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Hindi, an Indo-European language spoken mainly in northern and central India, is the primary official language of the Union government of India. It is part of a dialect continuum of the Indic family, bounded on the northwest and west by Punjabi, Sindhi, Urdu, and Gujarati; on the south by Marathi; on the southeast by Oriya; on the east by Bengali; and on the north by Nepali.
Hindi also refers to a standardized register of Hindustani termed khari boli, that emerged as the standard dialect of Hindi. The grammatical description in this article concerns this standard Hindi.
Hindi is often contrasted with Urdu, another standardized form of Hindustani that is the official language of Pakistan and also an official language in some parts of India. The primary differences between the two are that Standard Hindi is written in Devanagari and draws its vocabulary with words from Sanskrit, while Urdu is written in Nastaliq script, a variant of the Perso-Arabic script, and draws heavily on Persian and Arabic vocabulary. The term "Urdu" also includes dialects of Hindustani other than the standardized languages. Other than these, linguists consider Hindi and Urdu to be the same language.
HistoryHindi evolved from Sanskrit, by way of the Middle Indo-Aryan Prakrit languages and Apabhramsha of the Middle Ages. There is no consensus for a specific time where the modern north Indian languages such as Hindi emerged, but c. 1,000 AD is commonly accepted. Over nearly a thousand years of Muslim influence such as when Muslim rulers controlled much of northern India during the Mughal Empire, many Persian and Arabic words were borrowed into Hindi.
Standard HindiAfter independence, the Government of India worked on standardizing Hindi, instituting the following changes:
ClassificationHindi is classified as a language belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. It comes under the Indo-Aryan division of the Indo-Iranian branch of that family of languages.
Demographics AreaHindi is the predominant language in the states and union territories of Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttaranchal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh. Linguistic scholars refer to this area as Hindi belt. Outside these areas, Hindi is widely spoken in cities like Mumbai, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, and Hyderabad, all of which have their own native languages but harbour large communities of people from various parts of India.
Local variations of Hindi are counted as minority languages in several countries, including Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago.
Number of speakersHindi is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, due to the large population of India. According to the 1991 census of India (which encompasses all the dialects of Hindi, including those that might be considered separate languages by some linguists–e.g., Bhojpuri), Hindi is the mother tongue of about 337 million Indians, or about 40% of India's population that year. According to SIL International's Ethnologue, about 180 million people in India regard standard (Khari Boli) Hindi as their mother tongue, and another 300 million use it as a second language. Outside India, Hindi speakers number around 8 million in Nepal, 890,000 in South Africa, 685,000 in Mauritius, 317,000 in the U.S., 233,000 in Yemen, 147,000 in Uganda, 30,000 in Germany, 20,000 in New Zealand and 5,000 in Singapore, while the UK and UAE also have notable populations of Hindi speakers. Hence, according to the SIL ethnologue (1999 data), Hindi/Urdu is the fifth most spoken language in the world. According to Comrie (1998 data), Hindi-Urdu is the second most spoken language in the world, with 333 million native speakers.
Because of Hindi's extreme similarity to Urdu, speakers of the two languages can usually understand one another, if both sides refrain from using specialized vocabulary. Indeed, linguists sometimes count them as being part of the same language diasystem. However, Hindi and Urdu are socio-politically different, and people who self-describe as being speakers of Urdu would question their being counted as native speakers of Hindi, and vice-versa.