Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Nature of the Urdu Language

Urdu was the language of poetry and literature of Mughal India and retains a high status even in modern times. For example, Urdu is the official language of Pakistan even though only for about ten percent of the population is it their native tongue. Punjabi is the native language of 60 percent of the population of Pakistan and both Sindi and Paktu, with 12 percent and 11 percent respectively, are the native language of a higher proportion of the population than is Urdu. Although Urdu may not be the native language of large proportion of the population of Pakistan and India there are many, many people, about fifty million, who speak it. Urdu is the language of choice of Muslims in India.

Urdu had its origin in the Hindi language of North India. It was Hindi as it was modified in the military camps of the Mughals. It thus absorbed a substantial lexicon of words from Persian, which included many Arabic words that had been assimilated into Persian. The basic structure of Urdu however remained that of Hindi. Occasionally in literary Urdu there are some constructions adopted from Persian and Arabic for special effect. Urdu as a written language seems quite different from Hindi because it is written in a Persian-modified Arabic script whereas Hindi is written in the Devanagari script.

Hindi and Urdu are part of the Indo-European language family but have been strongly influenced by the agglutinative linguistic structure of the Dravidian languages of India. Agglutinative languages form sentences by means of suffixes adjoined to root words. Hindi-Urdu have replaced some declensions by postposition words used as suffixes. (Postpositions are like prepositions in English , only coming after the word instead of before it.)

HOME PAGE OF applet-magic