Hindi is the second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin. It has overtaken both English and Spanish in the nineteen nineties. More than five hundred million people speak the language of Hindi in India and abroad. The total number of people who may be able to understand the language will be in excess of eight hundred million. A recent survey showed that 66% of all Indians can speak Hindi and 77% of Indians regard Hindi as one language across the nation. More than one hundred and eighty million people in India hold Hindi as their mother tongue and another three hundred million use it as second language.
Around the sixth century, there were regional Prakrits in India that were the forerunners of modern Indo Aryan languages. These Prakrits were the Eastern Prakrit or Magadhi, Central Prakrit or Ardhamagadhi, Sauraseni Prakrit or Rajasthani and Northern Prakrit or Khasa Himalayan. There was a group of Himalayan dialects coming from the old Khasa Prakrit and people in the early nineteenth century started adopting a form of Khariboli speech from the Delhi territory which came to be known later as Hindi and it went on to become the principal national language of India.
The Khariboli form of Hindi that was accepted as the official language of India is one of the youngest of the Indian languages. Hindi is a member of the Indo-Persian branch of the Indo-European language family. Although it has been declared as the official language of India, it has met resistance by the Dravidian speaking states of the South. Actually, Hindi proper is only used by some thirty per cent of Indians in northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh.
Hindi is also the State language of Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Hindi is spoken not only in India but also in Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, South Africa, Mauritius, United Kingdom, Surinam, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Yemen, Malaysia and Singapore.
SCRIPT AND GRAMMAR
Hindi has cultural links with Sanskrit which is the classical language of Hinduism and is written from left to right in Devanagiri script. The letters in the Devanagiri script are grouped together based on the way they are pronounced. The first eleven letters are vowels followed by the palatal, the retroflex, the dental and the labial consonants. This division indicates where the consonants are formed in the mouth exactly. In all, there are close to thirty three consonants in all the groups. The vowels come in full vowel and vowel sign forms. The vowel sign is used when a vowel follows a consonant. A full vowel is used if a vowel follows another vowel or when a word starts with a vowel. The vowel signs are written next to the preceding consonant. Hindi uses the same punctuation marks as are used in English except for the full stop that is denoted by a vertical line (I).
VOCABULARY AND SYNTAX
The vocabulary of Hindi is mainly derived from Sanskrit. Hindi uses a word order that is different from English. The main difference is that the verbs are placed at the end of the sentence like in the German language. Hindi also uses postpositions in place of prepositions and they are written after the nouns.
Among the most interesting features of Hindi is a three-tier level of honorifics that allows subtlety in adjusting the levels of communication to apply to intimate, familiar and formal conversational contexts.
STANDARDISATION OF HINDI
After India attained independence, the Government of India standardised Hindi by making the following changes:
• Standardisation of Hindi grammar - In 1954, the Government of India set up a committee for preparing Hindi grammar. The committee’s report was later released as “A Basic Grammar of Modern Hindi” in 1958.
• Hindi spelling was standardised.
• The Devanagiri script was standardised by the Central Hindi Directorate, Ministry of Education and Culture to make the Hindi writing uniform in character and to improve its shape.
• The Devanagiri alphabet was inscribed in a scientific mode.
REGIONAL VARIATION AND DIALECTS
Hindi involves a group of dialects that is spread over a geographical area of thousands of kilometres. The history of the interlinked relationships of these dialects goes back to the Pre-Vedic Age. The Aryan language came to India as a group of dialects spoken by different groups.
Sir Grierson classified the Indian languages like this:
• Outer Languages – Lanhda (Western Punjab) Sindhi, Marathi, Oriya, Bihari, Bangla and Assamese.
• Middle Languages – Eastern Hindi.
• Inner Languages – Western Hindi, Gujarati, Bhili, Khandeshi, Rajasthani and the Pahari group.
Many scholars got together and categorised Maithili, Magahi and Bhojpuri as a single language calling it Bihari and keeping it outside the circumference of Hindi but over the decades, Hindi started including Western Hindi, Eastern Hindi, Bihari, Rajasthani and the Pahari dialects. In the census reports, all these languages and dialects are now included in the purview of Hindi.
