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Image:Hindi.png {{Infobox Language |name=Hindi |nativename=हिन्दी hindī |familycolor=Indo-European |states=India |region=South Asia |speakers=480 million native, 800 million total |rank=2 |fam2=Indo-Iranian |fam3=Indo-Aryan |writing system=Devanāgarī |nation=India (the Union government) |agency=Central Hindi Directorate [1] |iso1=hi|iso2=hin|iso3=hin|notice=Indic}}

Hindi (हिन्दी hindī), an Indo-European language spoken mainly in North, Central, and West India, is the national language of India. It is part of a dialect continuum of the Indo-Aryan family, bounded on the northwest and west by Panjābī, Sindhī, and Gujarātī; on the south by Marāthī; on the southeast by Orīyā; on the east by Bengālī; and on the north by Nepālī. Seeing the popularity of Hindi, BBC World Service started News in Hindi in 1940.

Hindi also refers to a standardized register of Hindustani that was made one of the official languages of India. The grammatical description in this article concerns this standard Hindi.

Hindi is often contrasted with Urdū, another standardized form of Hindustani that is the official language of Pakistan and also an official language in some parts of India. The primary differences between the two are that Standard Hindi is written in Devanāgarī and has supplemented some of its Persian and Arabic vocabulary with words from Sanskrit, while Urdu is written in Nastaliq script, a variant of the Persio-Arabic script, and draws heavily on Persian and Arabic vocabulary. The term "Urdu" also includes dialects of Hindustani other than the standardized languages. Other than these, linguists consider Hindi and Urdu to be the same language.



Hindi is classified as a language belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. It comes under the Indo Iranian branch, in the Indo-Aryan sub-branch.



Hindi is the predominant language in the states and territories of Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttaranchal, Jharkhand, and Chattisgarh. It is spoken and understood in Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan,Maharashtra and Kashmir, states that otherwise have their own native languages. It is also widely spoken in the cities of Lucknow, Mumbai, Delhi, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderbad, all of which are cosmopolitan cities harboring large communities of people from various parts of India.

Local variations of Hindi are counted as minority languages in several countries, including Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Number of speakers

Hindi is one the most widely spoken languages in the world, due to the large population of India. According to some estimates, about 500 million people in India and abroad are native speakers of Hindi and the total number of people who understand the language may be as high as 800 million. According to the 1991 census of India (which encompasses all the dialects of Hindi, including those that might be considered separate languages by some linguists—e.g., Bhojpuri), Hindi is spoken by about 337 million people in India as the mother tongue, which makes up about 40 % of India's 1991 population. According to ethnologue, about 180 million people in India regard Standard Hindi as their mother tongue. Another 300 million use it as second language. Outside India, Hindi speakers number 8 million in Nepal, 890,000 in South Africa, 685,000 in Mauritius, 317,000 in the U.S.[2], 233,000 in Yemen, 147,000 in Uganda, 30,000 in Germany, 20,000 in New Zealand and 5,000 in Singapore, while the UK and UAE also have large populations of Hindi speakers. Hence, according to ethnologue (1999 data), Hindi/Urdu is the fifth most spoken language in the world, while according to Comerie (1998 data), Hindi-Urdu is the second most spoken language in the world (330 million native speakers).

Because of Hindi's extreme similarity to Urdu, Urdu and Hindi speakers can usually understand one another, if both sides do not use specialized technical vocabulary (e.g., those pertaining to religion, politics, hi-fi poetry, etc.). But it would be questionable to count Urdu speakers as native speakers of Hindi, because of the fact that Hindi (spoken by Indians) and Urdu (spoken by Pakistanis) are socio-politically different (although linguists do this).

Official and Social status

Hindi, in Devanagari script, is the national language (rāshtrabhāshā) and the official language of the Union of India. Article 343 of the Constitution of India states: "Clause (1)—The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script". It is also the official language of the states Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Note again that English is the co-official language of the Indian Union, and that each of the several states mentioned above may also have another co-official language (usually in Hindi-speaking states, it is Urdu). Similarly Hindi is accorded the status of co-official language of many other states of the Indian Union.

This official status is however not reflected in its social importance. As with other language groups in South Asia, affluent Hindi speakers are mostly bilingual in English as well, and English language education is a prerequisite for social status. Consequently, development in the Hindi language really benefits only the weaker sections of an already weak society.

Since the elite can use other languages, Hindi has been particularly weak on the Internet. As a barometer, the Devanagari fonts and keyboards used on computers today were not standardized within India - earlier government standards such as the 8-bit ISCII (Indian Script Code for Information Interchange) or the GIST keyboard were never widely adopted. The present system was finally standardized only during Unicode deliberations. It appears that the early draft meetings of the Unicode consortium were not even attended by the relevant Indian Ministry of Information Technology, and that Hindi standards were decided based on other Hindi language groups from Fiji and scholars from other nations. It is only when Unicode became the dominant standard that a number of changes were sought by India.

As another measure of the weak social status of Hindi, the Hindi Wikipedia project has a thousand stubby articles. In contrast, the wikipedia in Thai, spoken by less than one-tenth as many people, has at least ten times as many articles. The wikipedia rank (Mar 06) for Hindi Wikipedia was 84.



Hindi evolved from Sanskrit, by way of the Middle Indo-Aryan Prakrit languages and Apabhramsha of the Middle Ages. There is no consensus for a specific time where the modern north Indian languages such as Hindi emerged, but c. 1,000 AD is commonly accepted.<ref>Shapiro, M: Hindi.</ref> Over nearly a thousand years of Muslim influence such as when Muslim rulers controlled much of northern India during the Mughal Empire, many Persian and Arabic words were borrowed into Hindi.

