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Hindi Language

Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language (a branch of the Indo-European family of languages) which is considered to be the fifth most widely spoken language of the world. It is spoken primarily in the so-called ‘Hindi Belt’ states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. Besides being the official language of these states, it is also one of the two official languages of government of India along with English. Although there is significant number of speakers of the standard variety of the language but distinctive varieties of the language i.e. the non-standard forms are also spoken by large populations in megapolis of Kolkata, Mumbai and Hyderabad and now increasingly in Chennai, Bangalore and Pune. According to the 2001 census, it is spoken by 422,048,642 speakers which include the speakers of its various varieties and variations of speech grouped under Hindi. It is also spoken by a large population of Indian diaspora settled not only across countries such as Guyana, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Mauritius and South Africa, but also in Europe, North America, Australia and Middle East.

The issue of enumerating and classifying varieties (or dialects[1]) of Hindi has always been complex and onerous task for scholars objectively dealing with Hindi linguistic space. Grierson (1906) has divided Hindi into two groups: Eastern Hindi and Western Hindi. Between the Eastern and the Western Prakrits there was an intermediate Prakrit called Ardhamagadhi. The modern representative of the corresponding Apabhransh is Eastern Hindi and the Shaurseni Apabhransh of the middle Doab is the parent of Western Hindi. In the Eastern group Grierson discusses three varieties: Awadhi, Bagheli, and Chattisgarhi. In the Western group, he discusses five varieties: Hindustani, Brajbhasha, Kanauji, Bundeli, and Bhojpuri. Eastern Hindi is bound on the north by the languages of Nepal and on the west by various varieties of Western Hindi, of which the principal are Kannauji and Bundeli. On the east, it is bound by the Bhojpuri variety under Bihari group and by Oriya. On the South it meets forms of the Marathi language. Western Hindi extends to the foot of the Himalayas on the north, south to the valley of Yamuna, and occupies most of Bundelkhand and a part of central India on the east side.

The Hindi region is traditionally divided into two groups: Eastern Hindi and Western Hindi. The main varieties of Eastern Hindi are Awadhi (north-central and central Uttar Pradesh), Bagheli (north-central Madhya Pradesh and south-central Uttar Pradesh) and Chattisgarhi (south-east Madhya Pradesh and northern and central Chhattisgarh). The Western Hindi varieties are Haryanvi or Bangaru (Haryana and some areas of National Capital Region), Brajbhasha (western Uttar Pradesh and adjoining districts in Rajasthan and Haryana), Bundeli (west central Madhya Pradesh), Kanauji (west-central Uttar Pradesh) and vernacular Hindustani or Kauravi (spoken in north and northeast of Delhi. The varieties spoken in the regions of Bihar (Maithili[2], Bhojpuri, Magahi etc.), in Rajasthani (Marwari, Mewari, Malvi etc.) and some varieties spoken in the northwestern areas of Uttar Pradesh (Garhwali, Kumauni etc), and Himachal Pradesh (PahaRi) were separated from Hindi proper (Shapiro, 2003). Now, all of these varieties are also covered under the label Hindi. The standard variety of Hindi recognised by the government and promulgated by its various agencies is based on a western variety commonly known as Khari Boli (established speech) which has a history of long established educated use in the urban centres of north India (McGregor 1972).

Hindi is widely used in newspapers, television and music. It has a thriving film industry located in Mumbai.

[1] In linguistic literature the term dialect is falling out of favor because of the negative connotations associated with it in colonial contexts

[2] Recognized as an independent scheduled language in 2001 Census

Subpages (1): Hindi Alphabets