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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...

Hindī • Hĩdī


The Early Modern Hindi poet “Zafar” (1775–1862) wrote
about his final years in Myanmar (Burma) to which the
British colonial authorities had banished him in 1857 as
India’s last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah.

Language information: Hindi is one of the foremost languages of the world in terms of number of speakers: approximately 337 million in 1991 (undoubtedly more now). Of these, approximately 180 million lived in India, and the rest were scattered throughout the world with the largest communities residing in Nepal (ca. 8 million), South Africa (ca. 890,000), Mauritius (ca. 685,000), USA (ca. 317,000), Yemen (ca. 233,000) and Uganda (ca. 147,000). The figure 337 million includes speakers of Urdu; Hindi and Urdu being considered two dialect groups of the same “Hindi-Urdu” or “Hindustani” language. In addition, there are tens of millions of Indians who use Hindi as a non-native language. Specific dialects of Hindi have been evolving in overseas locations and in some of these are recognized as minority languages, such as in Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, South Africa, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
     Many people, typically North Indians, believe or assume that Hindi is the official national language of India, next to English. However, this notion tends to be rejected by non-Hindi-speaking Indians who point to an additional twenty languages that are official in various parts of India, not counting Urdu as a separate language.* Nevertheless, many continue treating Hindi as the de facto national language, which includes politicians addressing all-India audiences in Hindi rather than in interregionally more neutral English, much to the chagrin of many.
     Hindi is an official state language in Bihar, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh. It is also a widely used city language in states with other official languages, such as in the large metropolitan areas of Mumbai (or Bombay, in predominantly Marathi-speaking Maharashtra), Chandigarh (capital of predominantly Punjabi-speaking Punjab and Punjabi- and Hindi-speaking Haryana), Ahmedabad (in predominantly Gujarati-speaking Gujarat), Hyderabat (in predominantly Telugu-speaking Andhra Pradesh) and Kolkata (or ALL languages and dialects are beautiful, precious gifts. So cherish yours and others! Share them with the world!Calcutta, in predominantly Bengali-speaking West Bengal).
     Exposure to Hindi among non-native speakers all over the world is in great part due to India’s enormous and growing motion picture industry (“Bollywood”) that primarily produces Hindi language light entertainment musicals with great mass appeal.
     Hindi is surrounded by more or less closely related Indo-Aryan Prakrit languages on something like a language continuum: Punjabi, Sindhi, Urdu, Gujarati, Marathi, Oriya, Bengali and Nepali, aside from ancestral Sanskrit as a language of religion and traditional learning, all of them written with the same script (Devanāgarī) or with related scripts. Like these other languages, Hindi has absorbed numerous foreign influences, from early non-Indo-European (mostly Munda and Dravidian) substrates via Persian (including Arabic) influences to English influences. In more recent times, increasing Arabic borrowings in Urdu and increasing Sanskrit borrowings in Hindi have widened the lexical divide between these two Hindustani dialect groups, one used mostly by Moslems and the other mostly by Hindus, and the use of the Arabic script for Urdu and the Devanagari script for Hindi contribute to the separation.
     Since independence in 1947, the Indian government has been working on standardizing Hindi, especially since the 1950s. A distinctive “high” variety known as Khariboli has been evolving, and most Hindi-speaking Indians consider this their native language, “Hindi” and “Khariboli” (or “Khadiboli”) being virtually synonymous to most. (“Urdu,” on the other hand, includes a large range of dialects.) However, Hindi, or rather “Hindustani,” has in fact a great deal of variety, and some groups of varieties that are by some considered dialect groups of Hindi are by others considered separate languages (for instance Rajasthani and Bhojpuri). The name “Hindustani” is often specifically used to denote a variety and style that is neutral between Hindi and Urdu. Within Standard Hindi, there is also a rather artificial “re-Indianized” variety known as “Shuddh(a) Hindi;” it avoids Persian, Arabic and English loans and instead uses Sanskrit loans. Several specific and variously influenced varieties of Hindi have evolved outside the traditional language area as well, such as the Marathi- and Gujarati-influenced dialect of Mumbai (“Bambaiya Hindi”), the Bhojpuri- and Bengali-influenced dialect of Kolkata (“Kalkatiya Hindi”), the Bhojpuri-based and foreign-influenced varieties of Mauritius, South Africa, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, the Awadhi-based variety of Fiji, and the variously based and Tadjik-, Uzbek- and Russian-influenced varieties of Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan.

Most languages of the Indian subcontinent have a dental and
a retroflex consonant series where European languages have
only one. Most Germanic and Slavonic languages have only
an alveolar series for t, d, n, r and l, most Romance and
Celtic languages only a dental one.

               Like closely related languages, Hindi has two noteworthy phonological features: aspiration of both voiceless and voiced plosives and, probably owing to an ancient Munda or Dravidian substrate, a retroflex series of consonants. Furthermore, it has two contrastive series of consonants where European languages have only one. It has a dental series (in which the tip of the tongue touches the front teeth) and a retroflex series (in which the tip of the tongue is bend back or upward to touch an area behind the alveolar ridge). They lack a corresponding alveolar series, which is the default in Germanic languages. In rendering loanwords and names from English and other Germanic languages, speakers of Hindi and related languages thus must choose dental or retroflex substitution. Interestingly, they tend to choose the retroflex series since it sounds more closely related to them. This is why retroflexion is a striking characteristic of South Asian “accents” in English.
* India’s official languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Maithili, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu. (Underlined names are those of Indo-Aryan and thus Indo-European languages.)

Genealogy: Indo-European > Indo-Iranian > Indo-Aryan > Central > Hindustani

Historical Lowlands language contacts: English, Dutch

    Click to open the translation: [Click] Click here for different versions. >

Author: Reinhard F. Hahn

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