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SOAS Language Centre

Urdu at SOAS Language Centre

Urdu came into existence as a result of the Muslim conquest of the Indian sub-continent. The Persian-speaking invaders needed to communicate with the local inhabitants and the medium which evolved was Urdu, whose grammar is based on the Hindustani dialects of the Delhi area but which draws on Persian (and, through Persian, on Arabic) for much of its vocabulary.

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan as well as one of the twenty-two official languages of India. It is often overlooked that the greater number of speakers of Urdu are to be found in India, where they constitute around 7% of the total population. In both Pakistan and India, Urdu serves an important function both as a lingua franca and as a hallmark of an Islamic socio-cultural identity.

Patterns of emigration from the subcontinent have carried Urdu far beyond Pakistan and India, with the result that Urdu can claim with some justice to be one of the more widely spoken languages of the world. Its place among communities of Pakistani and Indian origin in the United Kingdom is a particularly strong one, extending beyond the Muslim community for whom it has a special significance.

SOAS Language Centre offers the following for Urdu: