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Hindustani (हिन्दुस्तानी, , , , literally: 'of Hindustan'), Hindostani or Hindi-Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language that spans several closely related dialects in Pakistanmarker and northern Indiamarker. Hindustani is sometimes considered the lingua franca of India and Pakistan.

Hindustani incorporates a large vocabulary taken from several source languages of South, Central and Western Asia, such as Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and Turkic. A close parallel has been observed with the English language, which has developed an extensive vocabulary by similarly drawing upon Germanic, Latin and Celtic sources.

"Hindustani is the basis" of the two national languages, Standard Hindi and Urdu, which are standardized register of it. Standard Hindi and Urdu are nearly identical in grammar and share a basic common vocabulary but differ in literary conventions and specialised vocabulary with Urdu retaining Persian, Arabic and Turkic, and Hindi relying heavily on Sanskrit. Before the Partition of British India, the terms Hindustani, Urdu and Hindi were synonymous; all covered what would be called Urdu and Hindi today. Although Hindustani is based largely on the Khariboli dialect, it is distinct from Khariboli and also includes several nonstandard dialects of the Hindi languages.


Hindustani emerged from the Middle Indo-Aryan apabhramsha vernaculars of North India in the 7th-13th centuries CE. Amir Khusro, in the late 13th century, used the Hindustani linuga franca in his writings and referred to the language as Hindavi.

Towards the end of the Mughal period, with the fragmentation of the empire and the elite system, Urdu came to gradually replace Persian as the lingua franca among the educated elite in Northern India, though Persian still retained much of its pre-eminence.. For socio-political reasons, though essentially a variant of Khariboli with Persian vocabulary the emerging prestige dialect becomes known as Urdu (properly zabān-e Urdu-e mo'alla "language of the court").

Originally the term Hindustani ("of Hindustan") was the name given by the Turco-Persian Mughal conquerors of India to Khariboli, the local form of Hindavi at their capital, Delhimarker, and nearby cities. As a contact language between the two cultures, Hindustani absorbed large numbers of Persian, Arabic, and Turkic words, and with further Mughal conquest it spread as a lingua franca across northern India. Written in the Perso-Arabic Script, 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 it achieved the status of a literary language, along with Persian, in the Muslim courts. In time it came to be called Urdu (zabān-e Urdu , ज़बान-ए उर्दू, "language of the camp" in Persian, derived from Altaic Ordū "camp", cognate with English horde), and as the highly Persianized court language, Rekhta, or "mixed".

When the British conquered India from the late 1700s through to the late 1800s, they used the words 'Hindustani' and 'Urdu' interchangeably. They developed it as the language of administration of British India, further preparing it to be the official language of modern Indiamarker and Pakistanmarker.

In recent times, the word Hindustani has been used for the intentionally neutral language of Bollywood films, which are popular in both India and Pakistan.


Urdu is the national language of Pakistanmarker and an officially recognized regional language of Indiamarker. It is also an official language in the Indian states of Andhra Pradeshmarker, Jammu and Kashmirmarker, National Capital Territory of Delhi, and Uttar Pradeshmarker which have significant Muslim populations in India. The word "Urdu" derives from the more formal Persian phrase zabān-e Urdu-e mo'alla, meaning the "language of the camp". The language began as the common speech of soldiers serving Mughal lords. The term became transferred to the court language of the Mughal aristocracy, whose dialect was based on the upper-class dialect of Delhimarker. Urdu's historical development was centered on the Urdu poets of the Mughal courts of north Indian metropolises such as Delhi, Lucknowmarker, Lahoremarker, and Agramarker. Urdu is written using a modified form of the Arabic script known as the Perso-Arabic script.


