Monday, November 20, 2017

Urdu hai jis ka naam

Urdu hai jis ka naam!

I read this piece in one of those books.

Urdu had developed out of the need of Muslim rulers for a language in which to communicate with their Indian subjects. It shares its homeland with Hindi – the two languages are, linguistically, variants of each other and at the level of everyday spoken transactions are almost identical. As literary languages they are considerably different; where Hindi links culturally to Sanskrit, Urdu uses the Persian script and draws heavily on Persian for its higher vocabulary, and through Persian on Arabic. Like many of the modern languages of Europe, Urdu had to establish itself as a literary medium in the face of a convention that only a classical language could be a fit vehicle for poetry. This happened because many Indians had begun to feel that they could not express themselves as adequately as they would wish in Persian, and major poets appeared who wrote in their mother tongue, Urdu. But all Urdu poets were familiar with the literary heritage of Persian and many still wrote some of their verse in it (just as in England Milton wrote verse in Latin as well as in English). Thus Urdu poetry represents, in a sense, a further development of a literature already centuries old, with only the language changed. Urdu poets had ready to hand all the rich tradition of Persian poetry and they made full use of it – its verse forms, its metres, its delight in verbal conceits, its major themes, and its expression of the teachings of Islamic mysticism. But the use of the mother tongue helped Urdu speakers convey an intensity in their poetry which they could not have expressed in Persian.

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