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Urdu ( اردو)

Spoken in

Pakistan , India , Afghanistan , Bangladesh , Nepal , United Arab Emirates , United Kingdom , Iran
speaker 95 million native speakers
approx. 250 million in total
Official status
Official language in Pakistan , India ( Delhi , Jammu and Kashmir , Ladakh , Uttar Pradesh , Bihar and Telangana )
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


Areas in which Urdu (often alongside other languages) has an official status as an official language: Pakistan as well as the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh , Bihar , Telangana and the Indian Union territories of Delhi , Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh Other Indian states in which Urdu is occasionally spoken but does not enjoy the status of an official language.

Urdu ( listen ? / I ) ( Persian :Audio file / audio sample اردو DMG urdū ; short forزبان اردو معلہ DMG zabān-i urdū-yi muʿalla , German 'language of the royal camp' ) is an Indo-Aryan language and belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family .


Urdu is the national language as well as the official language in Pakistan and some Indian states with a high proportion of Muslims . In Pakistan only about 7% speak it as their mother tongue , i.e. about 14 million inhabitants. These are descendants of Muslims who immigrated from India, so-called muhajirs . However, in addition to English , Urdu is increasingly being used as the lingua franca between the individual regional languages , is well represented in the media and is a compulsory subject in all schools. As a result, the majority of Pakistanis speak Urdu as a second or third language.

In India it is one of the 22 officially recognized constitutional languages and is spoken mainly in the regions of Delhi , Telangana , Uttar Pradesh , Uttarakhand . In Afghanistan , the majority of the population speaks Urdu because of the great popularity of Indian and Pakistani films. In addition, several million war refugees who lived for years in Pakistan and learned Urdu there have returned to their Afghan homeland. Urdu is also used in poetry in Afghanistan and is taught as a foreign language in Afghan schools. In East Pakistan, now Bangladesh , Urdu was the official language alongside Bengali. Since the population did not want to identify with Urdu as a language, the “anti-Urdu protest” in Dhaka, which in 1971 led to the country's independence, triumphed. Urdu is offered as a school subject in Bangladesh. In addition, a minority of former refugees from Bihar who moved to what was then East Pakistan in the course of the partition of India, speak Urdu as their mother tongue in Bangladesh.

In Great Britain, a large proportion of the 1.2 million British Pakistanis speak Urdu, and most of the approximately 900,000 Muslims of Indian descent also speak . Migration from Pakistan and India also made Urdu one of the most widely spoken languages ​​in the United Arab Emirates.

There are around 95 million native Urdu speakers worldwide, with second speakers the number increases to up to 250 million. Estimating second language speakers is difficult because Urdu and Hindi are almost identical on a simple everyday language level and the 370 million native Hindi speakers understand Urdu on this simple level without having to learn it. In Pakistan, the number of second speakers is difficult to estimate, as the literacy rate is only 56.4% and there are no figures available that adequately speak Urdu.

The term “Urdu” is of Turkish origin and related to Turkish “Ordu” (“army”).


Urdu emerged as an educational language at the time of the Sultanate of Delhi and the Mughal Empire on the South Asian subcontinent (today: Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and parts of Afghanistan) as the Perso - Arabic writing style of the standard language of the Hindustani dialect continuum . The focus of development was the rule of Akbar (1556–1605), in whose huge migrant farms and field camps (up to 70 km in circumference) a multi-ethnic mix of Persians (Persian, the official language of northern India for 300 years during the Mughal period ), northern Indians ( Panjabi , Hindi ), Mongols ( Mongolian ), Turks ( Turkish ) etc. moved.

Political consequences of the introduction as an official language in Pakistan

The decision of the Pakistani government to use Urdu as the only official language led to resistance in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh ), where almost exclusively Bengali was or is spoken, and to the emergence of the oppositional Bengali language movement . On February 21, 1952, an anti-Urdu demonstration in Dhaka claimed several lives when police fired into the crowd. The Feb. 21 was subsequently amended by UNESCO for International Mother Language Day explained.

Relationship between Urdu and Hindi, script

Urdu and Hindi are sociolects or situolects (formal or informal idiom ) of one and the same language, Hindustani , which has developed in northern India since the 13th century in a complex process that has lasted centuries from elements of indigenous prakritic languages as well as a Persian, sometimes Arabic and Chagataisch-Turkish superstrat developed.

A secondary process of differentiation began in the 19th century, during which the social elite resorted to Sanskrit or Persian vocabulary depending on the situation . As a result of the state division of British India into India and Pakistan (1947), this differentiation continued in an intensified form, so that Urdu and Hindi are to be viewed as independent extension languages from an ethno-political point of view .

Hindi is written in Devanagari script and from left to right, Urdu in Arabic-Persian script (for example Nastaʿlīq ) and from right to left.

