|Native to||The Hindi Belt in Northern India (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand)|
329 million (2001)|
L2 speakers: 368 million (1999-2016)
Devanagari (Hindi alphabet)|
Nastaliq (Urdu alphabet)
Braille (Hindi Braille and Pakistani Urdu Braille)
|Indian Signing System (ISS)|
Official language in
(as Hindi, Urdu)
(as Fiji Hindi)
Central Hindi Directorate (Hindi, India);|
National Language Promotion Department (Urdu, Pakistan);
National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (Urdu, India)
Areas (red) where Hindustani (Khariboli/Kauravi) is the native language
Hindustani (Hindi: ,[a]Urdu: ,[b][nds't?a:ni:], lit. 'of Hindustan'), colloquially known by some as Hamari/Apni Boli (lit. our language) and historically also known as Hindavi, Dehlavi, Hindi-Urdu, and Rekhta, is the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan. It is an Indo-Aryan language, deriving its base primarily from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi. The language incorporates a large amount of vocabulary from Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. It is a pluricentric language, with two official forms, Modern Standard Hindi and Modern Standard Urdu, which are its standardised registers, and which may be called Hindustani or Hindi-Urdu when taken together. The colloquial registers are mostly indistinguishable, and even though the official standards are nearly identical in grammar, they differ in literary conventions and in academic and technical vocabulary, with Urdu adopting stronger Persian and Arabic influences, and Hindi relying more heavily on Sanskrit. Before the partition of India, the terms Hindustani, Urdu, and Hindi were synonymous; they all covered what would be mostly called Urdu and Hindi today. The term Hindustani is still used for the colloquial language and the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan, for example for the language of Bollywood films, as well as for several quite different varieties of Hindi spoken outside the Indian subcontinent, such as Fiji Hindi of Fiji and the Caribbean Hindustani of Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and the rest of the Caribbean. Hindustani is also spoken by a small number of people in Mauritius and South Africa.
Early forms of present-day Hindustani developed from the Middle Indo-Aryan apabhramsha vernaculars of present-day North India in the 7th-13th centuries.Amir Khusro, who lived in the 13th century CE during the Delhi Sultanate period in North India, used these forms (which was the lingua franca of the period) in his writings and referred to it as Hindavi (Persian: literally "of Hindus or Indians"). The Delhi Sultanate, which comprised several Turkic and Afghan dynasties that ruled from Delhi, was succeeded by the Mughal Empire in 1526.
Although the Mughals were of Timurid (Gurk?n?) Turko-Mongol descent, they were Persianised, and Persian had gradually become the state language of the Mughal empire after Babur, a continuation since the introduction of Persian by Central Asian Turkic rulers in the Indian Subcontinent, and the patronisation of it by the earlier Turko-Afghan Delhi Sultanate. The basis in general for the introduction of Persian language into the subcontinent was set, from its earliest days, by various Persianised Central Asian Turkic and Afghan dynasties.
In the 18th century, towards the end of the Mughal period, with the fragmentation of the empire and the elite system, a variant of Khariboli, one of the successors of apabhramsha vernaculars at Delhi, and nearby cities, came to gradually replace Persian as the lingua franca among the educated elite upper class particularly in northern India, though Persian still retained much of its pre-eminence for a short period. The term Hindustani (Persian: "of Hindustan") was the name given to that variant of Khariboli.
For socio-political reasons, though essentially the variant of Khariboli with Persian vocabulary, the emerging prestige dialect became also known as Zab?n-e Urd?-e Mualla "language of the court" or Zab?n-e Urd? ? ?, -? , "language of the camp" in Persian, derived from Turkic Ord? "camp", cognate with English horde; due to its origin as the common speech of the Mughal army). The more highly Persianised version later established as a language of the court was called Rekhta, or "mixed".
As an emerging common dialect, Hindustani absorbed large numbers of Persian, Arabic, and Turkic words, and as Mughal conquests grew it spread as a lingua franca across much of northern India. Written in the Perso-Arabic Script or Devanagari script, it remained the primary lingua franca of northern India for the next four centuries (although it varied significantly in vocabulary depending on the local language) and achieved the status of a literary language, alongside Persian, in Muslim courts. Its development was centred on the poets of the Mughal courts of cities in Uttar Pradesh such as Delhi, Lucknow, and Agra.
