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Established 1990

History of the Hindi Language

This is a quick summary of the history of the Hindi language, from readily-available information on the Web. Sources for the material on this page can be found at the end of the article.

Hindi is the third most widely-spoken language in the world (after English and Mandarin): an estimated 500-600 million people speak the language. A direct descendant of Sanskrit through Prakrit and Apabhramsha, Hindi belongs to the Indo-Aryan group of languages, a subset of the IndoEuropean family. It has been influenced and enriched by Persian, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Portuguese, and English. Hindi is broadly identical with Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, and is closely related to Bengali, Punjabi and Gujerati. A good knowledge of Hindi is therefore likely to be useful to anyone having an interest in the countries of South Asia or in the numerous South Asian communities of the world. There are no particular difficulties in the study of the language. Hindi inherited its writing system from Sanskrit. The script, Devanagari, is extremely logical and therefore straightforward and easy to learn. Pronunciation is easy because, unlike English, letters are always pronounced exactly the same way. It can be used for both exact and rational reasoning and the expressive form suited for poetry and songs. The general appearance of the Devanagari script is that of letters 'hanging from a line'. This 'line', also found in many other South Asian scripts, is actually a part of most of the letters and is drawn as the writing proceeds. The script has no capital letters. Amongst its interesting features is a three-tier level of honorifics, allowing great subtlety in adjusting the level of communication to suit

Thus. the land of the Indus River .'formal'. the colloquial form of speech that was spoken in the area in and around Delhi in North India roughly in the ninth and tenth centuries. From the eighteenth century Hindvi began to flower as a literary language. Today. Hindvi was constructed largely from Sanskrit loan words that had been 'softened' for 'bol-chal' (common speech). Fiji. The earliest Sanskrit literature is preserved in the Vedas.meaning refined or perfected . and developed as a mixed or broken language of communication between the newly arrived immigrants and the resident native population of North India. Sanskrit No mention of Hindi can be complete without at least touching on its illustrious ancestor. and through Persian. A Brief History Hindi (and Urdu) is descended from Hindustani. Arabic loan words. and the common second language of Mauritius. the basis of many of the world's most important language families. It also absorbed Persian. the former representing a Sanskrit bias and the latter a Persian one. The vast body of Sanskrit literature. Hindi is written in the Devanagari script while Urdu is written in the Perso-Arabic one of the oldest members of the Indo-Aryan language family. It developed into a national language during the colonial period when the British began to cultivate it as a standard among government officials. the polite communicating of gratitude. the language of Hind. This language was given the Persian name Hindvi/Hindi . etc. is an intrinsic part of the language itself and does not rely solely on separate words for 'please' and 'thank you'. probably the largest collection of literature from the ancient world. Hindi is the official language of the Republic of India. collections of ancient hymns and ritual treatises. there also evolved a sophisticated 'scientific' literature dealing with ritual. Guyana and Surinam. The Sanskrit language has served as the major cultural vehicle of Indian civilisation for many millennia. In the course of another century it split into Hindi and the Persian-speaking Turks who overran Punjab and the Gangetic plains in the early eleventh century and established what is known as the Delhi Sultanate. To preserve Vedic religion. Sanskrit . . Trinidad. thus provides a unique gateway to several aspects of Indian culture. 'familiar' and 'intimate' conversational contexts. It travelled south and west as the Sultanate expanded beyond the Gangetic plains.