As a standardised register of India, Hindi became the national language[3] of India on January 26, 1950, although English and 21 other languages are recognised as official languages by the Constitution of India.

Standard Hindi

After independence, the Government of India worked on standardizing Hindi, instituting the following changes:

  • standardization of Hindi grammar: In 1954, the Government of India set up a committee to prepare a grammar of Hindi; The committee's report was released in 1958 as "A Basic Grammar of Modern Hindi"
  • standardization of Hindi spelling
  • standardization of the Devanagari (Devanāgarī) script by the Central Hindi Directorate of the Ministry of Education and Culture to bring about uniformity in writing and to improve the shape of some Devanagari characters.
  • scientific mode of transcribing the Devanagari alphabet
  • incorporation of diacritics to express sounds from other languages.


Standard Hindi derives much of its formal and technical vocabulary from Sanskrit. Standard or shuddha ("pure") Hindi is used only in public addresses and radio or TV news, while the everyday spoken language in most areas is one of several varieties of Hindustani, whose vocabulary contains words drawn from Persian and Arabic. In addition, spoken Hindi includes words from English and other languages as well.

Vernacular Urdu and Hindi are practically indistinguishable. However, the literary registers differ substantially; in highly formal situations, the languages are barely intelligible to speakers of the other. It bears mention that in centuries past both Sanskrit and Persian have been regarded as the languages of the elite, even by those of differing ethnic and religious backgrounds.

There are two principal categories of words in Standard Hindi:

  • tatsam (तत्सम्) words: These are the words which have been directly lifted from Sanskrit to enrich the formal and technical vocabulary of Hindi. Such words (almost exclusively nouns) have been taken without any phonetic or spelling change. Among nouns, the tatsam word could be the Sanskrit uninflected word-stem, or it could be the nominative singular form in the Sanskrit nominal declension.
  • tadbhav (तद्भव) words: These are the words that might have been derived from Sanskrit or the Prakrits, but have undergone minor or major phonetic and spelling changes as they appear in modern Hindi. They also include words borrowed from the other languages.

Similarly, Urdu treats its own vocabulary, borrowed directly from Persian and Arabic, as a separate category for morphological purposes.

Hindi from which most of the Persian, Arabic and English words have been ousted and replaced by tatsam words is called Shuddha Hindi (pure Hindi). Chiefly, the proponents of the so-called Hindutva ("Hindu-ness") are vociferous supporters of Shuddha Hindi.

Excessive use of tatsam words sometimes creates problems for most native speakers. Strictly speaking, the tatsam words are words of Sanskrit and not of Hindi—thus they have complicated consonantal clusters which are not linguistically valid in Hindi. The educated middle class population of India can pronounce these words with ease, but people of rural backgrounds have much difficulty in pronouncing them. Similarly, vocabulary borrowed from Persian and Arabic also brings in its own consonantal clusters and "foreign" sounds, which may again cause difficulty in speaking them.

Urdu and Hindi

Standard Urdu and Standard Hindi are distinct languages. There are two fundamental distinctions between them: the source of borrowed vocabulary (Persian/Arabic or Sanskrit), and the script used to write them (an adaptation of the Persian script written in Nasta'liq style, or the devanagari alphabet). In colloquial situations in much of North India, where neither learned vocabulary nor writing is used, the distinction between the Urdu and Hindi is nearly meaningless. Outside of the Delhi dialect area, the distinction may be more pronounced even in colloquial speech, for "Hindi" in such cases will often refer to the local dialect.

The word Hindi has two uses; confusion of these is one of the primary causes of debate about the identity of Urdu.

One use of Hindi is to indicate those idioms in the North Indian dialect continuum that are not recognized as separate languages from the language of Delhi region. Bengali and Nepali are not considered Hindi because of their long history as literary languages and because of official recognition. Panjabi, Bihari, and Chhatisghari are also often recognized to be distinct languages, though sometimes considered Hindi dialects. However, many other local idioms, such as the Bhili languages, which do not have such a distinct identity, are almost always considered to be dialects of Hindi. In other words, the boundaries of "Hindi" have little to do with mutual intelligibility, and instead depend on social perceptions of what constitutes a language. The other use of the word is Standard Hindi, the specific form (Khariboli) of the Delhi dialect of Hindi (generally called Hindustani) with direct loanwords from Sanskrit that is India's foremost national language. Standard Urdu is also a standardized form of Hindustani. Such a state of affairs, with two standardized forms of what is essentially one language, is known as a diasystem.

The colloquial language spoken by villagers and the lower classes of Delhi is indistinguishable by ear, whether it is called Hindi or Urdu by its speakers. The only important distinction at this level is in the script: if written in the Arab-Persian script, the language is generally considered to be Urdu, and if written in devanagari it is generally considered to be Hindi. However, since independence the formal registers used in education and the media have become increasingly divergent in their vocabulary. Where there is no colloquial word for a concept, Standard Urdu uses Perso-Arabic vocabulary, while Standard Hindi uses Sanskrit vocabulary. This results in the official languages being heavily Sanskritized or Persianized, and nearly unintelligible to speakers educated in the other standard (as far as the formal vocabulary is concerned).