John Fletcher Hurst in his book published in 1891 mentioned that the Hindustani or Camp language or Language of the Camps of Moughal courts at Delhi was not regarded by philologists as distinct language but only as a dialect of Hindi with admixture of Persian. He continued: "But it has all the magnitude and importance of separate language. It is linguistic result of Muslim rule of eleventh & twelfth centuries and is spoken (except in rural Bengal ) by many Hindus in North India and by Musalman population in all parts of India". Next to English it was the official language of British Indian Empire, was commonly written in Arabic or Persian characters, and was spoken by approximately 100,000,000 people.
When the British colonised the Indian subcontinent from the late 18th through to the late 19th century, they used the words 'Hindustani', 'Hindi' and 'Urdu' interchangeably. They developed it as the language of administration of British India, further preparing it to be the official language of modern India and Pakistan. However, with independence, use of the word 'Hindustani' declined, being largely replaced by 'Hindi' and 'Urdu', or 'Hindi-Urdu' when either of those was too specific. More recently, the word 'Hindustani' has been used for the colloquial language of Bollywood films, which are popular in both India and Pakistan and which cannot be unambiguously identified as either Hindi or Urdu.
Although, at the spoken level, Hindi and Urdu are considered registers of a single language, they differ vastly in literary and formal vocabulary; where literary Hindi draws heavily on Sanskrit and to a lesser extent Prakrit, literary Urdu draws heavily on Persian and Arabic. The grammar and base vocabulary (most pronouns, verbs, adpositions, etc.) of both Hindi and Urdu, however, are the same and derive from a Prakritic base, and both have Persian/Arabic influence.
The standardised registers Hindi and Urdu are collectively known as Hindi-Urdu. Hindustani is perhaps the lingua franca of the north and west of the Indian subcontinent, though it is understood fairly well in other regions also, especially in the urban areas. A common vernacular sharing characteristics with Sanskritised Hindi, regional Hindi and Urdu, Hindustani is more commonly used as a vernacular than highly Sanskritised Hindi or highly Arabicised/Persianised Urdu.
This can be seen in the popular culture of Bollywood or, more generally, the vernacular of North Indians and Pakistanis, which generally employs a lexicon common to both Hindi and Urdu speakers. Minor subtleties in region will also affect the 'brand' of Hindustani, sometimes pushing the Hindustani closer to Urdu or to Hindi. One might reasonably assume that the Hindustani spoken in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh (known for its usage of Urdu) and Varanasi (a holy city for Hindus and thus using highly Sanskritised Hindi) is somewhat different.
Standard Hindi, one of the official languages of India, is based on the Khariboli dialect of the Delhi region and differs from Urdu in that it is usually written in the indigenous Devanagari script of India and exhibits less Persian and Arabic influence than Urdu. It has a literature of 500 years, with prose, poetry, religion & philosophy, under the Bahmani Kings and later on Khutab Shahi Adil Shahi etc. It is a living language, still prevalent all over the Deccan Plateau. Note that the term Hindustani has generally fallen out of common usage in modern India, except to refer to "Indian" as a nationality and a style of Indian classical music prevalent in northern India. The term used to refer to it is Hindi or Urdu, depending on the religion of the speaker, and regardless of the mix of Persian or Sanskrit words used by the speaker. One could conceive of a wide spectrum of dialects and registers, with the highly Persianised Urdu at one end of the spectrum and a heavily Sanskrit-based dialect, spoken in the region around Varanasi, at the other end of the spectrum. In common usage in India, the term Hindi includes all these dialects except those at the Urdu end of the spectrum. Thus, the different meanings of the word Hindi include, among others:
Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and an officially recognised regional language of India. Urdu is the official language of all Pakistani provinces and is taught in all schools as a compulsory subject up to the 12th grade. It is also an official language in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, National Capital Territory of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana that have significant Muslim populations.
