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About Urdu Language

Urdu (Urdu: اُردوُ, Hindi: उर्दू ; IPA: [ˈʊrduː]) is a Central Indo-Aryan language of the Indo-Iranian branch, belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. It is one of the two official languages (the other being English) of Pakistan. It is also one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of five Indian states. Its vocabulary developed under Persian, Arabic and Turkic. In modern times Urdu vocabulary has been significantly influenced by English. Urdu was mainly developed in western Uttar Pradesh, India, which is the seat of Hindustani languages in the Indian Subcontinent, but began taking shape during the Delhi Sultanate as well as Mughal Empire (1526–1858) in South Asia. Urdu is the means of communication between the people from various provinces and regions of Pakistan, and the Pakistanis and Indians too. Due to historical affinities and a large number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Urdu is already read, understood and spoken by most Afghans.

Language scholars independently categorize Urdu as a standardized register of Hindustani (literally translated means belonging to Hindustan) termed the standard dialect Khariboli. The grammatical description in this article concerns this standard Urdu. In general, the term "Urdu" can encompass dialects of Hindustani other than the standardised versions. The original language of the Mughals was Chagatai, a Turkic language, but after their arrival in South Asia, they came to adopt Persian. Gradually, the need to communicate with local inhabitants led to a composition of Sanskrit derived languages, written in the Perso-Arabic script and with literary conventions and specialised vocabulary being retained from Persian, Arabic and Turkic; the new dialect was eventually given its own name of Urdu.

The word Urdu is believed to be derived from the Turkic or Mongolian word 'Ordu', which means army encampment.It was initially called Zabān-e-Ordu-e-Mu'alla "language of the Exalted Camp" (in Persian) and later just Urdu. It obtained its name from Urdu Bazar, i.e. encampment (Urdu in Turkic) market, the market near the Red Fort in the walled city of Delhi.

Standard Urdu has approximately the twentieth largest population of native speakers, among all languages.

Urdu is often contrasted with Hindi, another standardised form of Hindustani. The main differences between the two are that Standard Urdu is conventionally written in Nastaliq calligraphy style of the Perso-Arabic script and draws vocabulary more heavily from Persian and Arabic, while Standard Hindi is conventionally written in Devanāgarī and draws vocabulary from Sanskrit comparatively more heavily. Most linguists nonetheless consider Urdu and Hindi to be two standardized forms of the same language; others classify them separately, while some consider any differences to be sociolinguistic. It should be noted, however, that mutual intelligibility decreases in literary and specialized contexts. Furthermore, due to religious nationalism since the partition of British India and consequent continued communal tensions, native speakers of both Hindi and Urdu increasingly assert them to be completely distinct languages.

Speakers and geographic distribution

There are between 60 and 80 million native speakers of standard Urdu (Khari Boli). According to the SIL Ethnologue (1999 data), Urdu اردو/Hindi is the fifth most spoken language in the world. According to George Weber’s article Top Languages: The World’s 10 Most Influential Languages in Language Today, Hindi/Urdu is the fourth most spoken language in the world, with 4.7 percent of the world's population, after Mandarin, English, and Spanish.