Standard Hindi, the official language of Indiamarker, 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 influence than Urdu. Many scholars today employ a Sanskritized form of Hindi developed primarily in Varanasimarker, the Hindu holy city, which is based on the Eastern Hindi dialect of that region.Hindustani, is spoken and written in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka by millions of people, mixed with Marathi, and local Dravidian languages. It is called Deccani Urdu. 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 Deccan Plateau.Note that the term "Hindustani" has generally fallen out of common usage in modern India, except to refer to a style of Indian classical music prevalent in northern India. The term used to refer to the language is "Hindi", regardless of the mix of Persian or Sanskrit words used by the speaker. One could conceive of a wide spectrum of dialects, with the highly Persianized Urdu at one end of the spectrum and a heavily Sanskrit based dialect, spoken in the region around Varanasimarker, at the other end of the spectrum. In common usage in India, the term "Hindi" includes all dialects, except the Urdu end of the spectrum. Thus, the different meanings of the word "Hindi" include, among others:
  1. standardized 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/Hindi-Urdu as spoken throughout India,
  4. the neutralized form of the language used in popular television and films, or
  5. the more formal neutralized form of the language 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 standardized 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

While, at the spoken level, Urdu and Hindi are considered dialects of a single language (or diasystem), they differ vastly in literary and formal vocabulary; where literary Urdu draws heavily on Persian and Arabic, literary Hindi draws heavily on Sanskrit and to a lesser extent Prakrit. The grammar and base vocabulary (most pronouns, verbs, adpositions, etc.) of both Urdu and Hindi, however, are the same and derive from a Prakritic base.

The associated dialects of Urdu and Hindi are known as "Hindustani". It is perhaps the lingua franca of the west and north of the Indian subcontinent, though it is understood fairly well in other regions also, especially in the urban areas. A common vernacular sharing characteristics with Urdu, Sanskritized Hindi, and regional Hindi, Hindustani is more commonly used as a vernacular than highly Arabicized/Persianized Urdu or highly Sanskritized Hindi.

This can be seen in the popular culture of Bollywood or, more generally, the vernacular of Pakistanis and Indians which generally employs a lexicon common to both "Urdu" and "Hindi" speakers. Minor subtleties in region will also affect the 'brand' of Hindustani, sometimes pushing the Hindustani closer to Urdu or to Hindi. One might reasonably assume that the language spoken in Lucknowmarker, Uttar Pradeshmarker (known for its beautiful usage of Urdu) and Varanasimarker (a holy city for Hindus and thus using highly Sanskritized Hindi) is somewhat different.

Hindustani, if both Hindi and Urdu are counted, is the third or second most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin and possibly English.

Official status

Hindustani, in its standardized registers, is the official language of both India (Hindi) and Pakistan (Urdu).

Urdu, the original standardized register of Hindustani, is the national language of Pakistanmarker, where it shares official language status with English. Although English is used in most elite circles, and Punjabi has a plurality of native speakers, is the lingua franca and is expected to prevail. is also one of the official languages of Indiamarker, and in the Indian states of Andhra Pradeshmarker, Biharmarker, Delhimarker, Jammu and Kashmirmarker, Uttarakhandmarker and Uttar Pradeshmarker, has official language status. While the government school system in most other states emphasises Modern Standard Hindi, at universities in cities such as Lucknowmarker, Aligarhmarker and Hyderabadmarker, is spoken and learned and is regarded as a language of prestige.

Hindi, the other standardized register of Hindustani, is declared by the Constitution of India as the "official language (rājabhāshā) of the Union" (Art. 343(1)) (In this context, 'Union' means the Federal Government and not the entire country - India has 23 official languages). At the same time, however, the definitive text of Federal laws is officially the English text and proceedings in the higher appellate courts must be conducted in English. See Official languages of India. At the state level, Hindi is an official language in nine out of the 28 Indian states (namely Uttar Pradeshmarker, Biharmarker, Jharkhandmarker, Uttarakhandmarker, Madhya Pradeshmarker, Rajasthanmarker, Chhattisgarhmarker, Himachal Pradeshmarker, and Haryanamarker). In the remaining states Hindi is not an official language. In the state of Tamil Nadu studying Hindi is not compulsory in the state curriculum. However an option to take the same as second or third language does exist. In many other states, studying Hindi is usually compulsory in the school curriculum as a third language (the first two languages being the state's official language and English), though the intensiveness of Hindi in the curriculum varies.

In Fijimarker, Hindustani has official status under Fiji's Constitution, along with Bau Fijian and English; citizens of Fiji have the constitutional right to communicate with any government agency in any of the official languages, with an interpreter to be supplied on request.

Hindustani was the official language of the British Raj up until the partition of India in 1947; the term was a synonym for Urdu.

Hindustani outside South Asia

Besides being the lingua franca of South Asia , Hindustani is spoken among people of the South Asian diaspora and their descendants.