These two standardized registers of Hindustani have become so entrenched as separate languages that often nationalists, both Hindu and Muslim, claim that Hindi and Urdu have always been separate languages. However, there are unifying forces as well. For example, it is said that Indian Bollywood films are made in "Hindi", but the language used in most of them is the same as that of Urdu speakers in Pakistan. The dialogue is frequently developed in English and later translated to an intentionally neutral Hindustani which can be easily understood by speakers of most North Indian languages, both in India itself and in Pakistan.

Sociolinguistics of Hindi


Sociolinguists[4] have traditionally given what they call as four major variants of Hindi, viz.,

  • High Hindi—the standardized Hindi (based on the Khariboli dialect), written in devanagari script, which contains numerous Sanskrit loanwords, including those introduced more recently to enrich the technical and poetical vocabulary and to reduce reliance on words of Perseo-Arabic origin. Traditionally, this is the register spoken by the urban Hindu population of north India and is the form of Hindi taught in Indian schools and used in television news and newspapers. Today, High Hindi with many Persian, Arabic and English loanwords is the spoken form of this language in much of the north India, and is used in Hindi films, drama and television serials.
  • Dakhini—spoken in the Deccan plateau region in and around Hyderabad, similar to Urdu but with fewer words derived from Perseo-Arabic in its vocabulary.
  • Rekhta—a form of Urdu used in poetry.
  • Urdu—a variant of Hindi (and also based on the Khariboli dialect), but written in Perseo-Arabic script. It utilizes a more extensive Persian and Arabic vocabulary and fewer Sanskrit loanwords, especially in its formal register. Before the Partition of India, Urdu's linguistic area was similar to that of High Hindi, but it was more commonly spoken as a mother tongue by Muslims and was identified as a cultural expression of Islam in north India.


Hindi in the broad sense is a dialect continuum without clear boundaries. For example, both Nepali and Panjabi are sometimes considered to be Hindi (based on the high level of mutual intelligibility for Panjabi and Hindi especially), though they are more often considered to be separate languages. Hindi is often divided into Western Hindi and Eastern Hindi, and these are further divided. Following is a list of principal Hindi dialects; boldface indicates those that are classified as separate languages by some linguists.

  • Hindustani, including standard Hindi (or 'High Hindi') and standard Urdu, as well as regional dialects of Urdu. Standard Hindi is the principal official languages of India, while standard Urdu is the official language of Pakistan and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Urdu has a rich literary history, being the language of the Mughal court second only to Persian
  • Khadiboli or Sarhindi, spoken in western Uttar Pradesh; the dialect that forms the basis for Standard Hindi
  • Chhattisgarhi (sometimes spelled "Chattisgarhi"; also known as Lahariya or Khalwahi), spoken mostly in the recently created state of Chhattisgarh
  • Bagheli, spoken mostly in the Baghelkhand region of the state of Madhya Pradesh
  • Awadhi, spoken mostly in central Uttar Pradesh, the area formerly comprising the kingdom of Awadh or "Oudh"
    • Fijian Hindustani, a form of Awadhi spoken by Fijians of Indian descent
  • Bihari', mostly spoken in the state of Bihar, which in turn is comprised of several principal dialects:
    • Angika,
    • Bhojpuri
    • Sarnami - a form of Bhojpuri with Awadhi influence spoken by Surinamers of Indian descent
    • Maithili, now an official language of Bihar
    • Magahi,
    • Vajjika,
  • Rajasthani, mostly spoken in the state of Rajasthan, and also comprised of several notable (sub)dialects:
  • Braj Bhasha, in a vaguely defined region of north central India, centered on Delhi
  • Bundeli, mostly spoken in the Bundelkhand region and the Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh
  • Hariyanvi, Bangaru or Jatu, mostly spoken in the state of Haryana
  • Kanauji, mostly spoken in Kanauj, Uttar Pradesh
  • The Eastern Hindi dialect centered on the Hindu holy city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, with a strong influence on the Sanskritized learned vocabulary of standard Hindi
  • Bambaiya Hindi, the dialect of the city of Bombay (Mumbai); the basis for the language of many popular Bollywood films.

These dialects demonstrate a variety of influences including the adjacent Iranian, Dravidian, and Tibeto-Burman language families.


Template:IPA notice There are approximately 11 vowels and 35 consonants in Standard Hindī. They are shown below:


Image:Hindi vowel chart.png

The vowels of Hindi with their word-initial devanagari symbol, diacritical mark with the consonant प (p), pronunciation (of the vowel alone and the vowel following / p /) in IPA, equivalent in IAST and (approximate) equivalents in British English are listed below:

AlphabetDiacritical mark with “प”PronunciationPronunciation with / p /IAST equiv.English eqivalent
Template:IPATemplate:IPAashort or long Schwa: as the a in above or ago
पाTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAālong Open back unrounded vowel: as the a in father
पिTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAi short close front unrounded vowel: as i in bit
पीTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAī long close front unrounded vowel: as i in machine
पुTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAu short close back rounded vowel: as u in put
पूTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAū long close back rounded vowel: as oo in school
पेTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAe long close-mid front unrounded vowel: as a in game (not a diphthong)
पैTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAai long near-open front unrounded vowel: as a in cat
पोTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAo long close-mid back rounded vowel: as o in tone (not a diphthong)
पौTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAau long open-mid back rounded vowel: as au in caught
<none><none>Template:IPATemplate:IPA<none> short open-mid front unrounded vowel: as e in get

