Urdu speakers

Ruth Laila Schmidt r.l.schmidt at EAST.UIO.NO
Wed Dec 2 15:15:12 UTC 1998

Dear Lailita du Perron,

That is indeed a problem. In Europe, "An Urdu speaker" is someone who
reports him or herself as such, or who studies Urdu as the mother tongue
subject at school. I doubt anyone has ever surveyed actual language use
among South Asian Muslims in Europe, and members of the community do not
always give importance to the language spoken in the home, because Urdu is
a symbol of their cultural and religious identity. For example, a
Panjabi-speaking Pakistani in Norway would not report Panjabi as his mother
tongue, because Urdu is his South Asian literary language, and also the
language he would like his children to learn to read (in addition to
Norwegian and English).

In South Asia, "Urdu speaker" should mean "mother-tongue Urdu speaker" (as
opposed to speakers of one of the provincial languages). Even there,
different languages are used for different purposes and one might well
consider himself a Panjabi speaker at home and an Urdu speaker in the

All the statistics are badly affected by these blurred definitions,
unfortunately we do not have more accurate information.

With best wishes,

Ruth Schmidt

> Following on from the messages on the number of Urdu speakers in
>various countries, I am puzzled as to what is the 'official' or indeed
>accepted definition of an 'Urdu speaker'.
>Lalita du Perron
>Dept of South Asian Studies
>SOAS, University of London

Ruth Laila Schmidt
Dept of East European and Oriental Studies
University of Oslo
P.O. Box 1030 Blindern
N-0315 Oslo, Norway
Phone: (47) 22 85 55 86
Fax: (47) 22 85 41 40
Email: r.l.schmidt at east.uio.no

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