As one of the languages that fall under the Indo-European language family, Urdu is one of the 2 official languages recognized in Pakistan alongside English. It is spoken as the mother tongue by approximately 60-70 million people globally. According to the Population Census conducted in 2001, approximately 52 million of these people live in India and 10 million live in Pakistan.
As one of the main languages spoken by 93% of the Pakistani population, Urdu is one of the 22 officially recognized regional languages in India. Urdu is phonetically similar to Indian. However, it uses the Arabic alphabet instead of Devanagari, the alphabet of India.
The countries where Urdu is mainly spoken are the following:
- United States of America
- United Kingdom
- Saudi Arabia
Since people in certain regions of Pakistan speak Indian even though their mother tongue is Urdu, the actual mother tongue of these people is not definitely known. For that reason, it becomes very difficult to distinguish the number of people who speak Urdu from the number of people who speak Hindi. According to some studies, it is supposed that the number of those who speak Urdu as their mother tongue or second language is more than 200 million; however, this number cannot be very clearly proven due to the extremely close similarity between Hindi and Urdu.
Urdu has been in interaction with several languages and it is very similar to Hindi. However, it still has a very sui generis texture in terms of the way it is spoken. Ranking the first among the languages from which Urdu is mostly influenced is Hindi, followed by Arabic, Turkish and Farsi. It is possible to identify several words borrowed from these 3 languages into Urdu.
Furthermore, it is claimed that the word “Urdu” is originated from the word “Ordu” (Army) in Turkish. For that reason, Urdu is sometimes called the “Language of the Army”. The interaction between Urdu and Turkish, Arabic and Farsi dates back to more than 1000 years ago. The interaction started as the Muslim armies gained victories and made conquests in the territories of India, hence the advent of the Arabic and Farsi languages into this geography. Especially following the victories gained by Mahmud of Ghazni in the geographies dominated by the Urdu, Turkish and Urdu started to influence each other. There are several literary and sufistic works of art penned in Urdu.