Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India. A popular misconception is that it is the National Language in India, which it is not. Interestingly, the Indian Constitution does not name any language as its National Language because the people who framed it were aware of the high diverse nature of Indian population and their languages. Hindi enjoys the distinction of being in the Top 10 languages spoken in the world by number of people. Verbally one portion of it is quite similar to Urdu, but mainly it derives itself from Devanagiri, from which the language Sanskrit is also derived.

Okay, some clarifications. Devanagari is not a language, but a way of writing, an alphabet. Sanskrit was written in the Devanagari script, as is Hindi, Nepali and a few other languages. The Urdu language is grammatically identical (ok, nearly) to Hindi, but is written in the Persian script (modified to include sounds not in Persian but in Hindi and Urdu). Both languages are so similar grammatically and in vocabulary that together they are called Hindustani. My family (Hindi-speaking) regularly watches Pakistani TV in Urdu and no one needs translation. It sounds different, but it makes sense. The real reason they are considered different languages, in my opinion, is political.

Hindi comes from Sanskrit, sort of. Actually it comes from "vulgar Sanskrit" like the Romance languages come from vulgar Latin.

The difference between Hindi and Urdu is mostly lexical. Hindi, especially in the coinage of new words, looks to Sanskrit (and English of course). Urdu, besides English, looks to Persian and lately Arabic.

Hin"di (?), n. [Prop. a Per. adj. meaning, Indian, Hindoo.]

The name given by Europeans to that form of the Hindustani language which is chiefly spoken by native Hindoos. In employs the Devanagari character, in which Sanskrit is written.



© Webster 1913.

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