Hindi Language History
The Hindi language is widely regarded as the language of India. Despite the country having 22 official languages, Hindi is the most widely spoken. More than 425 million people speak Hindi as their primary language, and an additional 120 million are learning Hindi as a second language in India. Besides English, Hindi writing is also used for all official communications since the Indian Union Government adopted the Hindi language in 1950.
The process through which the Hindi language became the language of India is fascinating. It is an Indo-European language primarily spoken in northern and central India, a region known as the Hindi Belt. It is a member of an Indic dialect continuum bordering Nepali to the north, Punjabi to the northwest, Sindhi to the west, Urdu to the southeast, Gujarati to the southwest, Marathi to the southeast, and Oriya to the east.
The Hindi language is known as the Delhi dialect of this language continuum. Although people had been learning Hindi and writing Hindi for hundreds of years, it was overshadowed by Urdu. The Urdu language was the language of India until the War of Independence, after which Hindi took over. Aside from speakers in India, there are Hindi-speaking populations in surrounding countries, the US, South Africa, and Fiji. In fact, it is the 3rd most spoken language in the world!
This article delves into the exciting history of the Hindi language in more detail. We look at its origins, traced back to the 8th century AD through ancient Hindi writing. We then tell the story of how Hindi became the language of India, its current geographic distribution, and its writing systems and alphabet. If you’re interested in learning Hindi language history, you’re in the right place!
Origin of the hindi language
The Hindi language is a direct descendant of Sanskrit and dates back to 769 AD. The language gained prominence over time, known initially as Old Hindi and spoken in the areas around Delhi. It is the earliest stage of the Delhi dialect, serving as the ancestor both for Modern Hindi and Urdu. This first version of the language was written in the Devanagari script.
Between the 8th and 10th centuries (during the time of Islamic invasions and the formation of Muslim control in Northern India), the Afghans, Persians, and Turks adopted Old Hindi as a shared tongue of interaction with the local populace around Delhi. With time, the language evolved and adopted loanwords from Arabic and Persian. They account for around 25% of Hindi vocabulary today!
Speaking and learning Hindi as a first language was popular in the 13th and 15th centuries, around the same time that early Hindi writing in literature surfaced. Examples of famous literature written in the Hindi language include Prithviraj Raso and the works of Amir Khusrow. This version of the language went by several different names over the years, including Hindi, Hindustani, Dahlavi, and Hindavi, or –more simply – the language of India.
Modern “hindi Language”
The modern version of the Hindi language didn’t emerge until the end of the 18th century, and it wasn’t officially made the language of India until 1950. After receiving official status, the Government of India started standardising grammar and orthography to improve uniformity in Hindi writing. The number of people learning Hindi also increased as the language was used for official publications.
Before the Hindi language gained official status, the official language used in British India was Urdu. The Urdu language is another descendant of the Delhi dialect, but it is written using a Persian script and was mainly used by the elite and the courts. However, there was a push against Urdu after the War of Independence in 1857 against the British East India Company to replace it with the Hindus’ own language: Hindi.
In 1900, the Government of India granted both the Hindi language and Urdu languages equal status. Hindi soon became the primary source for formal vocabulary, but there was still a divide. Gandhi proposed combining languages using the Persian and Devanagari scripts as Hindustani. However, the formation of the Indian Constitution in 1950 saw Modern Hindi replace Urdu.
Hindi Language Alphabets
The Hindi language is written in a script known as Devanagari. It is widely used across India to write many languages, including Sanskrit, Marathi, Boro, Konkani, and – of course – Hindi. It contains 11 vowels and 33 consonants and is not entirely phonetic. This makes Hindi writing one of the more challenging features of the language for non-native speakers.
Romanisation of the language of India has made Hindi learning somewhat easier. The Government of India has started transliterating Hindi written in Devanagari into the Latin alphabet, known as “Hinglish.” Hinglish is also the dominant form of the language online. In fact, the rise of technology is one significant driver of the shift in the Hindi writing system; keyboards and phones are much better equipped for writing Latin letters than intricate Devanagari characters.
Nevertheless, Devanagari remains the official script for the Hindi language. This writing system is also what sets Hindi apart from other related languages, such as Urdu. When speaking Hindi and Urdu, the two languages sound very similar—yet written versions are not mutually intelligible! While Hindi is written in Devanagari, Urdu is written in a Perso-Arabic script called Nastaliq.
Hindi is not the sole language of India—there are 22 official languages in the country. However, the Hindi language is the lingua franca of Northern India and the most widely spoken, with 40%-55% of the population speaking Hindi as a first or second language. The language is extensively spoken throughout cities like Mumbai, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, and Hyderabad.
Hindi language speakers in India can be roughly divided into two major dialect groups: Eastern Hindi and Western Hindi. Eastern Hindi primarily consists of Awadhi, Bagheli, and Chhattisgarhi dialects. Haryanvi, Brajbhasha, Bundeli, Kanuji, and Khariboli are the Western Hindi dialects. Hindi writing is consistent across dialects, but there are phonological and pronunciation differences.
The Hindi language is not only used in India, either! The second-largest group of Hindi speakers are in Nepal, along with 650,000 speakers in the US and 450,000 speakers in Mauritius. Fiji, Guyana, Suriname, South Africa, Trinidad, and Tobago also classify Hindi as a minority language. Besides, as more people are learning Hindi, the distribution of speakers is increasing.
Hindi Translation Services
There are 22 official Indian languages, but Hindi is the language of India used by most of the population. For this reason, having your content translated professionally into the Hindi language is beneficial for any expanding business. It ensures that people in the Indian market understand your content and that your message is delivered according to cultural standards.
At Renaissance Translations, we have a team of professional Hindi translators. Each is a master of Hindi writing and speaking and has been learning Hindi since birth! They can translate text accurately, professionally, and quickly, regardless of whether you need translation, localisation, or proofreading services. Additionally, we offer services in various niches, including marketing, law, and finance. To discuss your unique Hindi translation project, contact us today.