In a specific sense, Hindustani may be used to refer to the dialects and varieties used in common speech, in contrast with the standardised Hindi and Urdu. This meaning is reflected in the use of the term bazaar Hindustani, in other words, the "language of the street or the marketplace", as opposed to the perceived refinement of formal Hindi, Urdu, or even Sanskrit. Thus, the Webster's New World Dictionary defines the term Hindustani as the principal dialect of Hindi/Urdu, used as a trade language throughout north India and Pakistan.
Amir Khusro ca. 1300 referred to this language of his writings as Dehlavi (; 'of Delhi') or Hindavi (?; ). During this period, Hindustani was used by Sufis in promulgating their message across the Indian subcontinent. After the advent of the Mughals in the subcontinent, Hindustani acquired more Persian loanwords. Rekhta ('mixture') and Hindi ('Indian') became popular names for the same language until the 18th century. The name Urdu appeared around 1780. During the British Raj, the term Hindustani was used by British officials. In 1796, John Borthwick Gilchrist published a "A Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language". Upon partition, India and Pakistan established national standards that they called Hindi and Urdu, respectively, and attempted to make distinct, with the result that Hindustani commonly, but mistakenly, came to be seen as a mixture of Hindi and Urdu.
Grierson, in his highly influential Linguistic Survey of India, proposed that the names Hindustani, Urdu, and Hindi be separated in use for different varieties of the Hindustani language, rather than as the overlapping synonyms they frequently were:
We may now define the three main varieties of Hind?st?n? as follows:--Hind?st?n? is primarily the language of the Upper Gangetic Doab, and is also the lingua franca of India, capable of being written in both Persian and D?va-n?gar? characters, and without purism, avoiding alike the excessive use of either Persian or Sanskrit words when employed for literature. The name 'Urd?' can then be confined to that special variety of Hind?st?n? in which Persian words are of frequent occurrence, and which hence can only be written in the Persian character, and, similarly, 'Hind?' can be confined to the form of Hind?st?n? in which Sanskrit words abound, and which hence can only be written in the D?va-n?gar? character.
Hindi, a major standardized register of Hindustani, is declared by the Constitution of India as the "official language (?, r?jabh?sh?) of the Union" (Art. 343(1)) (In this context, "Union" means the Federal Government and not the entire country - India has 23 official languages). At the same time, however, the definitive text of Federal laws is officially the English text and proceedings in the higher appellate courts must be conducted in English. At the state level, Hindi is one of the official languages in 9 of the 29 Indian states and three Union Territories (namely Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, and Haryana and UTs are Delhi, Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands). In the remaining states Hindi is not an official language. In the state of Tamil Nadu studying Hindi is not compulsory in the state curriculum. However an option to take the same as second or third language does exist. In many other states, studying Hindi is usually compulsory in the school curriculum as a third language (the first two languages being the state's official language and English), though the intensiveness of Hindi in the curriculum varies.
Urdu, also a major standardized register of Hindustani, is also one of the languages recognized by the Indian Constitution and is an official language of the Indian states of Telangana, Bihar, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttar Pradesh. Although the government school system in most other states emphasises Modern Standard Hindi, at universities in cities such as Lucknow, Aligarh and Hyderabad, Urdu is spoken and learnt, and Saaf Urdu is treated with just as much respect as Shuddha Hindi.
Urdu is also the national language of Pakistan, where it shares official language status with English. Although English is spoken by many, Punjabi is the native language of the majority of the population, Urdu is the lingua franca.
Hindustani was the official language of the British Indian Empire and was synonymous with both Hindi and Urdu. After India's independence in 1947, the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights recommended that the official language of India be Hindustani:
However, this recommendation was not adopted by the Constituent Assembly.
Besides being the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan in South Asia, Hindustani is also spoken by many in the South Asian diaspora and their descendants around the world, including North America (in Canada, for example, Hindustani is one of the fastest growing languages), Europe, and the Middle East.
Hindustani was also one of the languages that was spoken widely in Burma during British rule. Many older Burmese, particularly the Anglo-Indians and Anglo-Burmese of the country, still know it, although it has had no official status in the country since military rule.
