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Academic Paper

Title: Urdu in Devanagari: Shifting orthographic practices and Muslim identity in Delhi
Paper URL:
Author: Rizwan Ahmad
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Qatar University
Linguistic Field: Anthropological Linguistics; Sociolinguistics; Writing Systems
Subject Language: Urdu
Subject LANGUAGE Family: Indo-European
Abstract: In sociolinguistics, Urdu and Hindi are considered to be textbook examples of digraphia - a linguistic situation in which varieties of the same language are written in different scripts. Urdu has traditionally been written in the Arabic script, whereas Hindi is written in Devanagari. Analyzing the recent orthographic practice of writing Urdu in Devanagari, this article challenges the traditional ideology that the choice of script is crucial in differentiating Urdu and Hindi. Based on written data, interviews, and ethnographic observations, I show that Muslims no longer view the Arabic script as a necessary element of Urdu, nor do they see Devanagari as completely antithetical to their identity. I demonstrate that using the strategies of phonetic and orthographic transliteration, Muslims are making Urdu-in-Devanagari different from Hindi, although the difference is much more subtle. My data further shows that the very structure of a writing system is in part socially constituted.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Venue: Language in Society Vol. 40 (3) pp 259-284

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