Urdu Language

Languages of Pakistan include two official languages, Urdu and English, and regional languages, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri, Brahui, Shina, Balti, Khowar and Burushaski. Most of the languages of Pakistan belong to the Indo-Iranian group of the Indo-European language family.

Urdu

(اردو) is the national language (قومی زبان), lingua franca and one of two official languages of Pakistan (the other being English). Although only about 8% of Pakistanis speak it as their first language, it is spoken and understood as a second language by almost all Pakistanis. Its introduction as the lingua franca was encouraged by the British upon the capitulation and annexation of Sindh (1843) and Punjab (1849) with the subsequent ban on the use of Persian. The decision to make the language change was to institute a universal language throughout the then British Raj in South Asia as well as minimize the influence of Persia, the Ottoman Empire, Afghanistan and Central Asia on this transitional region. Urdu is a relatively new language in the contemporary sense but has undergone considerable modifications and development borrowing heavily on the traditions of older languages like Persian, Arabic, Turkish and local South Asian languages all of which can be found in its vocabulary. According to the linguistic historian Tariq Rahman, however, the oldest name of what is now called Urdu is Hindustani or Hindvi and it existed in some form at least from the 14th century if not earlier (Rahman 2011). It was probably the language of the area around Delhi that absorbed words of Persian and Arabic and, to a much lesser extent, Turkish—the same process that created modern English. This language, according to Rahman, is the ancestor of both modern Hindi and Urdu. These became two distinct varieties when Urdu was first Persianized in the 18th century and then Hindi was Sanskritized from 1802 onwards.

The name Urdu is a short form of 'Zuban-e-Urdu-e-Mualla' i.e. language of the exalted city. In India the term Urdu, although it means 'military camp' in Turkish, was used for the capital city of the king. In other words, the language of the king's capital was a Persianized form of the language usually called Hindi. This was shortened to 'Urdu' and this term was used for the first time in written records by the poet Mushafi in 1780 (Rahman 2011: 49). The British called this language 'Hindustani' and wrote it in both the Perso-Arabic and the Devanagari script. It is widely used, both formally and informally, for personal letters as well as public literature, in the literary sphere and in the popular media. It is a required subject of study in all primary and secondary schools. It is the first language of most Muhajirs (Muslim refugees who fled from different parts of India after independence of Pakistan in 1947), who form nearly 8% of Pakistan's population, and is an acquired language. As Pakistan's national language, Urdu has been promoted to promote national unity. It is written with a modified form of the Perso-Arabic alphabet—usually in Nastaliq script—and its basic Hindustani vocabulary has been enriched by words from Persian, Arabic, Turkic languages and English. Urdu has drawn inspiration from Persian literature and has now an enormous stock of words from that language. In recent years, the Urdu spoken in Pakistan has gradually been influenced by many of the native languages, such as Pashto, Punjabi and Sindhi, in terms of intonation, as well the incorporation of terminology from those languages. As such, the language is constantly developing and has acquired a particularly "Pakistani" flavour that distinguishes it from the language spoken in ancient times and in India. The first poetry in the ancestor of Urdu-Hindi is attributed to Baba Farid Ganj Shakar of Pakpattan (1175-1265), or the Persian poet Amir Khusro (1253–1325), but, since the actual writing of the manuscripts is of a later date, this cannot be said with certainty. Lines in what may be understood as Urdu are scattered in the Persian biographies and conversations of saints (Rahman 2011: 61-65) and the first book of Pashto Khairul Bayan, probably written by Bayazid Ansari between 1560 to 1570, has some pages in the Perso-Arabic script that is written in this language. The image of these pages is displayed by Rahman in his book From Hindi to Urdu (2011: 134-135). The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir (1658–1707) spoke Urdu (or Hindustani) fluently—as did his descendants—while his ancestors mostly spoke Persian and Turkish