. However, contrary to popular belief, Urdu was not created in the army camps of the Mughal Army. Urdu is spoken the same as present day's Hindi, however Hindi uses the traditional Devanagari script (a decedent of Sanskrit), where as Urdu uses the Arabic alphabet. The poet Ghulam Hamadani Mushafi coined the term Urdu for this language in 1780. However, this new language proceeded to alienate the two major cultures in India/Pakistan, the Muslims and Hindus. Hindus began to speak and write Hindi, whereas Muslims would begin to speak Urdu. This also lead to a need to "cleanse" Urdu of all its Sanskrit words and lead Hindi speakers to want to be rid of persian words that remained in their language.

Levels of formality[change | change source]

Urdu in its less formalised register has been called a rekhta (ریختہ, [reːxt̪aː]), meaning "rough mixture". The more formal register of Urdu is sometimes called zabān-e-Urdu-e-mo'alla (زبان اردو معلہ [zəbaːn eː ʊrd̪uː eː moəllaː]), the "Language of Camp and Court."

The etymology of the word used in the Urdu language for the most part decides how nice or well done your speech is. For example, Urdu speakers would distinguish between پانی pānī and آب āb, both meaning "water" for example, or between آدمی ādmi and مرد mard, meaning "man." The first in each set is used colloquially and has older Hindustani origins, while the last in the set is used formally and poetically.

If a word is of Persian or Arabic origin, the level of speech is thought to be more formal and nice. Similarly, if Persian or Arabic grammar constructs, such as the izafat, are used in Urdu, the level of speech is also thought more formal and nice. If a word is inherited from Sanskrit, the level of speech is thought more colloquial and personal.[7]

Politeness[change | change source]

Urdu is supposed to be a nice and well done language; many of words are used in it to show respect and politeness. This emphasis on politeness, which comes from the vocabulary, is known as adab and to sometimes as takalluf in Urdu. These words are mostly used when addressing elders, or people with whom one is not met yet.

References[change | change source]

  1. "Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Seventeenth edition, Urdu". Ethnologue. http://www.ethnologue.com/language/urd. Retrieved March 05, 2013.
  2. Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
  3. Katsiavriades, Qureshi, Kryss, Talaat. "The 30 Most Spoken Languages of the World". http://www.krysstal.com/spoken.html. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  4. "A Guide to Urdu". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/other/guide/urdu/steps.shtml. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Hindustani (2005). Keith Brown. ed. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-044299-4.
  6. "National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language". Urducouncil.nic.in. http://www.urducouncil.nic.in/. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
  7. "About Urdu". Afroz Taj (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://www.unc.edu/. Retrieved 2008-02-26.