Hindi - National Language of India

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Introduction

Hindi, an Indo-European language, enjoys the status of being the mother tongue of 366 million people of India (Rahman 2004). It is the National languages of India and is used as the language of administration, media, education and literature in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Elsewhere in India, Hindi is used, along side English, as a second language. Hindi is also spoken in Bangladesh, Belize, Botswana, Canada, Germany, Guyana, Kenya, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Suriname, Trinidad, Uganda, UAE, UK, USA, Yemen, and Zambia. The total count of people, who can speak and understand Hindi, is more than 850 million. (Rahman 2004)

Hindi belongs to the Indo-Aryan family thus is an Indo-European language. It is the 2nd most populous natively spoken language. Modern Hindi has started to emerge in 7th century. it is written in Devanagari script. It has 42 consonants, 11 vowels, 10 digits, etc. It is read from left-to-right. It characters do not have upper and lower cases like English.

Historical Emergence of Hindi Script

The Hindi alphabet known as Devanagri is a simplified version of the alphabet most used for Sanskrit, Nagari (literally “urban”) or Devanagari (“godly urban”) which evolved from the Brahmi writing system used in Ashoka’s times (3rd century BC). During the six following centuries, Brahmi evolved into two distinct subtypes, the northern and the southern ones. Between 6th and 10th century, the northern subtype in the form of the Gupta script used during the Gupta dynasty (4th and 5th century), evolved into a central subtype known as the Kutila (“bent”) or Kutiya, also called Sidhamatrka (“with complete vowels”), a cursive version of the Gupta script. Kutila evolved into early Nagari and proto-Bengali (used for Maithili and modern Bengali) scripts. Early Nagari developed into the modern Nagari (used for Hindi, Marathi, Nepali), Kaithi used by the Kayasth cast of writers and clerks, Gujarati (19th century) and Modi, a cursive type used in Shivaji’s times (18th century) for writing Marathi. Parallel to this northern and central subtype, the western subtype evolved into Sharda, Landa (used by the merchant and clerical Hindu communities in Panjab and Sindh) and Takri (used in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu) scripts. Gurmukhi, a script used for writing Panjabi in India, is a derivation of Sharda, Landa and Takri. Nagri imposed itself as the main regional and then the national (India’s constitution 1950) script for Hindi. (Montaut 2004)

Features of Hindi

Hindi is read and written left-to-right. All graphic systems derived from the Brahmi have been termed syllabic alphabets. Compared with other syllabic scripts like Japanese, Hiragana and Katakana, which have one symbol for [kə] and different symbols for [kə] and [kІ], it is clear that Devanagari, the Hindi  script, is partly syllabic as the graphic symbol for a consonant only inherits the vowel sound [ə]. (Kellogg 1990, Montaut 2004) All other vowels are noted as consonant + vowel diacritical mark e.g. क [k] + ि [І] = कि [kІ], क [k] + ु[U] = कु [kU], etc.
Consonants do not have the upper and lower cases and are always pronounced exactly the same way unlike English. There are 40 consonants in Hindi. All consonants inherit the vowel sound [ə] and the inherent [ə] is silent after the final consonant (Kellogg 1990).
All vowels have two forms except short vowel [ə], one being the diacritical mark and other being the independent character. The diacritical form of a vowel is used when a vowel appears in the middle or at the end of a word or a syllable. Diacritical marks are written before, after, under or above a consonant. The independent character form of a vowel is used, when a vowel occurs at the start of a word or a syllable. The independent form is written as a separate character e.g. in आब [ɑb] (water), vowel sound [ɑ] is represented by the character आ. (Kellogg 1990, Montaut 2004)
The feature that makes Devanagari much more complex is that two or more consonants can be combined together to form a consonant cluster. The cluster form is used to denote the non-intervention of the inherent [ə] or another vowel between two or more consonants e.g. हिन्दी [hІndi] (Hindi), ग्वाला [gvɑlɑ] (cowherd) (consonant clusters are underlined), etc. (Kellogg 1990, Montaut 2004). The cluster form is normally known as ‘Conjunct’. A sample Hindi text in Devanagari is shown below:
हिन्दी हिन्दुस्तान कीरकारी ज़ुबान है.

(Hindi is the official language of India)

Reference

  • Kellogg, S. H. (1990); “A Grammar of Hindi Language” Munshiram Manoharlal Pub. Pvt. Ltd. 2nd Ed. (pp. 1 – 25).
  • Montaut A. (2004); “A Linguistic Grammar of Hindi”, Studies in Indo-European Linguistics Series, München, Lincom Europa.
  • Rahman, Tariq. 2004. Language Policy and Localization in Pakistan: Proposal for a Paradigmatic Shift. Crossing the Digital Divide, SCALLA Conference on Computational Linguistics.
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