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Hindi (हिन्दी)
Spoken in: India
Region: South Asia
Total speakers: 480 million
Ranking: 2
Genetic classification: Indo-European

   Middle Indo-Aryan

Official status
Official language of: India
Regulated by: --
Language codes
ISO 639-1 hi
ISO 639-2 hin

Hindi (हिन्दी) is a language spoken in most states in northern and central India. It is an Indo-European language, of the Indo-Iranian subfamily. It evolved from the Middle Indo-Aryan prakrit languages of the middle ages, and indirectly, from Sanskrit. Hindi derives a lot of its higher vocabulary from Sanskrit. Due to Muslim influence in Northern India, there are also a large number of Persian, Arabic and Turkish loanwords.

Hindi is officially the national language of India.

Linguists think of Hindi and Urdu as the same language, the difference being that Hindi is written in Devanagari and draws vocabulary from Sanskrit, while Urdu is written in Arabic script and draws on Persian and Arabic. The separation is largely a political one; before the partition of India into India and Pakistan, spoken Hindi and Urdu were considered the same language, Hindustani. Hindi and Urdu presently have four standard literary forms: Standard Hindi, Urdu, Dakkhini (Dakhini), and Rehkta . Dakhini is a dialect of Urdu from the Deccan region of south-central India, chiefly from Hyderabad, that uses fewer Persian or Arabic words. Rehkta is a form of Urdu used chiefly for poetry.

Hindi is the second most spoken language in the world, after Chinese. About 500 million people speak Hindi, in India and abroad, and the total number of people who can understand the language may be 800 million. A 1997 survey found that 66% of all Indians can speak Hindi, and 77% of the Indians regard Hindi as "one language across the nation". More than 180 million people in India regard Hindi as their mother tongue. Another 300 million use it as second language. Outside of India, Hindi speakers are 100,000 in USA; 685,170 in Mauritius; 890,292 in South Africa; 232,760 in Yemen; 147,000 in Uganda; 5,000 in Singapore; 20,000 in New Zealand; 30,000 in Germany. Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, is spoken by about 41 million in Pakistan and other countries. Hindi became one of the official languages of India on January 26, 1965 and it is a minority language in a number of countries, including Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and United Arab Emirates.

Hindi is generally classified in the Central Zone of the Indo-Aryan languages. Hindi is the predominant language in the states and territories of Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, as well as the cities of Bombay and Hyderabad. It is not easy to delimit the borders of the Hindi speaking region.


Dialects of Hindi

Some of the East-Central Zone languages, including and Dhanwar , and Rajasthani languages, including Marwari, are also widely considered to be dialects of Hindi. There has been considerable controversy on the status of Punjabi and the Bihari languages, including Maithili, Bhojpuri, and Magadhi.

Hindi's popularity has been helped by Bollywood, the Hindi film industry. These movies have an international appeal and now they have broken into the Western markets as well.

The beginnings of Hindi literature go back to the Prakrits that are a part of the classical Sanskrit plays . Tulasidas's Ramacharitamanas attained wide popularity. Modern masters include Sumitra Nandan Pant , Maithili Sharan Gupta , Mahadevi Varma, Ajneya and Munshi Premchand.

Standardization of Hindi

After independence of India, the Government of India worked on standardizing Hindi, and following changes took place:

  • Standardization of Hindi grammar: In 1954, the Government of India set up a Committee for preparing a grammar of Hindi. The committee's report was later released as "A Basic Grammar of Modern Hindi" in 1958.
  • standardization of Hindi spelling
  • standardization of Devanagari script by Central Hindi Directorate, Ministry of Education and Culture to bring about uniformity in writing and improve the shape of some of its characters.
  • scientific mode of scribing the Devanagari alphabet
  • incorporation of diacritics in to express sounds from other languages

Common difficulties faced in learning Hindi

  • the phonetic mechanism of some sounds peculiar to Hindi (eg. rda, dha etc)
  • the Verbal concordance
  • Post-prositions (ne)
  • Direct and Oblique inflection s
  • Optaive and Conditional moods
  • Compound verbs

Alphabet and Sound System

The Devanagari script represents the sounds of spoken Hindi almost exactly, so that a person who knows the Devanagari letters can sound out a written Hindi text comprehensibly, even without knowing what the words mean.