Due to interaction with other languages, Urdu has become localized wherever it is spoken, including in Pakistan itself. Urdu in Pakistan has undergone changes and has lately incorporated and borrowed many words from Pakistani languages like Pashto, Punjabi and Sindhi, thus allowing speakers of the language in Pakistan to distinguish themselves more easily and giving the language a decidedly Pakistani Flavour. Similarly, the Urdu spoken in India can also be distinguished into many dialects like Dakhni (Deccan) of South India, and Khariboli of the Punjab region since recent times. Because of Urdu's similarity to Hindi, speakers of the two languages can usually understand one another at a basic level if both sides refrain from using specialized vocabulary. Some linguists count them as being part of the same language diasystem. and contend that they are considered as two different languages for socio-political reasons. It learned as a second or third language. Nearly 93% of Pakistan's population has a mother tongue other than Urdu. Despite this, Urdu was chosen as a token of unity and as a lingua franca so as not to give any native Pakistani language preference over the other. Urdu is therefore spoken and understood by the vast majority in some form or another, including a majority of urban dwellers in such cities as Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Abbottabad, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Quetta and Sargodha. It is written, spoken and used in all Provinces/Territories of Pakistan despite the fact that the people from differing provinces may have different indigenous languages, as from the fact that it is the "base language" of the country. For this reason, it is also taught as a compulsory subject up to higher secondary school in both English and Urdu medium school systems. This has produced millions of Urdu speakers from people whose mother tongue is one of the State languages of Pakistan such as Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Potwari, Hindko, Pahari, Saraiki, and Brahui but they can read and write only Urdu. It is absorbing many words from the regional languages of Pakistan. This variation of Urdu is sometimes referred to as Pakistani Urdu. So while most of the population is conversant in Urdu, it is the mother tongue only of an estimated 7% of the population, mainly Muslim immigrants (known as Muhajir in Pakistan) from different parts of South Asia (India, Burma, Bangladesh etc.). The regional languages are also being influenced by Urdu vocabulary. There are millions of Pakistanis whose mother tongue is not Urdu, but since they have studied in Urdu medium schools, they can read and write Urdu along with their native language. Most of the nearly five million Afghan refugees of different ethnic origins (such as Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazarvi, and Turkmen) who stayed in Pakistan for over twenty-five years have also become fluent in Urdu. With such a large number of people(s) speaking Urdu, the language has in recent years acquired a peculiar Pakistani flavour further distinguishing it from the Urdu spoken by native speakers and diversifying the language even further.

A great number of newspapers are published in Urdu in Pakistan, including the Daily Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt, Millat, among many others (see List of newspapers in Pakistan).

In India, Urdu is spoken in places where there are large Muslim minorities or cities which were bases for Muslim Empires in the past. These include parts of Uttar Pradesh(Awadh), Areas of Former State of Hyderabad and cities namely Lucknow, Delhi, Meerut,Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee, Deoband, Moradabad, Bijnor, Najibabad, Rampur, Aligarh, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Agra, Kanpur, Badaun, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Mysore, Patna, Gulbarga, Nanded, Bidar, Ajmer, and Ahmedabad. Some Indian schools teach Urdu as a first language and have their own syllabus and exams. Indian madrasahs also teach Arabic as well as Urdu. India has more than 3,000 Urdu publications including 405 daily Urdu newspapers. Newspapers such as Sahara Urdu, Daily Salar, Hindustan Express, Daily Pasban, Siasat Daily, The Munsif Daily and Inqilab are published and distributed in Bengaluru, Mysore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai (see List of newspapers in India).

Outside South Asia, it is spoken by large numbers of migrant South Asian workers in the major urban centres of the Persian Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. Urdu is also spoken by large numbers of immigrants and their children in the major urban centres of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Australia. Along with Arabic, Urdu is among the immigrant languages with most speakers in Catalonia.

Official status

Urdu is the national and one of the two official languages (Qaumi Zabaan) of Pakistan, the other being English, and is spoken and understood throughout the country, while the state-by-state languages (languages spoken throughout various regions) are the provincial languages. It is used in education, literature, office and court business. It holds in itself a repository of the cultural and social heritage of the country. Although English is used in most elite circles, and Punjabi has a plurality of native speakers, Urdu is the lingua franca national language in Pakistan.

Urdu is also one of the officially recognised languages in India and has official language status in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh,Chattisgarh and the national capital, New Delhi.

The importance of Urdu in the Muslim world is visible in the Holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, where most informational signage is written in Arabic, English and Urdu, and sometimes in other languages. Despite being the national language of Pakistan, it is not native to the country, but was introduced by Urdu-speaking immigrants from India. Urdu was not spoken as a native language in the area that would become Pakistan before the Partition of India, although it was taught as literary language.

Dialects

Urdu has four recognised dialects: Dakhni, Pinjari, Rekhta, and Modern Vernacular Urdu (based on the Khariboli dialect of the Delhi region). Sociolinguists also consider Urdu itself one of the four major variants of the Hindi-Urdu dialect continuum.