The main five Hindi dialects are:
• Western Hindi – Khariboli, Brijbhasha, Bundeli, Hariyanvi, Kannauji and Nimari.
• Eastern Hindi – Awadhi, Bagheli and Chattisgarhi.
• Rajasthani – Marwarhi, Jaipuri, Mewati and Malwi.
• Bihari – Magahi, Maithili and Bhojpuri
• Pahari – Kumauni and Garhwali.
The point to note here is that Khariboli or the Western Hindi dialect has been recognised as the official language of India and accepted by the Constitution. It is also known as Hindustani, Nagar, Kauravi and Sarhindi and is widely spoken around Delhi, Agra, Meerut, Bulandshaher and Ghaziabad.
Hindi did not come into any literary use until the end of the eighteenth century. The literary utilisation started around the early nineteenth century. Around 1325, Amir Khusro had started blending Sanskrit, Farsi and Apabhramsa and gave birth to the precursor of Hindi. He was the author of Khaliq Bari which is a brief dictionary of Persian/Arabic to Sanskrit/Hindi.
In the fifteenth century, Sant Kabirdas also started a neo version of Sanskrit that could be termed as a higher form of Hindi. His disciple Surdas also started turning Sanskrit into Higher Hindi with the new Bhakti movement which revolutionised the literature. Many dohas of Kabirdas that are found in Kabir canon is in pure Bhojpuri which is his native language. Tulasidas, in the early eighteenth century, wrote his Rama Charita Manas in his native Awadhi dialect which was another form of Higher Hindi.
The Awadhi dialect of Hindi was served by a number of Sufi writers who wrote some romantic tales of the folklore type into allegorical plays by assimilating Sufi doctrines. Maulana Daud is the author of the oldest work in this type called `Chandayan’.
Literature in Brijbhasha flourished under the rule of Emperor Akbar and was enhanced by poets and musicians like Tansen who wrote profound songs that were highly poetic, devotional and descriptive.
Like Bengali, Hindi prose owes a lot partially to the efforts of the Christian missionaries to translate religious Biblical texts and of the authorities of Fort William College in Calcutta to prepare textbooks for students. The Schoolbook Society of Agra did a great service for Hindi prose in 1833 by publishing many Hindi text books on different subjects. By 1857, Hindi prose had taken full shape.
Poet Harishchandra of Banaras in 1884 came to be acknowledged as a pioneer writer in Hindi. The next great important event in the development of Hindi was the foundation of the Arya Samaj by Swami Dayanand Saraswati who proclaimed that Hindi was the language to be used for preaching and propaganda in India. The Samaj revived Hindi in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
A great modern Hindi novelist and short story writer is Munshi Premchand (1880-1936). The new style of poetry with Bengali and English influences came about in the second half of the nineteenth century. Some other poets have also left a definite impression on the development of Hindi literature. Among them is Suryakant Nirala. He started a completely new movement in Hindi poetry by freeing the metre from the shackles of rhyme and length. He brought in a modernistic and a mystic touch by introducing Chhayavada meaning shadow school. There was a good deal of influence on Hindi by the Bengali poets, particularly by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.
Education defines the basis of strata in society. The educational background of a person dictates the crucial linguistic variable. After independence, the Sanskritised Higher Hindi became a medium of official discourse and created a difference between ordinary conversation and official communication. The educated sections of the society had access to the standard language that is used on formal occasions.
Hindi became a standard of symbol for power and upward mobility. The educated speakers have no regional characteristics in their language when they are speaking Hindi in a formal situation. Speech will indicate the educational background of a person.
Hindi is affected by a classic situation of duality where two distinct varieties are used in normal circumstances everyday both on public and informal occasions. The situation of Hindi is more complicated than the other regional languages because of these basic styles and there are two superimposed styles in Hindi. The basic style is the language that is used in day to day life and the artificially Sanskritised version for the formal occasions.
Hindi, as the language in daily lives, has evolved in North India as a hybrid that has assimilated the resources of its many dialects. The gap between Hindi and Urdu or Hindustani goes back to the early nineteenth century when the idea of two languages was created by British intervention. Hindi was stripped of Persian and Arabic flavour while Urdu was made full of it. Thus, Hindi became a vernacular with two variations.