Additional notes on vowels

  • The short open-mid front unrounded vowel (Template:IPA: as e in get), does not have any symbol or diacritic in Hindi script. It occurs only as an allophonic variant of schwa (in place word-middle a, determined only by convention) in certain words in the standard Khariboli dialect. E.g., the orthography dictates that रहना must be pronounced as Template:IPA, but it is actually pronounced as Template:IPA. It also occurs in loanwords from English, where it might be accorded a new vowel symbol of ऍ (chandra: पॅ).
  • The short open-mid back rounded vowel (Template:IPA: as o in hot), does not exist in Hindi at all, other than for English loanwords. In orthography, a new symbol has been invented for it: ऑ (पॉ).
  • There are some additional vowels traditionally listed in the Hindi alphabet. They are
    • ऋ (originally in Sanskrit a vowel-like syllabic retroflex approximant), pronounced in modern Hindi as Template:IPA, used only in Sanskrit loanwords (पृ).
    • अं (called anusvāra), pronounced as / əŋ /. Its diacritic (the dot above) is used both for nasalizing the vowel in the syllable and for the sound of a vowel-like / n / or / m /. (पं).
    • अः (called visarga), pronounced as / əh /. Used only in Sanskrit loanwords (पः).
    • The diacritic अँ (called chandrabindu), not listed in the alphabet, is used interchangeably with the anusvāra to indicate nasalization of the vowel (पँ).
  • If a lonely consonant needs to be written without any following vowel, it is given a halanta/virāma diacritic below (प्).
  • There is less lip-rounding than in English in the long open-mid back rounded vowel (Template:IPA: as au in caught). The vowel / α: / in Hindi is more central and less back than in English.
  • All vowels in Hindi, short or long, can be nasalized.
  • In Sanskrit and in some other dialects of Hindi (as well as in a few words in Standard Hindi), the vowel ऐ is pronounced as a diphthong / Template:IPA / or / ai / rather than / Template:IPA /. Similarly, the vowel औ is pronounced in some words as the diphthong / Template:IPA / or / au / rather than / Template:IPA /. Other than these, Hindi does not have true diphthongs—two vowels might occur sequentially but then they are pronounced as two syllables (a glide might come in between while speaking).
  • In the devanagari script used for Sanskrit, whenever a consonant in a word-ending position is without a virāma (ie, freely standing in the orthography: प as opposed to प्), the short neutral vowel schwa (Template:IPA) is automatically associated with it—this is of course true for the consonant to be in any position in the word. However in Hindi, even if the word-ending consonant is written without a virāma, the associated schwa is almost never pronounced. The schwa (Template:IPA) is pronounced very short only if the absence of schwa would otherwise make the pronunciation of the word very difficult—such a situation arises when there is a consonantal cluster at the end of the word. The schwa in Hindi is usually dropped (syncopated) in khariboli even at certain instances in word-middle positions, where the orthography would otherwise dictate so. e.g., रुकना (to stay) is normally pronounced as Template:IPA, while according to the orthography, it should have been Template:IPA.

The dropping of schwa at the end in Hindi (for Sanskrit loanwords) causes a big problem for foreigners (Westerners learning Hindi). The IAST a appended to the end of these words rather confuses the foreigners to pronounce it as Template:IPA—this makes the masculine Sanskrit/Hindi words sound feminine! Some examples are given below:

Hindi/Sanskrit word Usual transliterartion Sanskrit pronunciation Hindi pronunciation Foreigners' pronunciation
शिव—a deity ShivaTemplate:IPATemplate:IPATemplate:IPA
वरुण—a deity VarunaTemplate:IPATemplate:IPATemplate:IPA
वेद—a scripture VedaTemplate:IPATemplate:IPATemplate:IPA
राम—a hero Rama or RāmaTemplate:IPATemplate:IPATemplate:IPA
कामसूत्र—a love manual KamasutraTemplate:IPATemplate:IPATemplate:IPA
अशोक—an emperor Ashoka or AsokaTemplate:IPATemplate:IPA Template:IPA

The Handbook of the International Phonetic Association also describes the near-close near-front unrounded vowel (Template:IPA) the near-close near-back rounded vowel (Template:IPA) as occurring in Hindi phonology.


Hindi has a large consonant system, with about 38 distinct consonant phonemes. An exact number cannot be given, since the regional varieties of Hindi differ in the details of their consonant repertoire. To what extent certain sounds that appear only in foreign words should be considered part of Standard Hindi is also a matter of debate. The traditional core of the consonant system, inherited from Sanskrit, consists of a matrix of 25 plosives and 8 sonorants and fricatives. The system is filled out by 7 sounds that originated in Persian, but are now considered Hindi sounds. The table below shows the phonology of the Hindi consonants. Note that all nasals, trills, flaps, approximants and lateral approximants in Hindi are regarded as voiced consonants.

Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Retroflex Post-alveolar/</br>Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Plosives (unaspirated)</br>Plosives (aspirated) Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA
Nasals Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA
Fricatives Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA
Sibilants Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA
Trills Template:IPA
Flaps Template:IPA
Approximants Template:IPA Template:IPA

The 25 plosives occur in five groups, with each group sharing the same position of articulation. These positions in their traditional order are: velar, retroflex, palatal, dental, and bilabial. In each position, there are five varieties of consonant, with four oral stops and one nasal stop. An oral stop may be voiced, aspirated, both, or neither. This four-way opposition is the hardest aspect of Hindi pronunciation for a speaker of English. The table below shows the traditional listing of the Hindi consonants (in its Devanagari script) with the (nearest) equivalents in English/Spanish. Each consonant shown below is deemed to be followed by the neutral vowel schwa (Template:IPA), and is named in the table as such. The Roman script equivalent that is normally used to transcribe Hindi in casual transliteration is also given in the second line.