[Vidhyanath Rao] Shravakachar of Devasena. mathematics and astronomy. gave rise to the modern Indian languages of today such as Hindi. including works on logic and philosophy of language. this literature was later expanded to include works in many other areas. Important Dates in The History of Hindi All dates are approximate. a field where Sanskrit authors were particularly outstanding. Nepali and Singhalese. With the rise of Buddhism and Jainism. which. The great epics and Puranas provide an inexhaustible source both for the study of Indian mythology and for areas such as law and politics. [Vidhyanath Rao] 322 BCE 250 BCE 100 BCE-100 Sanskrit gradually replaces Prakrit in inscriptions CE 320 CE The Gupta or Siddha-matrika script emerges Apabhranshas and emergence of old Hindi 400 550 779 800 933 Apabhransha in Kalidas's Vikramorvashiyam Dharasena of Valabhi's inscription mentions Apabhramsha literature Regional languages mentioned by Udyotan Suri in 'Kuvalayamala' Bulk of the Sanskrit literature after this time is commentaries. considered the first Hindi book . in turn. rival religions entered into a dialogue that has produced a huge number of religious and philosophical works. and the works on religion and philosophy. Sanskrit eventually gave rise to the Prakrit (natural or common) languages. Marathi. including indigenous linguistics. Background: The period of Prakrits and Classical Sanskrit 750 BCE 500 BCE 400 BCE Gradual emergence of post-Vedic Sanskrit Prakrit texts of Buddhists and Jains originate (Eastern India) Panini composes his Sanskrit grammar (Western India).linguistics. Classical Sanskrit writers also composed a rich literature of poetry and drama. Bengali. A good starting point for the study of the language is the epics and classical literature. Gujarati. reflecting transition from Vedic to Paninian Sanskrit Brahmi script inscriptions by Mauryas in Prakrit (Pali) Classical Sanskrit emerges.

etc Emergence of modern Hindi 1833-86 1850 1949 1949-50 1952 1990 Gujarati Poet Narmad proposes Hindi as India's national language The term 'Hindi' no longer used for what is now called 'Urdu' Official Language Act makes the use of Hindi in Central Government Offices mandatory Hindi accepted as the 'official language of the Union' in the constitution The Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan recommends that Urdu be the state language According to World Almanac and Book of Facts. Knowledge of Hindi provides a fascinating alternative perspective. a compilation of works of many poets by Guru Arjan Dev Tulsidas. first book in Khari Boli dialect (now the standard dialect) Shahjehan builds Delhi fort. author of 'Ramacharita Manasa' 'Gora-badal ki katha' of Jatmal. and serves as an important key to understanding the unique elements of Indian civilisation. on the re-emergence of India during the last two centuries. 'dungarees' and 'sherbet' originate? . Where do you think the words 'juggernaut'. Hindi-Urdu has passed English (and Spanish) to become the second most widely spoken language in the world [Peter Hook] Conclusion The study of Hindi today grants entry to one of the world's oldest and greatest civilisations. Meer. language in the locality starts to be termed Urdu Vali's compositions become popular. Students who feel that Hindi is too far removed from their modern everyday concerns may wish to note that Hindi is a distant relative of English.1100 1145-1229 Modern Devanagari script emerges Hemachadra writes on Apabhransha grammar Decline of Apabhransha 1283 1400-1479 1601 1604 1532-1623 1623 1645 1667-1707 Khusro's pahelis and mukaris. Urdu starts replacing Farsi among Delhi nobility. Uses term 'Hindavi' Raighu: last of the great Apabhramsha poets 'Ardha-Kathanak' by Banarasidas. first autobiography in Hindi 'Adi-Granth'. quite apart from that afforded by the English language. It is often called 'Hindi' by Sauda.

Fiji. Turkish. There are hundreds of Hindi dialects. Pakistan. Hindi was originally a variety of Hindustani spoken in the area of New Delhi. New Zealand. South Africa. Guyana. The Hindi language has been enriched by Persian. Yemen. Nepal.Some Interesting Facts and Figures o o o o o o The Hindi alphabet consists of 11 vowels and 33 consonants. . Farsi. Malaysia. Surinam. Uganda. Today. Hindi is widely spoken in South Asia (India. and Singapore. The Devanagari script used for Hindi is derived from the ancient Brahmi and is closely related to other Indian scripts such as Gujarati and Bengali. Mauritius. Arabic. the USA. and Bhutan). Trinidad. and English. Portuguese.