Urdu / اردو زبان

There are approximately 100 million Urdu speakers around the world. It is the official language of Pakistan, along with English, and is officially recognised by the constitution of India, where it is spoken by approximately 48 million people. It is spoken and understood in parts of Bangladesh, Nepal, the Middle East, and many other countries with established Pakistani communities. The Urdu speaking community in the UK numbers about four hundred thousand.


There is a three tiered system of politeness called ādāb which features in Urdu syntax and vocabulary, and due to its emphasis on politeness and propriety, Urdu has long been considered an aristocratic language within South Asia, which has meant that it is often the preferred language for song-writing and poetry, even by non-native speakers.

Did You Know?

The earliest known text in Urdu is the book سب رس [Sabras], written in 1635-36 by Mullah Asadullah Wajhi. It is a mystical romance translated from a Persian text which was written about two centuries earlier.

Modern Urdu is very closely related to Hindi, as they both have roots in the Hindustani language, also known as Hindi-Urdu, which is believed to have developed from the Middle Indic languages of northern India between the 7th and 13th centuries.

The languages share a similar phonology, grammar and basic vocabulary. In spoken form they are effectively identical and mutually intelligible. The primary difference occurs in the written form, as Urdu came under a heavy Arabic and Persian influence in its development while Hindi turned to Sanskrit sources as a basis for its written form. Further differences can be found in terms of vocabulary in that Urdu has borrowed many words from the Persian and Arabic languages which are not commonly found in Hindi.

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