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Defining the Indefinable: Delimiting Hindi


Edited By Agnieszka Kucziewicz-Fras

The nine extensive essays of this volume are by specialists on South Asia whose research focus includes the extremely complicated problematics of the linguistic situation there. It is devoted to the broadly understood problem of defining Hindi as well as indicating the different ranges of its use. The authors of the included texts come from Europe, the USA and India, and grapple with questions such as what Hindi is, how it functions in the social, political and cultural dimensions of present-day India, and how it is being used by authorities and various influential actors at different levels of Indian reality. The volume should be important and useful for all those who are interested in Hindi, its official and non-official status, and in Indian linguistic policy and politics generally.
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Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani in the Metropolises: Visual (and Other) Impressions Christina Oesterheld


Christina Oesterheld

The following remarks are not based on any sustained field study in India, but rather personal impressions and observations collected during several stays in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, supplemented by quotations from secondary sources on the status of Urdu and on language shifts particularly in Delhi. They can, therefore, in no way be expected to provide a complete picture of the language situation in these three metropolises.

But before turning to the three cities, it is necessary to briefly recapitulate the fundamental shift from Urdu to Hindi as the dominant language of North India after 1947. For the present purpose, in the first two chapters the term Urdu will be used for standard Khari Boli (khaṙī bolī) written in Urdu script and Hindi for standard Khari Boli in the Nagari script. The problems inherent in this classification and in the concept of Hindustani will be discussed in section 3.

It is common knowledge that the teaching and the use of Urdu went into a steady decline in India after 1947, as a result of which it turned into a more or less dysfunctional language. A lot has been written about this process, and its reasons and implications, which need not be repeated here. We are more concerned about the present state of affairs.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that Hindi took over as the dominant language in North India. Primary and secondary education in Urdu is offered in very...

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