There are 11 vowels and 35 consonants in Hindi. Their pronunciation and representation is given below:


Devanagari IPA X-SAMPA English example Notes
ʌ [V] bud Open-mid back unrounded vowel. This vowel is inherent in each consonant letter.
ɑː [A(:)] bra Open back unrounded vowel
ɪ [I] bid Near-close near-front unrounded vowel
[i(:)] bead Close front unrounded vowel
ʊː [U] good Near-close near-back rounded vowel
[u(:)] booed Close back rounded vowel
r r[I] ri The consonant r occurring with the vowel i. Its inclusion among vowels is inherited from Sanskrit
e [e(I)] bayed Close-mid front unrounded vowel
a [a] bad Open front unrounded vowel (sometimes as in the dipthong (a + i))
o [o(U)] bode Close-mid back rounded vowel
ɒ [Q] bod Open back rounded vowel (sometimes as in the dipthong (a + u))


Hindi has a rich consonant system, with about 38 distinct consonants. (An exact number cannot be given, since the regional varieties of Hindi differ in the details of their consonant repertoire, and it is unclear to what extent certain sounds that appear only in foreign words should be considered part of Hindi.) The traditional core of the consonant system, inherited from Sanskrit, consists of an almost mathematical matrix of 25 occlusives , in which the airstream through the mouth is completely blocked, and 8 sonorants and fricatives. The system is filled out by 6 sounds that originated in Persian and Arabic, but are now considered Hindi sounds.

The 25 occlusives occur in five groups, with each group sharing the same position of articulation. These positions in their traditional order are: dorso-velar, apico-domal (or retroflex), dorso-palatal , apico-alveolar , and bilabial.

In each position, there are five varieties of consonant, with four oral stops and one nasal stop. An oral stop may be voiced, aspirated, both, or neither. This four-way opposition is the hardest aspect of Hindi pronunciation for a speaker of English.

The voiced, unaspirated stops are mostly easy for English speakers. The initial sounds of "get", "jet", "debt", and "bet" are perfect examples of the dorso-velar, dorso-palatal, apico-alveolar, and bilabial positions, respectively. The apico-domal or retroflex position is the hardest for an English speaker: the apex of the tongue must be curled backward and brought into contact with the dome of the palate, well behind the gum-line.

The 4 resonants are y, r, l, and v. These are all like English, except that r is a tap as in Spanish, not an approximant.

ka, kha, ga, gha, rdaa cha, chha, ja, jha, nya ta, tha da, dha, nda ta, tha da, dha, na pa, pha, ba, bha, ma ya, ra, la, va sha, sha2, sa, ha rda, rdha


  1. the consonant sha2 occurs only in words borrowed from Sanskrit.
  2. the consonants rdaa, rda, rdha, nda and nya never occur in the beginning of a word.
  3. the anuswara (dot placed above a vowel) may represent one of these consonants: rda, nda, na, ma. These are pronounced after the vowel. This style is deprecated. eg. <todo>
  4. the visarga (:) placed after a vowel represents ha.
  5. anuswara (.)and visarga (:) are often influded in list of vowel letters, but according to standardized form of Hindi, they are consonants.
  6. the khutma (dot placed below the consonants) indicate Urdu (from Arabic, and Persian) and English sounds that are not present in Sanskrit. eg. qa, kh (as in Khushbu(fragrance)), gh (as in Ghulam(slave)), z, f, etc.
  7. a chandra-bindu sign placed above a vowel to indicate nasalized vowel (anunasika).
  8. an ardha chandra-bindu placed above the vowel aa indicates 'o' sound of English (as in office, college). Some people also use this sign, placed above a, to indicate 'e' (as in bet) sound of English.

[Unfinished section.]

See also

External links

  • Hindi Wikipedia
  • Hindi Wiktionary
  • Ethnologue on Hindi
  • Generator for Hindi typographical filler text
  • Hindi Language Resources : A comprehensive site built by Yashwant Malaiya.
  • Hindi documents and dictionary
  • International Institute of Information Technologies IIIT , online and downloadable dictionaries cross referenced in English for Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu languages. Includes Classical Hindi Literature, writings of Meera, Suradas, Tulasidas, Premchand, Rahim et cetera.
  • Online Itrans to generate Hindi/Devanagari output.
  • Government of India website
  • Hindi Website of Chinmaya Mission on Vedanta
  • Official Unicode Chart for Hindi (PDF)
  • Hindi Website of Chinmaya Mission
  • Website of Microsoft to Provide Solutions for Hindi Language on net
  • Hindi Editor

Last updated: 02-07-2005 20:47:38
Last updated: 03-18-2005 11:16:12