Urdu speakers

Ruth Laila Schmidt r.l.schmidt at EAST.UIO.NO
Fri Dec 4 12:46:29 UTC 1998

Dear Samar Abbas,
>If you had read my reply to your post, you would have seen that I gave the
>reference for the Ghaznavid origin of Urdu: `Alberuni's India', transl.
>E.C.Sachau, vol.ii, p.253-258 clearly states that the origin of Urdu was
>in the Ghaznavid camps.  Another good reference is A.Springer in
>`Catalogue of the Arabic, Persian and Hindustani Manuscripts of the
>libraries of the King of Oudh', Calcutta 1854 pp.405 ff he mentions the
>works by Masud during the Ghaznavid era. The King of Oudh still had
>manuscripts by Masud in his library. Some more comments are at the
>appropriate places below. I have run out of time; so I guess there will
>still be theories claiming a Khari Boli origin for Urdu and a Sioux origin
>for American English (and maybe a Celtic origin for Norwegian).

Please, Samar Abbas Sahib, I was not the author of any trival remarks, like
mentioning a Sioux origin for American English, which might be taken amiss.

My apologies for not checking your reference earlier. I have before me E.C.
Sachau, Albiruni's India, Vol. II (1910), pp. 253-258 (annotations on
Abiruni by Sachau). I find the following references to Hindi on pp. 257-8:

"In a similar way to Albiruni, the poet Mir Khusrau discourses on classical
and vernacular in his Nuh-sipihr [a Persian work]. He mentions the word
Sanskrit, while Alberuni only speaks of Hindi...
        There were Hindi dragomans in the service of Mahmud, both in the
civil administration and in the army, large portions of which were Hindus
under Hindu officers...Part of these troops were Kannara, i.e., natives of
        A specimen of these interpreters is Tilak, the son of Jai
Sen...After having pursued his studies in Kashmir, he became interpreter
first to Kadi Shirazi Bulhasan Ali, a high civil official under Mahmud and
Masud, and rose afterward to be a commanding officer in the army...This
class of men spoke and wrote Hindi (of course with Arabic characters) and
Persian (perhaps also Turkish, as this language prevailed in the army) and
it is probably in these circles that we must look for the origin of Urdu or
Hindustani. The first author who wrote in this language is one Masud, who
died a little more than a century after the death of King Mahmud (A.H. 525
= A.D. 1131). Cf. Sprenger, Catalogue of the Arabic, Persian and Hindustany
Manuscripts of of the Libraries of the King of Oudh," Calcutta 1854, pp.
407, 485. If we had any of the Hindi writings of those times, they would
probably exhibit the same kind of Indian speech as that which is found in
Alberuni's book."

This passage dates the manuscript in Hindi to a poet Masud who died in
1131. It would be nice to have a look at the manuscript. The only "Indian
speech" I can find in Sachau's translation of Alberuni appears to be
Sanskrit, not surprising as it was still an important literary language at
the time.

The passage distinguishes between the Persian and Hindi languages, and
mentions an interpreter, Tilak, who pursued his studies in Kashmir (which
was early a center of Persian learning). But "Hind" meant India in Persian,
and "Hindi" might well be used with reference to any Indian language. The
important thing is that the Indian language(s) were not understood by the
Persians, so that they required someone to translate them. It would not be
surprising if a creole began to develop under these circumstances, but we
have few written traces of it.

Sachau is of the opinion that the origin of Urdu or Hindustany must be
sought in  the army of Mahmud. This 88-year old statement must be
understood in the light of the considerable research on texts which has
been done in the meanwhile. The Hindu troops which served under Mahmud
brought their own speech, about which we know little except a name, and
they encountered Persian as an administrative language. This process
continued for some seven to eight hundred years, and the complex
interactions between the various Indian speeches of the Punjab and Delhi
area, with Persian, are still being traced.

I believe I have already responded to your other comments as best as I can,
so end this thread here.

With best wishes,

Ruth Schmidt

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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