Dakhni (also known as Dakani, Deccani, Desia, Mirgan) is spoken in Deccan region of southern India. It is distinct by its mixture of vocabulary from Marathi and Telugu language, as well as some vocabulary from Arabic, Persian and Turkish that are not found in the standard dialect of Urdu. In terms of pronunciation, the easiest way to recognize a native speaker is their pronunciation of the letter "qāf" (ﻕ) as "kh" (ﺥ). Dakhini is widely spoken in all parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Urdu is read and written as in other parts of India. A number of daily newspapers and several monthly magazines in Urdu are published in these states.

Pakistani variant of the language spoken in Pakistan; it becomes increasingly divergent from the Indian dialects and forms of Urdu as it has absorbed many loan words, proverbs and phonetics from Pakistan's indigenous languages such as Pashto, Panjabi and Sindhi. Furthermore, due to the region's history, the Urdu dialect of Pakistan draws heavily from the Persian and Arabic languages, and the intonation and pronunciation are informal compared with corresponding Indian dialects.

In addition, Rekhta (or Rekhti), the language of Urdu poetry, is sometimes counted as a separate dialect.

Levels of formality

Urdu in its less formalised register has been referred to as a rekhta (ریختہ, [reːxt̪aː]), meaning "rough mixture". The more formal register of Urdu is sometimes referred to as zabān-e-Urdu-e-mo'alla (زبان اردو معلہ [zəbaːn eː ʊrd̪uː eː moəllaː]), the "Language of Camp and Court".

The etymology of the word used in the Urdu language for the most part decides how polite or refined your speech is. For example, Urdu speakers would distinguish between پانی pānī and آب āb, both meaning "water" for example, or between آدمی ādmi and مرد mard, meaning "man". The former in each set is used colloquially and has older Hindustani origins, while the latter is used formally and poetically, being of Persian origin.

If a word is of Persian or Arabic origin, the level of speech is considered to be more formal and grand. Similarly, if Persian or Arabic grammar constructs, such as the izafat, are used in Urdu, the level of speech is also considered more formal and grand. If a word is inherited from Sanskrit, the level of speech is considered more colloquial and personal.

That distinction has likenesses with the division between words from a French or Old English origin while speaking English.

Politeness

Urdu is supposed to be a subtle and polished language; a host of words are used in it to show respect and politeness. This emphasis on politeness, which is reflected in the vocabulary, is known as adab and to some extent as takalluf in Urdu. These words are generally used when addressing elders, or people with whom one is not acquainted. For example, the English pronoun 'you' can be translated into three words in Urdu the singular forms tu (derogatory) and tum (informal and showing intimacy called "apna pan" in Urdu) and the plural form āp (formal and respectful).

Vocabulary

Urdu has a vocabulary rich in words with Indic and Middle Eastern origins. The language's Indic base has been enriched by borrowing from Persian and Arabic. There are also a small number of borrowings from Turkish, Portuguese, and more recently English. Many of the words of Arabic origin have different nuances of meaning and usage than they do in Arabic. Other words have exactly the same pronunciation, spelling, and meaning. For instance, the words "Sawaal" (lit. "Question") and "Jawaab" (lit. "Answer") are exactly the same in both Urdu and Arabic.

History

Urdu developed as local Indo-Aryan dialects came under the influence of the Muslim courts that ruled South Asia from the early thirteenth century. Its Indo-Aryan vocabulary has been enriched by borrowings from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, English and other Indian languages.

The official language of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, and their successor states, as well as the cultured language of poetry and literature, was Persian, while the language of religion was Arabic. Most of the Sultans and nobility in the Sultanate period were Turks from Central Asia who spoke Turkic as their mother tongue. The Mughals were also from Central Asia, they spoke Turkish as their first language; however the Mughals later adopted Persian. Persian became the preferred language of the Muslim elite of north India before the Mughals entered the scene. Babur's mother tongue was a Turkic language and he wrote exclusively in Turkish. His son and successor Humayun also spoke and wrote in this Turkic language. Muzaffar Alam, a noted scholar of Mughal and Indo-Persian history, suggests that Persian became the lingua franca of the empire under Akbar for various political and social factors due to its non-sectarian and fluid nature. The influence of these languages on Indian apabhraṃśas led to a vernacular that is the ancestor of today's Urdu. Dialects of this vernacular are spoken today in cities in Pakistan and in some places throughout northern India. Cities with a particularly strong tradition of Urdu include Delhi, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Karachi and Lahore.

 

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