Hindustani language

हिन्दुस्तानी   •   ہندوستانی
Native to India, Pakistan. Various countries through immigration.
Native speakers
240 million  (1991–1997)[1]
Second language: 165 million (1999)[2]
Standard forms
Khariboli (Dehlavi)
Perso-Arabic (Urdu alphabet)
Devanagari (Hindi alphabet)
Braille (Hindi Braille and Pakistani Urdu Braille )
Kaithi (historical)
Indian Signing System (ISS)[3]
Signed Urdu
Official status
Official language in
 India (as Hindi, Urdu)
 Pakistan (as Urdu)
Regulated by Central Hindi Directorate (Hindi, India),[4]
National Language Authority, (Urdu, Pakistan);
National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (Urdu, India)[5]
Language codes
ISO 639-1 hi, ur
ISO 639-2 hin, urd
ISO 639-3 Either:
hin – Standard Hindi
urd – Urdu
Glottolog hind1270[6]
Linguasphere 59-AAF-qa to -qf
Areas (red) where Hindustani (Khariboli/Kauravi) is the native language
Areas where Hindi or Urdu is the official language
  Provincial level
  Secondary provincial language
  National level

Hindustani (Hindustani: हिन्दुस्तानी, ہندوستانی[1][7]), historically also known as Hindavi, Dehlvi, Urdu, and Rekhta, is the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan.[8][9] It is an Indo-Aryan language, deriving primarily from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi, and incorporates a large amount of vocabulary from Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit and Chagatai.[10][11] It is a pluricentric language, with two official forms, Modern Standard Hindi and Modern Standard Urdu,[12] which are its standardised registers, and which may be called Hindi-Urdu when taken together. The colloquial languages are all but 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 retaining stronger Persian, Central Asian and Arabic influences, and Hindi relying more heavily on Sanskrit.[13][14] Before the Partition of India, the terms Hindustani, Urdu, and Hindi were synonymous; all covered what would be called Urdu and Hindi today.[15] The term Hindustani is still used for the colloquial language and 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 Subcontinent, such as Fiji Hindi and the Caribbean Hindustani of Suriname and Trinidad.


  • History 1
  • Modern Standard Urdu 2
  • Modern Standard Hindi 3
  • Bazaar Hindustani 4
  • Hindi and Urdu 5
  • Names 6
  • Literature 7
  • Official status 8
  • Hindustani outside South Asia 9
    • "Hindustani" as a term for other Hindi languages 9.1
  • Phonology 10
  • Grammar 11
  • Writing system 12
  • Sample text 13
    • Formal Hindi 13.1
    • Formal Urdu 13.2
  • Hindustani and Bollywood 14
  • Urdu films and Lollywood 15
  • See also 16
  • Footnotes 17
  • Bibliography 18
  • Further reading 19
  • External links 20


Early forms of present day Hindustani emerged from the Middle Indo-Aryan apabhramsha vernaculars of North India in the 7th–13th centuries CE.[16] 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.[16] The Delhi Sultanate, which comprised several Turkic and Afghan dynasties that ruled from Delhi,[17] was succeeded by the Mughal Empire in 1526.

The phrase Zabān-e Urdu-e Mo'alla written in Nasta'liq calligraphy

Although the Mughals were of Timurid (Gurkānī) Turko-Mongol descent,[18] they were Persianized, and Persian had gradually become the state language of the Mughal empire after Babur.[19][20][21][22]

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. The term Hindustani (literally "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 Urdu (properly zabān-e Urdu-e mo'alla "language of the court" or zabān-e Urdu زبان اردو‎, ज़बान-ए उर्दू, "language of the camp" in Persian, derived from Turkic Ordū "camp", cognate with English horde; due to its origin as the common speech of the Mughal army). The more highly Persianized 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,[23] 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 and Punjab such as Delhi, Lucknow, Lahore, 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 Mohammedan invasions 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.[24]

When the British colonized 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,[25] 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.

Modern Standard Urdu

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and an officially recognised regional language of India. It is also an official language in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jammu and Kashmir, National Capital Territory of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal that have significant Muslim populations.

Modern Standard Hindi

Rigveda manuscript in Devanagari (early 19th century)

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. Many scholars today employ a Sanskritised form of Hindi developed primarily in Varanasi, the Hindu holy city, which is based on the Eastern Hindi dialect of that region and thus a separate language from official Standard Hindi. 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[26] 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 Persianized 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:

  1. standardised Hindi as taught in schools throughout India,
  2. formal or official Hindi advocated by Purushottam Das Tandon and as instituted by the post-independence Indian government, heavily influenced by Sanskrit,
  3. the vernacular dialects of Hindustani as spoken throughout India,
  4. the neutralised form of Hindustani used in popular television and films, or
  5. the more formal neutralised form of Hindustani used in broadcast and print news reports.

Bazaar Hindustani

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.

Hindi and Urdu

Although, at the spoken level, Urdu and Hindi are considered