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Tracing the Origin and Development of Urdu

Tracing the Origin and Development of Urdu
"View from inside the Mughal Akbar's tomb at Fatepur Sikri, India"

Tracing the Origin and Development of Urdu:

Urdu is the official language of Pakistan and is also spoken widely around the world. The word Urdu is derived from the Turkish word “ordu” (army) or “orda”. Tracing the origin and development of the Urdu language would mean looking into the history of Hindi. Hindi and Urdu are closely related, share the same Indo-Aryan base, and are very similar in their phonological and grammatical language.

Urdu has more influence from Arabic and Persian, while Hindi has an impact from Sanskrit borrowings. The writing systems of both languages differ as Urdu uses Perso- Arabic script known as Nastaliq, while Hindi uses Devanagari.

Urdu originated from being a pidginized variety to the Creole Language.

Urdu faced many phases of development throughout the centuries due to the contributions that were made to it. Urdu originated from being a pidgin language, and with developments, it came to be a creole language. The pidginized varieties of language are very functional and operational in the dimensions that they are used in. The groups who come together for contact create a vocabulary for the specific purpose they are interacting for, e.g. trade and business.

Considerable phonological variation for the purpose or goal people interacted for only. The pidgin languages have enough expressions and vocabulary. It is not the native language of any group, which is why they die out soon. Still, a creole language has native speakers and is passed on to the second generation and continues to have developments in it, leading to its own unique phonological and grammatical structure. It was the same case with Urdu, only that it originated from being a pidgin language first.

The arrival and residence of the Muslims in the Subcontinent and their contributions to the Urdu language:

Urdu started to originate and develop in north India around Delhi in about the 12th century. It was based on the language spoken in the region around Delhi. The origin of Urdu is very much attached to the arrival and residence of the Muslims who came to this sub-continent in three capacities, as traders or people in business, as commanders, soldiers or conquerors (the first invader was Muhammad bin Qasim (712 AD)) and as preachers and Sufis.

The contributions made to the development of Urdu for trade or military manoeuvres:

Consequently, a heterogeneous dialect began to emerge as the Muslims and the ancient inhabitants of the sub-continent needed a standard mode of communication due to modern cultural, social and linguistic compulsions. They had to develop a contact language or a pidgin language to meet their interaction needs for trade or military manoeuvres. This interaction among the Muslims and the ancient inhabitants of the sub-continent resulted in the influence of Arabic and Persian, and Turkish on the developing pidgin dialect.

The Contributions to Urdu during Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526) and the Mughal Empire (1526–1858):

The contributions to the development of Urdu by the Conquerers and Writers/Poets:

Hindavi, Dehalvi, Gujri, Dakini, and Rekhta were the names given to the language, which evolved from Hindustani, today’s Hindi and Urdu. The first writer to contribute to Hindavi was Amir Khusro (1255-1325 AD). Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526) and the Mughal Empire (1526–1858) were when contributions were made, and Urdu developed.

The powerful dynasty of Turko-Afghan Delhi Sultanate declared Persian as its official language. This tradition was continued by the mighty Mughal Empire, whose influence spread over much of Northern South Asia from the 16th to the 18th centuries. It was the reason that Persian had a substantial effect on the languages such as Hindi and Urdu. When the Delhi Sultanate expanded south to the Deccan Plateau, the developing language was influenced by the languages spoken in the south, Punjabi and Haryanvi, and Sufi and court usage.

In India, all states were divided based on language. Rekhta remained in use up to Mirza Galib’s age, who later coined  Zaban e Urdu e Mualla during the British era in approximately 1857. Later on, it gradually became Urdu in the Mughal empire by the end of the 18th century when the poets and writers called Urdu the language of Delhi.

Photo Credits: Google

Turkish and Persian was a significant and influential language of the time. The work of khusro referred to Urdu as Hindi. Hindi was mentioned as the language of the region. Still, Punjabi, Gujarati, Dakkani was referred to as the local names for distinction, and Urdu came into existence as a mixture of all such dialects. Still, it originally developed in Delhi and its surrounding area.

Photo Credits: Google

The Reason why English did not influence Urdu:

In the British colonial era, the fully equipped language, English, could not influence Urdu before the partition of India as Urdu was a language of only a particular region and spoken only by Muslims. So it was not powerful enough to come face to face with English. Also, the Muslims hated English, so they did not acquire education as they did not want its influence on their language and beliefs. The division between Urdu and Hindi occurred under the colonial impact with the growing cultural consciousness as part of the processes of political modernization.

The contribution of the Mystics and Sufis on the Urdu Language:

The mystics and Sufis also significantly contributed to developing just a pidgin dialect into a literary language they used to preach Islam that could express all feelings and expressions entirely. The oldest verses date back to the 15th century, but the 18th and 19th centuries are a golden period for Urdu poetry. The Urdu religious prose goes back to centuries while secular writing flourished from the 19th century onward.


Urdu Today:

So, it is found while tracing the Origin and Development of Urdu that Modern Urdu is also spoken by millions of people in India as an independent language. All these phases led to the origin and development of Urdu into a different language with its complex and distinct phonological and grammatical structure, making it a creole language that is spoken as an independent language and by many as their first language today.

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