Urdu, the most adaptive language in the world — II — Fairworld 101 | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Urdu, the most adaptive language in the world — II — Fairworld 101

The language of Urdu with its huge literary database as compared to its near vicinity languages has all the traits of being compatible with many languages of the world

Needless to say that while humans like to divide or differentiate themselves based on their languages or dialects or accents or vocal variations, many more ways to divide and differentiate occur in our societies too, some of which are based on religion, colour, cast, creed, social status etc. Languages of the world have become so diverse and accommodating that it has become hard for many linguists to declare a language an indigenous one or belonging to a particular family or being a variation of another language. Many have already resorted to accepting the fact that in a few hundred years 70 percent of the 7,000 languages would cease to exist. Some languages have become so all-encompassing in their expressions that they are about to kill many others.

A quick look at language-based statistics of the world would show that most countries with a large population speaking a single language are quite developed as compared to countries evenly divided in different linguistic groups. Almost 80 percent of the population of the USA speaks only English at home and 12 percent speak Spanish, whereas 95 percent of the population of the UK speaks English as their mother tongue. In Australia, 79 percent of the population has English as their mother tongue; 81 percent of the population in Germany speaks German as their mother tongue. In France, 86 percent of the people speak French as their mother tongue, and 91 percent of the population in Italy speaks Italian as their first language. In China, 70 percent of the population speaks Mandarin as their primary language, despite having 55 ethnic minorities. Out of 160 ethnic groups, and approximately 100 languages, 91 percent of the population in Russia speaks Russian as its mother tongue. There are some rare anomalies too, such as 95 percent of the population in Bangladesh speaks Bengali. India has 1,652 mother tongues, whereas the most spoken language, Hindi, is used by 35 percent people. In Pakistan, there are about 70 distinct languages, and about 44 percent speak Punjabi, 15 percent Pashto, 14 percent Sindhi, nine percent Saraiki, seven percent consider Urdu as their mother tongue, and three percent speak Balochi.

Despite the fact that only seven percent speak Urdu in Pakistan, the only language that has the strongest potential of sustaining in the world as a national identity of Pakistan is most probably Urdu. Urdu is most closely related to Assamese, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Sindhi, Singhalese and Romany. It is one of the three most important languages in modern India alongside Hindi and Bengali. Urdu belongs to the most vastly spoken language family ‘Indo-European’ in the world where six percent of the world’s population can speak Urdu in its various variations. Urdu originally called Hindustani differs slightly from Hindi in its extensive Persian and Arabic borrowings, and in fact, it is written in the Perso-Arabic script rather than Sanskrit lettering. Urdu has added many alphabets to the Perso-Arabic script, making it more vocally definable.

The language of Urdu with its huge literary database as compared to its near vicinity languages has all the traits of being compatible with many languages of the world. Yet people who speak Urdu do not have a name. There are no Urdavis, or Urdistanis or Urdubaans in this world except a few borrowed names like ‘Muhajirs’ or ‘Urdu-speaking’, which we have devised for people who speak Urdu. Despite all its potential to grow, we did not see it and instead found ways to step away from its development and creating it as a national identity. Every effort to give it some importance at a national level has been strongly criticised by all other language groups. A country with so many language groups is just like a country with those cavemen of a 100,000 or so years ago. They still do not understand each other. They still do not communicate with each other. They still fight and kill each other without knowing exactly what the other person wanted or intended. They will not let the dams be constructed; they will not let the universities be constructed; they will not let the hospitals be constructed; and they will not let the roads be constructed because of the fear that one or other group might benefit more.

The possibility of having a strong federation and a successful nation in the presence of many large linguistic groups has been considered as a far-fetched idea by not only Constantine, Fitche, Mussolini, Hitler and De Gaulle but also by Arabs, Ottomans, and Mughals. Needless to say that the former did not have to deal with the same scale of diversity as the latter did. What needs to be done or what cannot be done is a long debate in itself, but what we can do without much effort is that we start taking pride in Urdu language as our national identity. We can make efforts to learn the possibilities Urdu has to offer. About 20 years ago I wrote about the type of Urdu that is being spoken in Quetta by Pathans, Birahvis, Baloch, Punjabis, Mekranis and Dehwaris. They all speak the exact same type of Urdu, because it is the only language in Pakistan that could evolve in such a way that people from different linguistic groups could use it as a lingua franca and tweak it according to their comfort level. Newspapers 20 years ago did not want to publish a notion that Urdu could be changed to something else. They took it as an attempt to show the negative decay, whereas all what is intended is to say that the ability of Urdu language to change and evolve quickly according to the circumstances is a feature we should be proud of.


FairWorld101 is an alias for a Pakistani blogger who is a freelance writer for various national and international newspapers on global social and cultural subjects and the author of A Tale of Twenty Two cities, 1997, on adventure travel photography about his experiences from road travel between Pakistan and German

Source: Daily Times

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