The Hindi language (हिन्दी) is one of the standardized registers of the Hindustani language, which also includes Urdu. It is a member of the Indo-Aryan language group and is the most widely spoken of the 22 official languages of India. It is also the official language in nine Indian states, known as the “Hindi Belt.” There are approximately 329 million native speakers of Hindi, along with approximately 215 million non-native speakers, making Hindi the third most spoken language in the world (if grouping Hindi together with Urdu as “Hindustani”), after Mandarin Chinese and English. The word “Hindi” comes from the Persian word “Hind,” which means the “Land of the Indus River.”
Standard Hindi is based on the Khariboli dialect of the Delhi region and originally descended from Vedic Sanskrit. In addition to being the lingua franca in much of northern India, Hindi is also widely spoken by the Indian diaspora in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Some of the largest groups of Hindi speakers outside of India can be found in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, and Uganda. According to the American Community Survey (ACS) in 2016, there are approximately 810,000 speakers of Hindi in the United States, making it the most widely spoken of the Indic languages in the U.S.
While at the spoken, colloquial level, Hindi and Urdu are considered registers of the same language, they differ significantly in literary and technical language. Whereas literary Hindi draws primarily from Sanskrit, literary Urdu draws from Persian and Arabic. Within the Hindi language spectrum, there are a variety of dialects as diverse as the country of India itself. Braj Bhasha is one of the larger dialects of Hindi, spoken in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Haryana. Braj Bhasha is also known to have played a large role in the development of Hindi literature. Other major dialects of Hindi include Haryavani, Bundeli, Awadhi, Bagheli, and Kannauji. Modern Standard Hindi was standardized in the 19th century.
Like its predecessor, Sanskrit, the grammar of Hindi can be quite complex. Hindi follows a subject-object-verb (SOV) word order, with the semantic stress falling on the second to last word in a sentence or clause. However, there are few fixed rules and a high degree of flexibility and variation. Hindi is also a highly inflected language. In addition to tense, words are inflected to express gender, number, person, and case, and words are inflected by adding a new suffix or by changing the sound of the word endings. Hindi nouns include two genders, two noun types (count or non-count), two numbers, and three cases. Nouns are also divided into classes based on marked and non-marked declension.
Verbs in Hindi are generally structured around aspect and tense/mood, with successive layers of inflectional elements following the lexical base. The three aspects in Hindi verbs are perfective, habitual, and continuous, and are inflected for gender and number. Hindi also utilizes compound verbs, which consist of a verb stem and auxiliary verb, and “conjunct verbs,” that are formed by a noun or adjective with a general verbalizer.
One of the key distinguishing factors between Hindi and Urdu lies in the writing systems. Hindi utilizes the Devanagari script, while Urdu uses a modified Perso-Arabic script. The Devanagari script has its roots in the ancient Brāhmī family of scripts and is currently used by approximately 120 languages, making it one of the most widely adopted scripts in the world. The Devanagari script consists of 47 characters, which includes 14 vowels and 33 consonants, and the orthography phonetic, unlike English, and therefore generally represents the pronunciation. It is also written from left to right.
FUN FACTS: English has adopted a number of Hindi loanwords, including avatar, yoga, jungle, bungalow, cheetah, and thug. The Hindi language also has its own holiday, celebrated on September 14th, which commemorates the day when Hindi was declared an official language of the Union of India in 1949.
At Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS), we offer document translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services in Hindi. Whether you need to localize a website from English into Hindi to market your products or services in India, a Hindi interpreter for a video conference in Delhi, or you want to translate public information into Hindi for a local Hindi-speaking Indian community, PGLS is here to help with all of your Hindi language needs.