Velar Template:IPA
k; English: skip
kh; English: cat
g; English: game
gh; Aspirated /g/
n; English: ring
Palatal Template:IPA
ch; English: chat
chh; Aspirated /c/
j; English: jam
jh; Aspirated Template:IPA
n; English: finch
Retroflex Template:IPA
t; American Eng: hurting
th; Aspirated Template:IPA
d; American Eng: murder
dh; Aspirated Template:IPA
n; American Eng: hunter
Apico-Dental Template:IPA
t; Spanish: tomate
th; Aspirated Template:IPA
d; Spanish: donde
dh; Aspirated Template:IPA
n; English: name
Labial Template:IPA
p; English: spin
ph; English: pit
b; English: bone
bh; Aspirated /b/
m; English: mine
Palatal Retroflex Dental/
Approximant Template:IPA
y; English: you
r; Scottish Eng: trip
l; English: love
v; English: vase
sh; English: ship
sh; Retroflex Template:IPA
s; English: same
h; English home

At the end of the traditional table of alphabets, three cosonantal clusters are also added: क्ष Template:IPA (in Hindi), त्र Template:IPA and ज्ञ Template:IPA (pronunciation given for Hindi). Other than these, sounds borrowed from the other languages like Persian and Arabic are written with a dot (bindu or nukta) beneath the nearest approximate alphabet. They are not included in the traditional listing. Many native Hindi speakers, especially those who come from rural backgrounds and do not speak really good khariboli or Urdu, confused these sounds (except Template:IPA) and pronounce them as the nearest equivalents in Sanskritized Hindi (listed in column 4). These are:

Extra sounds
Symbol IPA Pronunciation and name English (etc.) equiv. Confused with:
क़ Template:IPA voiceless uvular plosive Arabic: Qur'an / k /
फ़ Template:IPA voiceless labiodental fricative English: fun Template:IPA
ख़ Template:IPA voiceless velar fricative German: doch Template:IPA
ग़ Template:IPA voiced velar fricative Persian: Mughal / g /
ज़ Template:IPA voiced alveolar fricative English: zoo Template:IPA
ड़ Template:IPA unaspirated retroflex flap <none>
ढ़ Template:IPA aspirated retroflex flap <none>

ड़ Template:IPA and ढ़ Template:IPA are not of Persian/Arabic origin, but they are allophonic variants of simple voiced retroflex stops of Sanskrit.

Additional notes on the consonants

Some additional features of Hindi consonant system are given here, as well as some useful tips to those whose native langugae is English but are interested in learning Hindi language.

  • No nasal consonant except / m / and / n / can start a word in Hindi. Hence all the other nasal consonants in modern Hindi tend to be pronounced as either / m / or / n /.
  • The distinction between the aspirated and the unaspirated consonants is really very strong, not only in Hindi, but also in Sanskrit and all other Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages of India.
  • The distinction between the dental plosives and the retroflex plosives is also very stark in all Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages.
  • The retroflex flaps cannot start a word. They did not exist as such in Sanskrit—they have sprung up as the allophonic flap variants of Sanskrit's simple voiced retroflex plosives. The other Indo-Aryan languages and Dravidian languages tend to use retroflex flaps in their vocabulary even more frequent than Hindi does.
  • Aspiration is actually a puff of breath that may follow a plosive consonant. English speakers should try to pronounce the voiceless aspirates by speaking these words in a quick but clear liason-like fashion:
    • "take him", "get him", "ditch him", "slap him".
    • One could also try speaking the words "kite", "take", "chip" and "pat" with a greater-than-usual puff of breath after the first consonant. The corrsponding unaspirated plosives must be pronounced with no significant puff of breath at all.
  • For practising the voiced aspirates, one could try: "drag him", "said him", "enrage him", "grab him".
  • The dental consonants in Hindi are as in Spanish or French. They can be pronounced by pronouncing /t/ and /d/ (of English) by pressing the tip of the tongue against the back of the teeth rather than against the back of the alveolar ridge as done by English speakers.
  • The retroflex consonants are the most difficult to pronounce. They are pronounced by curling the tongue such that its tip touches the roof of the mouth, like how the Americans pronounce their "r". However in normal Hindi speech, bringing the tip of the tongue a bit above the normal alveolar ridge would also work fine. The retroflex flaps are pronounced in a similar way, by bringing the tongue's tip to the roof of the mouth and giving it a sharp flap downwards.
  • Sanskrit / r / is retroflex, but Hindi / r / is alveolar trill, as in Scottish English.
  • The palatal plosives of Hindi do not have a sharp frictional sound following them. These are more of pure plosives than affricates.
  • Hindi has neither / v / nor / w /. Its nearest equivalent is Template:IPA, which is very close to /v/, but does not have a friction or buzzing sound associated with it. But replacing it with / v / will also work fine.
  • The retroflex sibilant Template:IPA need not be worried about, because it has been replaced by Template:IPA in modern Hindi pronunciation.
  • It is doubtful whether Hindi has a voiced glottal fricative Template:IPA (for the alphabet ह) or not. Sanskrit does have this. But it would cause no problem to use the normal English "h" ("home) for it.
  • The standard transliteration of Hindi into the Roman (English) alphabet) is usually the IAST scheme, whereby the retroflex consonants (retroflex t, d, their aspirates, n, vowel-like r) and the breath h are shown with a dot beneath; the long vowels are shown with a macron or a bar (as ā above; aspiration of a plosive is shown with a following h, and ś is used for sh; and c is used for ch. Rest other alphabets are pronounced as in normal English. Another transliteration (ITRANS) uses capital letters of English to transcribe the long vowels and retroflex consonants. However, since English is a lingua franca of the educated Indians, and since computer keyboards do not have features for typing the IAST characters, Indians today use a casual transliteration into English for Hindi words; in such a casual transliteration, the retroflex and dental consonants are not differentiated, and neither the short and the long vowels (except that sometimes people double the alphabet to indicate a long vowel).

