The late nineteenth century in north India was a fascinating time. In a matter of a few decades, a language dichotomy emerged. While it was almost unimaginable at the beginning of the century, it became one of the strongholds of the region’s politics. Hindustani split into two. (Modern Standard) Hindi became more Sanskritised, and Urdu Persianised; both in the attempt of finding a more clear, eloquent and differentiated identity.

A recent article on Kafila that discusses the fate of Hindi made me dig out this fascinating chart from Ashok Kelkar’s Studies in Hindi and Urdu: introduction and word phonology that traces literary traditions in Hindi and Urdu [click for a larger image]:

Literary traditions in Hindi and Urdu: Where the script is not mentioned, Devanagari is to be understood. A broken line indicates pioneer beginnings and late attritions as the case may be. The heritage of Hindi is indicated by thick lines; that of Urdu by hollow double lines; the rest by thin lines. The chronological overlap between old Gujarati-Rajasthani on the one hand and Middle Gujarati (1400–1800) and Middle Rajasthani on the other is due to the conscious cultivation of the archaic language by some authors long after it ceased to resemble anything spoken.

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