Fijian Hindustani descends from one of the eastern forms of Hindustani, called Awadhi, as well as the Bhojpuri dialect. It has developed some unique features that differentiate it from the spoken on the Indian subcontinent, although not to the extent of hindering mutual understanding. It is spoken by nearly the entire Indo-Fijian community, 38.1% of Fiji's entire population, regardless of ancestry.

Hindustani speakers have a significant number of speakers in South American countries such as Surinamemarker and Guyanamarker, and Caribbeanmarker countries such as Trinidad & Tobagomarker and Belizemarker. The formal name of the language spoken in this region is generally called Caribbean Hindustani or Caribbean Hindi, although the Caribbean countries may add an adjective in front of the language name (i.e. Sarnami Hindustani) even though most individuals commonly refer to it as just Hindustani or Hindi. One major country in which Hindustani is spoken is Surinamemarker. Sarnami Hindustani is the second most spoken language in Suriname after Dutch. This is due to the emigration of East Indians (known locally as Hindoestanen in Suriname) from the Indian states of Bihārmarker and Uttar Pradeshmarker located in North India. The emigration was mainly of Bhojpuri speaking people which has led to the local Hindustani language having various Bhojpuri words and phrases from other Bihari languages. Ethnic Indians form 37% of the population in Suriname, the largest ethnic group there. Hence, Hindustani is spoken frequently in Suriname and Indian culture plays a major role there in general. Hindustani is also spoken among ethnic Indians of Guyana and is popular there as South Asians make up around 45% of Guyana's total population.

Parya (which was called Tadj-Uzbeki or Tajuzbeki by Bholanath Tivari), refers to the Hindustani dialect spoken by Indian immigrants from the 13th century onwards in the border region of Tajikistanmarker and Uzbekistanmarker, especially in the environs of Hisormarker, Shehr-e-nau, Regar/Tursunzodamarker and Surchi, located in the Gissar Valley of Tajikistan and the Surkhandarya basinmarker of Uzbekistan. It is based on the Braj, Hariyani and Rajasthani dialects, and is highly influenced by Uzbek, Tajik and Russian languages.

Hindustani also has a significant number of speakers in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East due to immigration by the people of Indiamarker and Pakistanmarker to these continents and regions. In South Africa, Kenyamarker and other parts of Africa, older descendents of 18th century sugar cane workers also speak a variety of Bhojpuri as their second language.

Hindustani was also spoken widespread in Burmamarker during British rule as the main language of the administration. Many older Burmesemarker, particularly the Anglo-Indians and Anglo-Burmese of the country, still speak the language although it has no official status in the country since military rule.

Also see: Fiji Hindi


Standard or shuddha ("pure") Hindi derives much of its formal and technical vocabulary from Sanskrit while standard Urdu derives much of its formal and technical vocabulary from Persian. Standard Hindi and Urdu are used only in public addresses and radio or TV news, while the everyday spoken language in most areas is one of several varieties of Hindustani, whose vocabulary contains words drawn from Persian and Arabic. In addition, spoken Hindustani includes words from English and other languages as well.

Vernacular and Hindi are practically indistinguishable. However, the literary registers differ ; in highly formal situations, the languages are intelligible to speakers of the other. It bears mention that in centuries past both Sanskrit and Persian have been regarded as the languages of the elite, even by those of differing ethnic and religious backgrounds.

There are four principal categories of words in Hindustani:
  • tatsama (तत्सम/تتسم same as that) words: These are the words which have been directly lifted from Sanskrit to enrich the formal and technical vocabulary of Hindi. Such words (almost exclusively nouns) have been taken without any phonetic or spelling change. Among nouns, the tatsam word could be the Sanskrit uninflected word-stem, or it could be the nominative singular form in the Sanskrit nominal declension.
  • tadbhav (तद्भव/تدبھو born of that) words: These are the words that might have been derived from Sanskrit or the Prakrits, but have undergone minor or major phonetic and spelling changes as they appear in modern Hindi. They also include words borrowed from the other languages.
  • deshaja (देशज/دیشج local): words that are unrelated to any Sanskrit words, and of local origin.
  • videshi (foreign): Loan words from non-Indian languages that include Arabic, Persian, Turkic, Portuguese or English.