Supra-segmental features

Hindi has a stress accent, but it is not so important as in English. Usually in a multisyllabic Hindi word, the stress falls on the last syllable if all the syllables are due to long vowels or all are due to short vowels. If the word contains a mixture or short and long vowels, the stress falls automatically on the long vowels almost equally. The schwa Template:IPA has a strong tendency to vanish into nothing if its syllable is unaccented. Also note that although in Hindi, many words end in short / u / or short / i /, while speaking, the ending is often converted to long / i: / and long / u: /. The tone of speaking is very important in Hindi (although Hindi is not a tonal language like Chinese) —to express the sentiments of respect, politeness, question, etc.

Writing system

Hindi is written in the standardized Devanagari script which is written from left to right. The Devanagari script represents the sounds of spoken Hindi very closely, so that a person who knows the Devanagari letters can sound out a written Hindī text comprehensibly, even without knowing what the words mean. The entire alphabet has been discussed in the preceding section on phonology.

The next table gives the system of combining two consonants, ie., making a consonant cluster. To write a consonant cluster Template:IPA from Template:IPA and Template:IPA syllables, Hindi usually converts the alphabetic symbol of the initial consonant X into the corresponding half-consonant (sic)—mostly achieved by cutting the right-side portion of the alphabet. To write the cluster Template:IPA, similarly, both X and Y would be "cut". There are many variants for this consonant cluster writing in devanagari script. The most common system is shown below for the traditional table. Here the second vowel is taken to be / n /, followed by the schwa.

ka-group क्न Template:IPA ख्न Template:IPA ग्न Template:IPA घ्न Template:IPA ङ्न Template:IPA
cha-group च्न Template:IPA छ्न Template:IPA ज्न Template:IPA झ्न Template:IPA ञ्न Template:IPA
Ta-group ट्न Template:IPA ठ्न Template:IPA ड्न Template:IPA ढ्न Template:IPA ण्न Template:IPA
ta-group त्न Template:IPA थ्न Template:IPA द्न Template:IPA ध्न Template:IPA न्न Template:IPA
pa-group प्न Template:IPA फ्न Template:IPA ब्न Template:IPA भ्न Template:IPA म्न Template:IPA
ya-group य्न Template:IPA र्न Template:IPA ल्न Template:IPA व्न Template:IPA
sha-group श्न Template:IPA ष्न Template:IPA स्न Template:IPA ह्न Template:IPA

This table gives only theoretical combination of consonant clusters. In practice, the number of allowable consonant clusters of Hindi is limited.


Main article: Hindi grammar

Despite Hindi and English both being Indo-European languages, Hindi grammar can be very complex and is different in many ways from what English speakers are used to. Most notably, Hindi is a subject-object-verb language, meaning that verbs usually fall at the end of the sentence rather than before the object (as in English). Hindi also shows mixed ergativity so that, in some cases, verbs agree with the object of a sentence rather than the subject. Unlike English, Hindi has no definite article (the). The numeral ek might be used as the indefinite singular article (a/an) if this needs to be stressed.

In addition, Hindi uses postpositions (so called because they are placed after nouns) where English uses prepositions. Other differences include gender, honorifics, interrogatives, use of cases, and different tenses. While being complicated, Hindi grammar is fairly regular, with irregularities being relatively limited. Despite differences in vocabulary and writing, Hindi grammar is nearly identical with Urdu. The concept of punctuation having been entirely unknown before the advent of the Europeans, Hindi punctuation uses western conventions for commas, exclamation points, and question marks. Periods are sometimes used to end a sentence, though the traditional "full stop" (a vertical line) is more generally used.


In Hindi (and of course in Urdu too), there are only two genders for nouns. All male human beings and male animals (or those animals and plants which are perceived to be "masculine") are masculine. All female human beings and female animals (or those animals and plants which are perceived to be "feminine") are feminine. Things, inanimate articles and abstract nouns are also either masculine or feminine according to convention, which must be learnt by heart by non-Hindi speakers if they wish to learn correct Hindi. The ending of a word, if a vowel, usually helps in this gender classification. Among tatsam words, the masculine words of Sanskrit remain masculine in Hindi, and same is the case for the feminine. Sanskrit neuter nouns usually become masculine in Hindi. Among the tadbhav words, if a word end in long / α: /, it is normally masculine. If a word ends in / i: / or / in/, it is normally feminine. Similarly, the gender is also tried to be preserved for words borrowed from Arabic and Persian. The categorization of Hindi words directly borrowed from English (which are numerous) is very arbitrary—but could be influenced by the ending. Adjectives ending in long / α: / must get inflected to agree with the gender of the noun.


