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Urdu is the official language of Pakistan and is also widely spoken in India. In Pakistan it is the mother tongue of about 10 million people but is spoken fluently there as a second language by perhaps 100 million more. In India, where it is spoken by some 50 million Moslems, it is one of the official languages recognized by the constitution.
Urdu was originally the variety of Hindi spoken for centuries in the neighborhood of Delhi. In the 16th century, when India fell under Moslem domination, a large number of Persian, Arabic, and Turkish words entered the language via the military camps and the marketplaces of Delhi. Eventually a separate dialect evolved called Urdu (“camp language”), written in Arabic characters with extra letters added for sounds peculiar to Indian and Persian words. This is the most important difference today between Urdu and Hindi, as the latter is written in the Devanagari characters.
After the partition of India in 1947, Hindi became the principal language of India, and Urdu of West Pakistan (now Pakistan). The older term Hindustani, embracing both languages, has fallen into disuse since partition.
Authorized from the original edition of The Languages of the World 3rd edition by Keneth Katzner published by Routledge, a member of the Taylor & Francis Group.
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