Excessive use of tatsam words sometimes creates problems for most native speakers. The educated middle class population of India may be familiar with these words due to education, but less-educated persons or people of rural backgrounds lack familiarity with more formal registers. The issue also exists with high-register vocabulary borrowed from Persian and Arabic.

Writing system

Contemporarily, Hindustani is primarily written in the Devanagari script or the Perso-Arabic script. However, the Kaithi script was the historical popular script for the language. Hindi, one standardized register of Hindustani, utilizes the Devanagari script while Urdu, the other standardized register of Hindustani utilizes the Perso-Arabic script, with Nasta`liq being the preferred calligraphic style for Urdu.

Perso-Arabic script used to write Hindustani (Urdu):
جھ ڄ ج پ ث ٺ ٽ ٿ ت ڀ ٻ ب ا
ڙ ر ذ ڍ ڊ ڏ ڌ د خ ح ڇ چ ڃ
ڪ ق ڦ ف غ ع ظ ط ض ص ش س ز
ي ه و ڻ ن م ل ڱ گھ ڳ گ ک
* *
Devanagari script used to write Hindustani (Hindi):
a ā i ī u ū e ai o au
ख़ ग़
ड़ ढ़
फ़ ॿ

Because of Anglicization and international use of the Roman script, Hindustani is also sometimes written in the Roman alphabet. This adaptation is called Roman Urdu. Despite opposition from Devanagari and Perso-Arabic script lovers, Roman Urdu is gaining popularity especially among the youth, who use the Internet or are "cyber-citizens."

Also see: Devanagari alphabet and Perso-Arabic script



Hindustani and Bollywood

The Indian film industry, Bollywood, located in Mumbaimarker (Bombay), Maharashtramarker, uses dialects of Khariboli of Hindi-Urdu, Awadhi, Rajasthani, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, and quite often Bambaiya Hindi (along with many English words) for the dialoguies and songs in the movies produced. These movies are full of songs and dances—songs, some of them in the Urdu Shayari style.

Generally the name of the movie is shown in three scripts Roman Script, Devanagari (used for Hindi) and Perso-Arabic (script of Urdu). Many lyrics are in Urdu for songs. Movies based on Delhi Sultanate period or on the Mughal Empire are full of Urdu words. Movies like Mughal-e-Azam has used purely Urdu dialogues. Mythological movies of Hindus generally contain pure Hindi vocabulary which are not there in Urdu language. So, it would be better to call Bollywood as Hindi-Urdu film industry.

Urdu Films and Lollywood

The Pakistani Film industry, centred historically in Lahoremarker has seen a rise in Punjabi movies lately. Urdu languages have seen a surge throughout Pakistanmarker specifically Karachi, with new age films and to a lesser extent in Islamabadmarker and Lahore.

See also

Alphabetically arranged


  1. Hindi By Yamuna Kachru
  2. Students' Britannica: India Select essays By Dale Hoiberg, Indu Ramchandani page 175
  3. The Oxford English Dictionary
  4. Writing systems By Florian Coulmas page 232
  5. The World's Most Widely Spoken Languages
  6. See Official_languages_of_India#Languages_currently_used_by_Indian_states_and_union_territories
  7. See Government of India: National Policy on Education. Also see Anti-Hindi agitations.
  8. Indian critiques of Gandhi By Harold G. Coward page 218


  • Asher, R. E. (1994). Hindi. In Asher (Ed.) (pp. 1547–1549).
  • Asher, R. E. (Ed.). (1994). The Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. Oxford: Pergamon Press. ISBN 0-08-035943-4.
  • Bailey, Thomas G. (1950). Teach yourself Hindustani. London: English Universities Press.
  • Chatterji, Suniti K. (1960). Indo-Aryan and Hindi (rev. 2nd ed.). Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay.
  • Dua, Hans R. (1992). Hindi-Urdu as a pluricentric language. In M. G. Clyne (Ed.), Pluricentric languages: Differing norms in different nations. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-012855-1.
  • Dua, Hans R. (1994a). Hindustani. In Asher (Ed.) (pp. 1554).
  • Dua, Hans R. (1994b). Urdu. In Asher (Ed.) (pp. 4863–4864).
  • Rai, Amrit. (1984). A house divided: The origin and development of Hindi-Hindustani. Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-561643-X.

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