Besides the standard interrogative terms of who (कौन kaun), what (क्या kyaa), why (कयों kyõ), when (कब kab), where (कहाँ kahã), how and what type (कैसा kaisaa), how many (कितना kitnaa), etc, the Hindi word kyaa (क्या) can be used as a generic interrogative often placed at the beginning of a sentence to turn a statement into a Yes/No question. This makes it clear when a question is being asked. Questions can also be formed simply by modifying intonation, exactly as some questions are in English.


Hindi has pronouns in the first, second and third person, all for one gender only. Thus, unlike English, there is no difference between he or she. More strictly speaking, the third person of the pronoun is actually the same as the demonstrative pronoun (this / that). The verb, upon conjugation, usually indicates the difference in the gender. The pronouns have additional cases of accusative and genitive. There may also be multiple ways of inflecting the pronoun, which are given in parentheses. Note that for the second person of the pronoun (you), Hindi has three levels of honorifics:

  • आप (/ α:p /): Formal and respectable form for you. Has no difference between the singular and the plural. Used in all formal settings and speaking to persons who are senior in job or age. Plural could be stressed by saying आप लोग (/ α:p log / you people) or आप सब (/ α:p səb /) you all).
  • तुम (/ tum /): Informal form of you. Has no difference between the singular and the plural. Used in all informal settings and speaking to persons who are junior in job or age. Plural could be stressed by saying तुम लोग (/ tum log / you people) or तुम सब (/ tum səb /) you all).
  • तू (/ tu: /): Extremely informal form of you, as thou. Strictly singular, its plural form being / tum /. Except for very close friends or poetic language involving God, it could be perceived as offensive in India.

Imperatives (requests and commands) correspond in form to the level of honorific being used, and the verb inflects to show the level of respect and politeness desired. Because imperatives can already include politeness, the word "kripayā", which can be translated as "please", is much less common than in spoken English; it is generally only used in writing or announcements, and its use in common speech is usually intended as mockery.

Word order

The standard word order in Hindi is, in general, Subject Object Verb, but where different emphasis or more complex structure is needed, this rule is very easily set aside (provided that the nouns/pronouns are always followed by their postpositions or case markers). More specifically, the standard order is 1. Subject 2. Adverbs (in their standard order) 3. Indirect object and any of its adjectives 4. Direct object and any of its adjectives 5. Negation term or interrogative, if any, and finally the 6. Verb and any auxiliary verbs. (Snell, p93) The standard order can be modified in various ways to impart emphasis on particular parts of the sentence. Negation is formed by adding the word नहीं (nahī̃, "no"), in the appropriate place in the sentence, or by utilizing न (na) or मत (mat) in some cases. Note that in Hindi, the adjectives precede the nouns they qualify. The auxiliaries always follow the main verb. Also, Hindi speakers or writers enjoy considerable freedom in placing words to achieve stylistic and other socio-psychological effects, though not as much freedom as in heavily inflected languages. <ref>Bhatia 1996: 32-33.</ref>

Tense and aspect of Hindi verbs

Hindi verbal structure is focused on aspect with distinctions based on tense usually shown through use of the verb honā (to be) as an auxiliary. There are three aspects: habitual (imperfect), progressive (also known as continuous) and perfective. Verbs in each aspect are marked for tense in almost all cases with the proper inflected form of honā. Hindi has four simple tenses, present, past, future (presumptive), and subjunctive (referred to as a mood by many linguists).<ref>Shapiro, M: "Hindi"</ref> Verbs are conjugated not only to show the number and person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) of their subject, but also its gender. Additionally, Hindi has imperative and conditional moods.


Hindi is a weakly inflected language for case; the relationship of a noun in a sentence is usually shown by postpositions (i.e., prepositions that follow the noun). Hindi has three cases for nouns. The Direct case is used for nouns not followed by any postpositions, typically for the subject case. The Oblique case is used for any nouns that is followed by a postposition. Adjectives modifying nouns in the oblique case will inflect that same way. Some nouns have a separate Vocative case. Hindi has two numbers: singular and plural—but they may not be shown distinctly in all declinations.


Main article: Hindi literature

The beginnings of Hindi literature can be traced to the Prakrits of classical Sanskrit plays. Tulasidas's Ramacharitamanasa (रामचरितमानस) attained wide popularity. Modern litterateurs include Jaishankar Prasad, Sumitranandan Pant, Maithili Sharan Gupta, Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala', Mahadevi Varma, Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayana 'Ajneya' and Munshi Premchand.

Hindi cinema

No mention of Hindi may be deemed complete without mentioning the Hindi films. The mighty Hindi film industry Bollywood is located at Mumbai (Bombay), in the Marathi-speaking state Maharashtra in India. The dialogues and the songs use the dialects of Khariboli of Hindi-Urdu, Awadhi, Rajasthani, Bhojpuri, Punjabi and quite often Bambaiya Hindi (along with many English words). These Hindi movies are full of songs and dances—songs which are almost always upon the lips of any Indian (and often many Pakistanis, Afghans, Bangladeshis, Iranians, etc.), whether a native Hindi speaker or not. Most of the songs are in Urdu shaayari style. Some of the hit films include Mahal (1949), Shree 420 (1955), Mother India (1957), Mughal-e-Azam (1960), Guide (1965), Pakeezah (1972), Bobby (1973), Zanjeer (1973), Yaadon ki Baraat (1973), Deewaar (1975), Sholay (1975), Mr. India (1987), Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1991), Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994), Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Taal (1999), Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai (2000), Lagaan (2001), Dil Chahta Hai (2001), Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001), Devdas (2002), Saathiya (2002), Munnabhai MBBS (2003), Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Dhoom (2004), Veer-Zaara (2004), Swades (2004), Salaam Namaste (2005), etc.

