Hindi: नमस्ते!

And … we’re back! I apologize for the delay in posts, but my power (and subsequently internet) wasn’t restored until the end of this weekend. There are many still in Louisville and other parts of Kentucky that do not have power and my thoughts are with them. Here’s hoping for speedy service!

Now, on to Hindi. Or rather the end? My observations, despite being interrupted, were kind of quick this time. Hindi is very intricate and there are so many layers to it that make it even more intriguing.

SUMMARY: Hindi emerged around the 900s, evolving and drawing heavily from Sanskrit centuries (if not a millennium) before. Much of the credit goes to Panini, which laid the groundwork for the ancient language. Hinduism, which uses Sanskrit as a liturgical language, would experience a golden age around the Gupta dynasty before India would be divvied up by ruling families for centuries in the middle ages. In the 1300s, India would be controlled by Muslim sultanates, so Hindi would subsequently acquire bits and pieces from Islam. India would later find itself in the palm of British rule after in the 1800s, before eventually gaining independence. Hindi was then standardized and made an official language along with 18 others, including English.

Another huge thing I didn’t mention is the use of Urdu, another official tongue that’s considered a separate language or the same as Hindi. While they use the same words, Hindi is written in Devanagari while Urdu is written in Persian and uses more Persian and Arabic words. As stated at Hindi Language, the difference is political and could be attributed to Muslim settlement in India’s history.  Before the partition of Pakistan and India, Hindustani, a blend of Urdu and Hindi, existed. (Remember Moldova/Romanian? It’s sort of the same thing.)

FINAL IMPRESSIONS: I almost don’t feel like I should be done. Hindi is kind of broad because, despite its connection to India’s history in general, there are so many dialects spoken in India alone, which can vary greatly. Along with that, Hindi has a lot of loan words from sister languages like Gujarati. Hindi is linked with Hinduism, so it makes me wonder how much I would actually have to know about Hinduism to get a feel for the language. Along with that, Hindi (or more specifically Sanskrit) comes from a primarily oral tradition, in which epic works were sung; I think this carries over to Bollywood obviously, but probably explains why the language has a musical feel. I find it really ethereal and alluring.

The grammar is kind of opposite of English’s. Hindi mostly uses subject-object-verb, postpositions instead of prepositions and auxilary verbs don’t exist. Also, Hindi shows its Indo-European roots by using masculine/feminine forms of nouns like the Romance languages. Verbs are also inflected based on formality and familiarity, like Japanese. One good thing is that there are a lot of monosyllabic words, which could make for easier memorization. The bad thing about this is that syllables seem to be truncated or, if occuring at the end, joined with the beginning syllables of other words. For example, Devanagari kind of sounds like, “devnagri.”

Speaking of Devanagari, that is a completely different world and I am not afraid to say that it would impair me from learning Hindi. I am still overwhelmed by the alphabet and think it would take a while to learn. So beautiful, yet out of my immediate grasp. Ah, well.

That being said, I love this song from aforementioned movie, “Kal Ho Naa Ho”:


Intelligibility: 3
Complexity: 3
Resonance: 3
Continuation: 3

COMING UP: Finnish

6 thoughts on “Hindi: नमस्ते!

  1. Hi,

    I heard about your blog on the World today and was intrigued by your experiment with the 37 languages!

    Nice write-up regarding Hindi. There is one thing I thought I should mention regarding Hindi. You mention that Hindi was known as Sanskrit before. I believe it would be more accurate to say that Hindi has evolved from Sanskrit and draws heavily from Sanskrit.

    All the best with your efforts!


  2. Hi
    I heard about you on the npr today. I am amazed by ease with which you are able to learn.
    One thing I will point about hindi is .. Only language which is written same as spoken.
    As far as dialects are concerned, they are distortions which have evolved over years.

  3. Hi
    Its great to find an innovative blog these days. I listened to your piece in the podcast.

    One more thing that I would like to add about Hindi/Sanskrit is that it is also the origin of some of basic words in English such as mother, father. ‘Madr’ in Sanskrit became mother in English and ‘mata’ in Hindi. Its great to find links between different languages.

    Keep this effort up. I will hang on thing blog to keep check how its’s advancing.

    Sanket Dhingra.

  4. Usha: Thank you for reading, I really appreciate it! I also made the correction you mentioned. I appreciate any help from native speakers! 😀

    ramakant: You’d be surprised — I am going through a process of osmosis and am sampling the languages based on how they sound, how they’re written, etc. I wouldn’t say it’s actually “learning” them at this point in the project, but I have learned a lot, especially regional histories of the languages in the project!

    Sanket: Yes — that is a really good point! Hindi is Indo-European so its relation to English words are often unknown and surprising Thank you for checking out the podcast!

  5. Hi Keith. Speaking of Indo-european, here’s a head start for you on Armenian, also Indo-european.

    The word for father in:

    Sanskrit: p’it’a
    Latin: pater
    Persian: P’edar
    German: vater
    French: pere
    English: father

    These are all a variation of an aspirated p, an aspirated t and an r with vowels in between.

    Essentially: ph-a-th-e-r

    The Armenian word for father drops the consonants and preserves the aspirations, hence: h-a-h-r. The second “h” becomes a “y” due to “r”‘s influence, and thus you get “Hayr”.

    This is such fun stuff!

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