Hindustani is also spoken in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, where migrant labour workers from various countries live and work for several years.
Hindustani contains around 5,500 words of Persian and Arabic origin.
Historically, Hindustani was written in the Kaithi, Devanagari, and Urdu alphabets. Kaithi and Devanagari are two of the Brahmic scripts native to India, whereas Urdu is a derivation of the Perso-Arabic script Nastaliq which is preferred calligraphic style for Urdu.
Today, Hindustani continues to be written in the Urdu alphabet, and this is nearly exclusive in Pakistan. In India, the Hindi register is officially written in Devanagari (a relative of Kaithi), and Urdu in Perso-Arabic script Nastaliq, to the extent that these standards are partly defined by their script.
However, in popular publications in India, Urdu is also written in Devanagari script, with slight variations to establish a Devanagari Urdu alphabet alongside the Devanagari Hindi alphabet.
|Letter||Name of letter||Transcription||IPA|
|?||ba he||h||/h ~ ?/|
|?||re||r||/r ~ ?/|
|?||v?'o||v, o, or ?||/?/, /o:/, /?/ or /u:/|
|?, ?, ?||cho he||h||/h ~ ?/|
|?||do chashm? he||h||/?/ or /?/|
|?||ye||y, i||/j/ or /i:/|
|?||ba ye||ai or e||/?:/, or /e:/|
Because of anglicisation in South Asia and the international use of the Latin script, Hindustani is occasionally written in the Latin script. This adaptation is called Roman Urdu or Romanised Hindi, depending upon the register used. Because the Bollywood film industry is a major proponent of the Latin script, the use of Latin script to write in Hindi and Urdu is growing amongst younger Internet users. Since Urdu and Hindi are mutually intelligible when spoken, Romanised Hindi and Roman Urdu (unlike Devanagari Hindi and Urdu in the Urdu alphabet) are mutually intelligible as well.
Following is a sample text, Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the two official registers of Hindustani, Hindi and Urdu. Because this is a formal legal text, differences in formal vocabulary are maximised.
? ? ? ? ? ? ?
:? 1 ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
The predominant Indian film industry Bollywood, located in Mumbai, Maharashtra uses Hindi, Khariboli dialect, Bambaiya Hindi, Urdu,Awadhi, Rajasthani, Bhojpuri, and Braj Bhasha, along with the language of Punjabi and with the liberal use of English or Hinglish for the dialogue and soundtrack lyrics.
Movie titles are often screened in three scripts: Latin, Devanagari and occasionally Perso-Arabic. The use of Urdu or Hindi in films depends on the film's context: historical films set in the Delhi Sultanate or Mughal Empire are almost entirely in Urdu, whereas films based on Hindu mythology or ancient India make heavy use of Hindi with Sanskrit vocabulary.
The Pakistani film industry Lollywood, centred historically in Lahore, has seen a rise in Punjabi movies lately. The Hindustani language films have seen a surge throughout Pakistan specifically Karachi, with new age films, and to a lesser extent in Islamabad and Lahore.
... Hindustani is the lingua franca of both India and Pakistan ...
... By the time of British colonialism, Hindustani was the lingua franca of all of northern India and what is today Pakistan ...
... For new terms it can draw at will upon the Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Sanskrit dictionaries ...
... it would be very unwise to restrict it to a vocabulary mainly dependent upon Sanskrit, or mainly dependent upon Persian. If a language is to be strong and virile it must draw on both sources, just as English has drawn on Latin and Teutonic sources ...
... Hindustani is the basis for both languages ...
... Apabhramsha seemed to be in a state of transition from Middle Indo-Aryan to the New Indo-Aryan stage. Some elements of Hindustani appear ... the distinct form of the lingua franca Hindustani appears in the writings of Amir Khusro (1253-1325), who called it Hindwi ...
Note: Gurk?n? is the Persianized form of the Mongolian word "kürügän" ("son-in-law"), the title given to the dynasty's founder after his marriage into Genghis Khan's family.