Traditionally, Urdu is considered to be the “more sophisticated” of the two languages ​​and is also known as the “language of poetry”. (For the differences between Hindi and Urdu, see Hindustani .) In conversations in everyday life, the differences do not cause any significant communication problems even today, not least because Hindi speakers often prefer words of Persian or Arabic origin to neologisms adopted from Sanskrit in everyday use.


Urdu contains a large proportion of loanwords from Persian , Arabic and Portuguese . From Portuguese come e.g. B. the words cabi (from "chave": key), girja (from "igreja": church), kamra (from "cámara": chamber), almari (from "armario": cupboard), sabun (from "sabão" : Soap), balti (from "balde": bucket), qamīz (from "camisa": shirt), mez (from "mesa": table). Over time, Urdu has continued to incorporate loanwords from Turkish and English .


Urdu uses a variant of the Persian alphabet , which in turn is a variant of the Arabic alphabet . Two systems are common for transliteration , depending on whether an orientalist uses the transcription of the Arabic alphabet according to DIN 31635 or an Indologist uses it to describe the sounds of Indian languages ​​according to the ISO 15919 standard he is used to.

alphabet Surname German equivalent Pronunciation in IPA Orientalistic
according to DIN 31635
according to ISO 15919
ا ālif a, at the beginning of the word also i and u [ə, ɑ] - ā, at the beginning of the word: a, i, u
(depending on pronunciation)
ب be b [b] b b
پ pe p [p] p p
ت te t ( plosive dental ) [t̪] t t
ٹ ṭe t ( retroflex ) [ʈ]
ث se sharp S [s]
ج jīm dsch [dʒ] ǧ j
چ ce ch [tʃ] č c
ح baṛī he H [H] H H
خ xe ch in Bach [x] H x, kh
د dāl d ( plosive dental ) [d̪] d d
ڈ ḍāl d ( retroflex ) [ɖ]
ذ zāl soft s [z]
ر re Tongues-R [r] r r
ڑ aṛe Tongues-R ( retroflex ) [ɽ] ŕ
ز ze soft s [z] z z
ژ zhe soft sch [ʒ] ž ż
س sīn sharp S [s] s s
ش shin sch [ʃ] š ś
ص suād sharp S [s] s
ض zuād soft s [z] z
ط toe t [t]
ظ zoe soft s [z]
ع 'ain e [ɑ], [ʔ], [ə], [-] ʿ ʿ
غ ghain Suppository R [ɣ] G G
ف fe f [f] f f
ق qāf k, q [q] q q
ک kāf k [k] k k
گ gāf G [G] G G
ل lām l [l] l l
م mīm m [m] m m
ن now n [n] n n
ں nūn ġunna Nasalization [̃] ̃ (tilde above the nasal vowel)
و vā'o w, v, vowels [v], [u], [ʊ], [o], [ow] w v, o, ū, au (depending on pronunciation)
ہ , ﮩ, ﮨ choṭī he H [h], [-] End of word: [ɑ] H h, at the end of the word: a
ھ do cashmī he aspiration

of consonants

[ʰ], [ʱ] H H
ء hamzah Voting set ;
separates two vowels
from each other,
otherwise mute
[ʔ], [-] ʾ ʾ
ی choṭī ye j, vowels e, i [j], [i], [e], [ɛ] y y, ī (depending on pronunciation)
ے baṛī ye Vowel e, ä [eː], [æ] y e, ai (depending on pronunciation)

Language example

Universal Declaration of Human Rights , Article 1:

تمام انسان آزاد اور حقوق و عزت کے اعتبار سے برابر پیدا ہوۓ ہیں۔ انہیں ضمیر اور عقل ودیعت ہوئی ہے۔ اسلیۓ انہیں ایک دوسرے کے ساتھ بھائی چارے کا سلوک کرنا چاہیۓ۔
Tamām insān āzād aur ḥuqūq-o ʿizzat ke ėʿtibār se barābar paidā hū'e haiṅ. Inheṅ żamīr aur ʿaql vadīʿat hū'ī hai. Isli'e inheṅ ek dūsre ke sāth bhā'ī čāre kā sulūk karnā čāhi'e.
All people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should meet one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Individual evidence

  1. See Steingass
  2. ^ Peter Austin (September 1, 2008): One thousand languages. Living, endangered, and lost. University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-25560-9 , pp. 120 ff.
  3. February 21, Mother tongue day: Dead and injured 50 years ago in East Bengal on .uebersetzerportal.de from February 21, 2002.
  4. ^ Paul Teyssier: História da Língua Portuguesa , p. 94. Lisboa 1987

Web links

Commons : Urdu  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Urdu  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations