Hindi (172 million speakers including Urdu speakers)

An Indo-Aryan language, Hindi emerged from a local language of Delhi, khari boli, which formed the basis of a common language used by Arabs, Persians, and Turks to communicate with the population of northern India.  Eventually it developed into Urdu, which was written in Perso-Arabic script.  Upon borrowing vocabulary from Sanskrit and literary conventions from Prakrits and Apabhramsas, it became known as Hindi.  Both Urdu and Hindi have been in use since the 12th century.


Hindi possesses contrasts between aspirated* and non-aspirated stops in both voiced and voiceless sounds.  Example minimal pairs include bal ‘hair’ vs. 01.gif (891 bytes) ‘forehead’, and pal ‘take care of’ vs. 02.gif (900 bytes) ‘knife blade’.   Aspirated stops generally have a long voice onset time (VOT ), that is, the length of time after the release of a stop closure before the resumption of voicing.  

*aspiration: a period of voicelessness after the stop and before the start of voicing for the vowel


Finite verbs* almost always show agreement of number, person, and gender with sentence subjects.  In intransitive** and non-perfective*** transitive** sentences, the verb agrees with the subject in number, person, and gender.   In transitive perfective sentences, the verb agrees with the direct object.   For example:

03.gif (906 bytes)     04.gif (915 bytes)     05.gif (901 bytes)                   06.gif (864 bytes)
boy(m.)   book(f.)   read+IMPF(m.)    PRES
'The boy reads the book'.

Interestingly, where there are two or more subjects of different genders, the verb typically agrees with the one closest to it.  For example:

kagaz            aur      syahi     sasti hai
paper(m.)   and   ink(f.)    are cheap(f.)
'Paper and ink are cheap'.

* finite verbs: any verb that can stand in a simple declarative sentence.

** intransitive is a construction in which a verb is related to a single noun or its equivalent, while transitive is a construction in which a verb is related to at least two nouns or their equivalent

*** perfective: verb form used of actions conceived as simple events located at an undivided moment of time such as 'open' in 'I open the parcel' as opposed to 'am opening' in 'I am opening the parcel.'

Hindi at Stanford

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