History of Hindi Cinema

The first Hindi film made in India -- Raja Harishchandra was released in year 1913. It was a silent film that depicted the story of king Harishchandra, who sacrificed his family and kingdom for the sake of truth. It was made by Dada Saheb Falke, regarded as the father of hindi cinema. The film had an all-male cast.

Initially hindi films were made on mythological topics and invariably had gods or goddesses as their protagonists.

Alam Ara ushered the era of talking films or talkies in India in year 1931. The film had seven songs in it. Soon songs became an integral part of hindi cinema with some movies films having as many as 71 songs in them.

Hindi television serials

In addition to Bollywood cinema, the Hindi television serials are also worth a mention. They include soap operas, detective serials, horror shows, dramas, cartoons, comedies, host shows for Hindi songs, Hindu mythology, Persio-Arabic mythology and documentaries. In addition to the govenment's official TV channel Doordarshan, several private channels have come up in the 1990's, e.g., Zee TV, Sony Entertainment Television, Sahara TV, Star Plus, as well as Hindi versions of Cartoon Network and Discovery Channel. One of the most popular soap operas is Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (lit., Because the mother-in-law too was once a daughter-in-law).

Sample Text

The following is a sample text in High Hindi, of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (by the United Nations):

अनुच्छेद 1—सभी मनुष्यों को गौरव और अधिकारों के मामले में जन्मजात स्वतन्त्रता प्राप्त है । उन्हें बुद्धि और अन्तरात्मा की देन प्राप्त है और परस्पर उन्हें भाईचारे के भाव से बर्ताव करना चाहिये ।
Transliteration (IAST): sabhī manuṣhyon ko gaurav aur adhikaaron ke māmle men janmajāt svatantratā prāpt hai. Unhen buddhi aur antarātmā kī den prāpt hai aur paraspar unhen bhāīcāre ke bhāv se bartāv karnā cāhiye.
Translation (word-to-word): All human-beings to dignity and rights of matter in from-birth freedom acquired is. Them reason and conscience of endowment acquired is and among them brotherhood of spirit with behavior do should.
Translation (grammatical): All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Common difficulties faced in learning Hindi

  • the phonetic mechanism of some sounds peculiar to Hindi (eg. rda, dha etc) The distinction between aspirated and unaspirated consonants will be difficult for English speakers. In addition, the distinction between dental and alveoloar (or retroflex) consonants will also pose problems. English speakers will find that they need to carefully distinguish between four different d-sounds and four different t-sounds.
  • pronunciation of vowels: In English, unstressed vowels tend to have a "schwa" quality. The pronunciation of such vowels in English is changed to an "uh" sound; this is called reducing a vowel sound. The second syllable of "unify" is pronounced /Template:IPA/, not "ee." The same for the unstressed second syllable of "person" which is also pronounced /Template:IPA/ rather than "oh." In Hindi, English-speakers must constantly be careful not to reduce these vowels.
    • In this respect, probably the most important mistake would be for English speakers to reduce final "ah" sounds to "uh." This can be especially important because an English pronunciation will lead to misunderstandings about grammar and gender. In Hindi, "vo bolta hai" is "he talks" whereas "vo bolti hai" is "she talks." A typical English pronunciation in the first sentence would be "vo boltuh hai," which will be understood as "she talks" by most Hindi-native speakers.
  • The 'a' ending of many Sanskrit and Sanskrit borrowed gender-masculine words, due to Romanization, is highly confused by non-native speakers, because the short 'a' is dropped in Hindi. There are exceptions, of course, if the devanagari script itself dictates the additional diacritical mark for the vowel "long ā" at the end of certain masculine words, like Brahmā (ब्रह्मा).
  • the Verbal concordance; Hindi exhibits split ergativity; see Ergative-absolutive language for an example.
  • Relative-correlative constructions. In English interrogative and relative pronouns are the same word. In "Who are you?" the word "who" is an interrogative, or question, pronoun. In "My friend who lives in Sydney can speak Hindi," the word "who" is not an interrogative, or question, pronoun. It is a relative, or linking, pronoun. In Hindi, there are different words for each. The interrogative pronoun tends to start with the "k" sound:" kab = when?, kahaaN = where?, kitna = how much? The relative pronouns are usually very similar but start with "j" sounds: jab = when, jahaaN = where, jitna = how much.

See also




  • International Phonetic Association (1999) Handbook of the International Phonetic Association ISBN 0-521-63751-1
  • Bhatia, Tej K. Colloquial Hindi: The Complete Course for Beginners. London, UK & New York, NY: Routledge, 1996. ISBN 0415110874 (Book), 0415110882 (Cassettes), 0415110890 (Book & Cassette Course)
  • Shapiro, Michael C. Hindi. Facts about the world's languages: An encyclopedia of the world's major languages, past and present. Ed. Jane Garry, and Carl Rubino: New England Publishing Associates, 2001.
  • Snell, Rupert Teach yourself Hindi: A complete guide for beginners. Lincolnwood, IL : NTC Publishing Group, 1992. ISBN 0844238635
  • Taj, Afroz (2002) A door into Hindi. Retrieved November 8, 2005.

Further reading

  • Bhatia, Tej K A History of the Hindi Grammatical Tradition. Leiden, Nehterlands & New York, NY : E.J. Brill, 1987. ISBN 9004079246

External links

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