28 March 2010

Urdu as example of language development

"Mixed" literary languages eventually become regarded as "umixed" or "monolingual" literary languages. This has been documented extensively in the case of Urdu literature, but the same thing occurs, I suspect, in all literatures. English itself, after all, was never a "pure" language but has always been (and remains up to today) a language that incorporates words, concepts, and even grammar from other languages (think of syllabi and alumni, which should be syllabuses and alumnuses according to English, not Latin, grammar).

Here is an account of the way Urdu started as a mixed language and eventually became a literary language all its own:

"Before the advent of Modern Islam (late 6th Century), Arabs frequented the trade centres of the Indian subcontinent. It is conceivable that along with exchange of goods of trade, they also exchanged words of mutual interest from their languages. In the middle of the 7th Century, during the period of Khalifa Umar the Great, the Iranian Empire (of Yazdigar) fell to Arab Muslims resulting in the Muslim influence being extended up to Mulatto on the western shores of the river Sindh. However, Muslim forces were not able to establish their rule in the area. In 664 AD Muslims invaded India via Kabul and in 715 AD Mohammad Bin Qasim invaded Sindh but did not stay long. Nevertheless in the post-Christ period, those were the starting points in India for the establishment of a new homeland for the people of different culture and linguistic background. Their permanent presence as new communities among the established Indian communities would have necessitated the need of a mixed language. However, up to 1192, we do not have any written record of such a mixed language except in poetry Chand Barvai in his poem 'Parthi Raj Raso,' Dil-pat in his poem 'Khaman Raso' and Tur'pat Naal in his poem 'Bell Dev Raso' used a number of Arabic and Persian words like dunya, per'var'di'gar, salaam with correct pronunciation and some like kalak for khal'q and pai'gam for pai'ghaam, pher'maan for fermaan with modified pronunciation perhaps because of the absence of appropriate alphabets in Bridge Bha'sha to comprehend Arabic and Persian sounds. Again in that period similar examples can be found in the poetry of the Persian poets. They also used words from local Indian languages. In fact Hakim Sa'na'i, a 12th Century Persian poets, never visited India, but still used certain Hindi words.

"Although we find Arabic and Persian words filtering in the local Indian Bha'sha and Prak'rit, up to 1192, we see that, original inhabitants (mostly Hindus) and new settlers (mostly Muslims) formally used their own mother tongues with their scripts for their academic and religious literary pursuits.

"At an early stage the new mixed language was simple and without any formality in its daily use. However, with passage of time, this mixed language became structured and broadened its vocabulary by an increase borrowing of words and phrases from Persian, Turkish and Arabic languages. With little modification it accepted Persian alphabets and its script for itself. The use of these modified Persian alphabets along with the diacritical marks in the script gives to Urdu a unique ability to pronounce correctly the words from Hindi as well as from the foreign languages especially from Persian, Arabic and Persian. One cannot lose sight of several other reasons in the development and evolution of a language. It is important to recognise that there is a distinction between court (political or imperial need), mosque or church (religious need) and bazaar (commercial and days today's common purpose's need). To make a language acceptable elite and populist elements have to be present. The new mixed language developed in the environs of Delhi, the main seat of Muslim rulers (the new settlers) of India had their secular mother tongue Persian and their religious scripture Arabic."

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