Hindi language (Hindi belt)

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Not to be confused with Modern Standard Hindi or Hindi languages.
Hindi Belt, South Asia
Linguistic classification: Indo-European
Glottolog: None

Hindi, in the broad sense, is a dialect continuum within the Indo-Aryan language family in the northern plains of India, in what is commonly called the "Hindi Belt". In the words of Masica (1991), these are the so-called regional languages of the Hindi area, sometimes less accurately called Hindi "dialects". Hindi in this sense is an ethnic rather than a linguistic concept.

This broad definition of Hindi is the one used in the Indian census and results in a clear majority of Indians being reported to be speakers of Hindi, though Hindi-area respondents vary as to whether they call their language Hindi or use a local language name. As defined in the 1991 census, Hindi has a broad and a narrow sense. The name "Hindi" is thus ambiguous. The broad sense covers a number of Central, East-Central, Eastern, and Northern Zone languages, including the Bihari languages except Maithili, all the Rajasthani languages, and the Pahari languages except Dogri and Nepali. This is an area bounded on the northwest by Punjabi, on the west by Sindhi, on the south by Gujarati, Marathi and Oriya; on the east by Maithili and Bengali; and on the north by Nepali. Linguistically, the varieties of this area can be considered separate languages rather than dialects of a single language. In the narrow sense, the Hindi languages proper, Hindi can be equated with the Central Zone Indic languages. These are conventionally divided into Western Hindi and Eastern Hindi. An even narrower definition of Hindi is that of the official language, Modern Standard Hindi or Manak Hindi, a standardised register of Hindustani, one of the varieties of Western Hindi. Standardised Hindustani—including both Manak Hindi and Urdu—is historically based on the Khariboli dialect of 17th-century Delhi.


Main article: Hindi belt

Languages and dialects commonly identified as Hindi predominate in the Indian states and union territories of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.[1]

Distinctive non-standard varieties of Hindi are spoken in large, urban areas outside of the Hindi belt. Most notable of these are those spoken in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad. Overseas forms of Hindi are found in Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Recent immigration to the West – Europe, USA, etc. – has resulted in the establishment of Hindi-speaking communities there as well.[1]

Number of speakers[edit]

Population data from the 16th (2009) edition of Ethnologue is as follows, counting languages with two million or more speakers:

According to the 2001 Indian census,[2] 258 million people in India (25% of the population) regarded their native language to be "Hindi". The government, however, counted 422 million Hindi speakers (41% of the population) by including people who identified their language as Awadhi, Bagheli, Bhojpuri (Bihari), Bundeli, Chhattisgarhi, Garhwali, Harauti, Haryanvi, Khortha (Khotta), Kumauni, Lamani (Lambadi), Magadhi (Bihari), Malvi, Marwari, Mewari, Nimadi, Pahari, Rajasthani, and Sadan (Sadri), as well as numerous other languages with fewer than 2 million self-identified speakers. Note that these figures do not count 52 million Indians who considered their mother tongue to be "Urdu". The numbers are also not directly comparable to the table above; for example, while independent estimates in 2001 counted 37 million speakers of Awadhi,[3] in the 2001 census only 2½ million of these identified their language as "Awadhi" rather than as "Hindi".

Outside the Indian subcontinent[edit]

Much of the Hindi spoken outside of the subcontinent is quite distinct from the India-Pakistan standard language. In addition, the version of Hindustani spoken by most Pakistani, and many Indian, Muslims is commonly called "Urdu" rather than "Hindi" or "Hindustani". Religious proponents both of Hindi and of Urdu often contend that they are two separate languages despite their mutual intelligibility.

  • Mauritian Hindi, spoken in Mauritius, based on Bhojpuri and influenced by French.
  • Sarnami, a form of Bhojpuri with Awadhi influence spoken by Surinamers of Indian descent.
  • Fiji Hindi, derived form of Awadhi, Bhojpuri and including many English and native Fijian words, is spoken by Fijians of Indian descent.
  • Trinidad Hindi, based on Bhojpuri, and spoken in Trinidad and Tobago by people of Indian descent.
  • South African Hindi, based on Bhojpuri, and spoken in South Africa by people of Indian descent.[dubious ]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b (Shapiro 2003, p. 251)
  2. ^ Census of India
  3. ^ USCWM