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South Asia Department

Urdu Literacy (PG)

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year


Completion of a Hindi course or spoken competence/advanced competence in Urdu or a structurally-cognate South Asian language (ie, Punjabi, Gujarati).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  1. knowledge and understanding of Urdu grammar at an intermediate level
  2. knowledge and understanding of Urdu vocabulary at an intermediate level
  3. knowledge and understanding of the appropriateness of basic Urdu structures and expressions in a given context
  4. the ability to read and understand medium-length passages in written Urdu taken from literary and journalistic sources of intermediate level
  5. the ability to produce medium-length passages in written Urdu at low intermediate level
  6. knowledge and understanding of the role of language in general, and Urdu in particular, in language-based scholarship and research (specific learning outcome for PG students)


Total of 22 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact per week. 10 research seminars to be taken within SOAS.  Attendance to be proven by signature from chair and to be submitted to the Associate Dean for Masters by the last day of term 2.

Scope and syllabus

The course introduces students to the Urdu writing system and to the rules of word-formation and lexical borrowing in Urdu.

The course provides practice in reading comprehension by looking at selected Urdu texts and textual extracts. The texts are read in class, and are re-visited in regular homework tasks in which students make active use of material learnt from the texts. The concentration here is on language, rather than on the literary qualities of the texts. This provides students with a basis to approach research topics relating to Urdu language and the histories, societies and cultures associated with Urdu.

A series of special PG lectures with associated seminars structured around the six themes Structure, Texts, Identity, Society, Translation and Transformation (provided for PG students studying different languages) introduces students to general questions of the role of language in language-based scholarship and research and provides them with the critical and methodological skills to relate their language acquisition to the thematic aspects of the studies.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (50%); a translation project to be completed over the academic year of a suitable length to be submitted on the last day of term 2 (30%); two x 1 hour classroom tests worth 10% each.

Suggested reading

1) The course will be based on

  • Delacy, Richard. 2010. Read and Write Urdu Script. London, Hodder Education
  • Narang, Gopi Chand. 2001. Urdu: Readings in Literary Urdu Prose. New Delhi, National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language


Additional materials will be made available throughout the course.

2) Additional Urdu References

Urdu Learning Resources

  • Matthews & Dalvi. 2010. Complete Urdu. London, Hodder Education
  • Asani, Ali. 2007. Let’s Study Urdu.  New Haven, Yale University Press
  • Bhatia, Tej. 2013. Colloquial Urdu. London, Routledge
  • Salimuddin, S.M. 2013. Oxford Urdu-English Dictionary. OUP
  • Haqee, Shanul. 2002. The Oxford English-Urdu Dictionary. Oxford, OUP
  • Platts, John T. 1977. A Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi, and English. New Delhi, Oriental Books Reprint Corporation
  • Schmidt, Ruth Laila. 1999. Urdu: An Essential Grammar. London, Routledge


Linguistic Studies

  • Mascia, Colin P. 1991. The Indo-Aryan Languages. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
  • Shackle, C (ed.). 1985. South Asian Languages: A Handbook. London, SOAS
  • Beg, M.K.A. 1996. Socio-Linguistic Perspectives on Hindi and Urdu in India. New Delhi : Bahri Publications,
  • Pandit, Ira. 1986. Hindi English code switching : mixed Hindi English. Delhi, Datta Book Centre, 1986
  • Shackle and Snell. 1990. Hindi and Urdu since 1900. London, SOAS
  • Abbi, Anvita. 2001. A manual of linguistic field work and structures of Indian languages. Munich, Lincom Europa

3) Additional resources relating to language-based scholarship discussed in the PG lectures

  • Austin, Peter, ed., 2008, 1000 Languages: The world-wide history of living and lost tongues, London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Baker, Mona, 1992, In Other Words: A coursebook on translation, London: Routledge.
  • Duranti, Alessandro, 1997, Linguistic Anthropology, Cambridge: CUP.
  • Geertz, Clifford, 1973/2000, The Interpretation of Cultures: selected essays, New York: Basic Books.
  • Pinker, Steven, 1994, The Language Instinct: the new science of language and mind, London: Allan Lane.