Friday 13 January 2012

The similarity between Urdu and Hindi

It comes as a surprise to almost everyone that what is known as Hindi in India and Urdu in Pakistan is actually one and the same language, The Hindustani! Linguistically speaking, modern standard Hindi and Urdu (official languages of India & Pakistan respectively) are two Standardized Registers of the single language Hindustani, which was the lingua franca of the Mughal empire and later adopted by the British as the official language of British India (modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh).

Literally meaning “Our Language”, Hamari Boli (Hindi-Urdu) is the lingua franca of the Desi People worldwide. It is the most widely used language for everyday communication among the common-folk across India and Pakistan and the Desi diaspora. With dozens of mutually intelligible local variants, it is the 2nd most spoken language in the world! It is the everyday apolitical lingo used by close to a billion South Asians to communicate across borders and cultures. UAE is the best example of the South Asian lingua franca status of Hamari Boli. In Dubai, Hamari Boli is the language that 4 construction workers from Dhaka, Lahore, Mumbai and Kathmandu use to communicate with each other, though it’s not first language for any of them.

Stylistically, Hamari Boli is the broad, freewheeling, neutral and balanced middle-lowbrow speech as exemplified by the world’s most prolific film industry, Bollywood. Linguistically, it is the 21st century syncretic register of Hindi-Urdu, written using the Roman Alphabet, The HB Script.

Today, Hamari Boli is the official language of India and Pakistan in the form of extreme highbrow versions known as ‘Shudh Hindi’ and ‘Saaf Urdu’ respectively. Shudh Hindi is all Sanskritized (written in Devanagari and draws high vocabulary from Sanskrit) whereas Saaf Urdu is all Persianized (written in Perso-Arabic and draws high vocabulary from Persian and Arabic). At that level, Hindi and Urdu become mutually un-intelligible. However, the colloquial vernacular is easily accessible to almost everyone all across India and Pakistan, the greater Desi region and the 30 Million + worldwide Desi diaspora. The result of the superb adaptive and accommodating nature of Hamari Boli is that today it is one of the richest languages in vocabulary and style.

Today, Hindi-Urdu is the 2nd most spoken language in the world with 500Million+ speakers worldwide, second only to Mandarin. With dozens of local dialects, it is the ‘Language of the Desi People’ (primarily, modern India and Pakistan and also including Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius, Fiji, South Africa, US, UK, UAE, KSA…). If there’s one social and cultural identity that binds all Desi People, it’s Hamari Boli.

The principle problem with modern Hindi-Urdu today is mutual illegibility in written form. Hindi uses Devanagari whereas Urdu uses Perso-Arabic script which renders written Hindi-Urdu illegible which are otherwise perfectly mutually intelligible in spoken form. This severely limits the reach and accessibility of written works.

However, 21st Century Hindi-Urdu is characterized by overwhelming use of modern English alphabet in written electronic communication. New generations are all comfortable using Roman Hindi-Urdu for chatting/writing online and txting. Instant messengers, chat rooms, blogs, discussion boards and social networks are serving as informal laboratories and nurseries of its development and popularization. Major companies are using it for popular advertising and most hoardings in urban centers flash it everywhere.

Simply put, Hamari Boli is re-unified Hindi-Urdu written using Roman alphabet with a combined vocabulary drawn from both standard Hindi and Urdu with generous helpings of English.

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