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(hĭndo͞ostän`ē), subdivision of the Indic group of the Indo-Iranian languages, which themselves form a subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. Some authorities define Hindustani as the spoken form of HindiHindi
, language belonging to the Indic group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. The official language of India, Hindi is the written or literary variant of Hindustani that is used by Hindus.
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 and UrduUrdu
, language belonging to the Indic group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. The official tongue of Pakistan, Urdu is also one of the 15 languages recognized in the 1950 Indian constitution.
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. Others prefer to call Hindi and Urdu written varieties of Hindustani. The term Hindustani can also be used to include some vernacular dialects of northern India. Hindi is the variety of Hindustani used by Hindus; it is also the official language of India. Written in the Devanagari alphabet employed for SanskritSanskrit
, language belonging to the Indic group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Indo-Iranian). Sanskrit was the classical standard language of ancient India, and some of the oldest surviving Indo-European documents are written in
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, Hindi is read from left to right and has a vocabulary that is strictly Indic. Urdu, on the other hand, is the form of Hindustani used by Muslims and is official in Pakistan; it is written in a modified form of the Arabic alphabet, is read from right to left, and has added a number of words borrowed from Arabic and Persian to its originally Indic vocabulary. Despite these differences, both Hindi and Urdu are written variants of the same Indic subdivision, Hindustani. The latter goes back to the Prakrits or vernacular dialects of classical Sanskrit (see Indo-IranianIndo-Iranian,
subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages, spoken by more than a billion people, chiefly in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (see The Indo-European Family of Languages, table).
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) and has been greatly influenced by Sanskrit itself. The grammar of Hindustani is much simpler than that of the older Indic tongues, such as Sanskrit. For instance, the neuter gender, the dual number, and the old case endings for the noun have been discarded. The conjugation of the verb has also been greatly simplified. Instead of prepositions, Hindustani uses postpositions, or particles placed after words to make clear their grammatical function or relationship. Hindustani plays an important role in modern India as a lingua francalingua franca
, an auxiliary language, generally of a hybrid and partially developed nature, that is employed over an extensive area by people speaking different and mutually unintelligible tongues in order to communicate with one another.
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; the number of people who speak or understand Hindustani in India and Pakistan has been variously estimated, but it probably exceeds 400 million persons. Thus Hindustani ranks third in number of speakers, after Chinese and English, among the world's language communities.


See G. H. Fairbanks and B. G. Misra, Spoken and Written Hindi (1966); A. Rai, A House Divided: The Origin and Development of Hindi-Hindavi (1985).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a colloquial language that formed in the Middle Ages from Khari Boli, a dialect spoken in the area around Delhi, Agra, and Meerut. Hindustani came to be used as a lingua franca throughout northern India and in parts of central and southern India. According to a 1975 estimate, there are more than 200 million speakers of Hindustani, which in southern India has acquired a special form called Dakhini, or southern Hindustani. Hindustani has not become established as a literary language, but it has given rise to two literary languages: Urdu, which has undergone Persian and Arabic influence; and Hindi, which has undergone Sanskrit influence.

Hindustani shares a common phonology and grammar with Hindi and Urdu. Its vocabulary differs from that of Urdu in having few Persian and Arabic borowings and from that of Hindi in lacking Sanskrit borrowings. The Hindustani vocabulary consists primarily of indigenous words (Hindi proper or tadbhava) but also contains Old Persian borrowings. “Hindustani” is sometimes used to mean either Urdu or a special colloquial version of Urdu and Hindi.


Zograf, G. A. “Khindi, urdu i khindustani (ob upotreblenii termi-nov).” Kratkiesoobshcheniia In-ta vostokovedeniia, 1956, vol. 18.
Zograf, G. A. Khindustani na rubezhe XVIII-XIX vv. Moscow, 1961.
Shamatov, A. N. Klassicheskii dakkhini: luzhnyi khindustani XVII v. Moscow, 1974.
Harley, A. H. Colloquial Hindustani. London, 1946.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, Hindoostani, Hindostani
1. the dialect of Hindi spoken in Delhi: used as a lingua franca throughout India
2. a group of languages or dialects consisting of all spoken forms of Hindi and Urdu considered together
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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