The history of the Hindi language is a long and complex one. It is classed as an Indo-European language, though standard Hindi stems, within this, from the Hindustani language branch.
Hindustani is derived from the word Hindustan, which is the Persian name for India, though the majority of the vocabulary and grammar comes almost entirely from Sauraseni. This is a medieval language used in central India from the 3rd to the 10th centuries AD. Sauraseni spawned multiple languages from the various dialects that were used throughout the country, and Hindi itself is from the khariboli dialect split.
The timeline for Hindi is relatively complex, on account of the various dialects that exist in India, but also from the many surrounding countries that have influenced the language. The 1947 partition of India saw Hindustani deliberately separated into two standard dialects, Urdu and Standard Hindi. Standard Hindi, which is what this article is discussing, was defined as it exists today in 1958 by the Central Hindi Directorate. When this split occurred, certain changes were made to make the language more useful, such as standardizing the vocabulary, and replacing many Persian loan words with Sanskrit. As such, Hindi is a sanskritized version of the original khariboli dialect.
The Hindi language was envisioned to be the sole language within governments and bureaucratic matters, but due to resistance from many individual areas of India that wanted to keep their traditional languages, English is also still used very widely. Both Hindi and English are still used for official documentation.
There are 22 official languages in India, with Hindi being the primary language that is used, for official matters. It is very difficult to tell exactly how many people speak Hindi, and whether it is their first or second language, because Hindi can refer to the language of Standard Hindi or it can also refer to other Hindi dialects, such as Khariboli Hindi. However, the latest estimate puts the figure at around 260 million speakers. How many of these are Standard Hindi speakers, it is impossible to tell, but it is theorized that it is around the figure of 180 million.
The country of India is comprised of many states, like the U.S. is. Each state has an official language, and Hindi is the official language of many of these states, such as Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Delhi. These states might also have other languages that are officially used, such as Urdu, but Hindi is their main language. Similarly, Hindi is the co-official language of many other states.
In addition to this, Hindi is also spoken in many places around the world. There are many communities of Hindi speakers in such countries as the UK, the US, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Myanmar, Canada, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Africa, Uganda, and New Zealand. It is a language that has travelled far.
In its modern form, Standard Hindi has taken most of its formal vocabulary from the Sanskrit language. Sanskrit itself is used with respect in both the Hindu and Buddhist religions as their primary liturgical language. However, this form of Standard Hindi is usually only used for official documents and broadcasting, with many people in their day to day lives still using a more hybrid language of Hindi, Persian, Arabic, Urdu, and English.
Urdu and Hindi are very similar, as they have the same root language and have not been spoken as separate languages for very long compared to the entire Hindustani history. When the correct and formal versions of these languages are spoken, then it is very difficult to tell the difference between them. However, in a more informal setting, Hindi has many more Sanskrit influences, while Urdu has many more Persian and Arabic. From the partition in 1947, Hindi is now associated with Hindu people, while Urdu is associated with Muslims, but prior to this, these languages were used almost interchangeably.
There are five categories of words in the Hindi language, which are Tatsam, Ardhatatsam, Tadbhav, Deshaj, and Videshi. Tatsam indicates words that have come directly from the Sanskrit without change, while Ardatatsam indicates words that have come from Sanskrit but have been subsequently changed. Tabhav words are words that originate from the Sanskrit but are spelled differently. Deshaj are words that were colloquialisms and now form common speech, and Videshi are words that are borrowed linguistically from places other than the Indo-Aryan language family.
Why Learn The Hindi Language?
India is a heavily populated country, the second most populated in the world. By learning the Hindi language, you are really learning to communicate with a lot of people. As well as being a language of India, Hindi is a language of the Hindu religion, meaning that if you wish to learn more about the Hindu religion then the language of Hindi is probably a good place to start.
Bollywood, the Indian film industry, produces thousands of films a year, in an incredibly prolific manner. Often referred to as Hindi cinema, as this is the language that the cinema industry uses the most, Bollywood films are an excellent way to expand your film knowledge. The majority of the films are either not translated, or translated relatively poorly for an international market, and so understanding the Hindi language will really help you to appreciate the poetry of these films. Many modern films also contain English words or phrases, with even the occasional song, making this language a fun one to learn through the medium of film.
Hindi literature, similarly, is rich and wonderful. There are four kinds of style to Hindi writing, which are Bhakti, Shringar, Veer-Gatha, and Adhunik. These loosely translate respectively as Devotional, To Beauty, For Brave Warriors, and Modern. If you have an interest in literature, or poetry, the Hindi language is an excellent one to open many new doors to you.