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Urdu's dialects and regional varieties: a brief survey of works on their glossaries.

Byline: Rauf Parekh

A DIALECT is a variety of a language. According to dialectologists, regional dialects are specific to geographical areas. For instance, Vicholi and Sarai are varieties of the Sindhi language spoken in different part of Sindh, hence, they are dialects of Sindhi. Similarly, Khari Boli and Mewati are varieties of Urdu spoken in some particular areas and are regional dialects of Urdu.

Dialects of a language differ grammatically, lexically and phonologically, but are mutually intelligible as they differ in systematic ways, wrote Victoria Fromkin in her 'Introduction to Language'.

Social dialects are varieties of a language specific to a social group. A variety of a language spoken in a different social or economic or ethnic group is called a social dialect. Karkhandari boli, for example, is a social dialect of Urdu spoken by the artisans and labourers in Delhi. 'Tapori' language, a variety of Urdu spoken by the members of Mumbai underworld, is also a social dialect of Urdu. Slangs, jargons and argots fall in the category of social dialects.

Luckily, in the past 80 years or so, we have had a steady flow of books collecting the words and phrases used in different dialects and varieties of Urdu. Here are a few of the dictionaries that list the words of Urdu used in different social and regional varieties:

Bihar Urdu lughat

Compiled by Ahmed Yousuf and first published in 1984 issue of journal of Khuda Bakhsh Public Library, Patna, it was published in book form in 1995. Listed are about 3, 000 words and phrases of Urdu used in a particular way in Bihar, India. Entries amply prove that it is a peculiar variety of Urdu spoken in Bihar, with different phonological and grammatical styles.

Rohilkhand Urdu lughat

Like other areas, Rampur too developed a different variety of Urdu with peculiar meanings and a generous spray of Pashto vocabulary. The dictionary explains the words and phrases used in Urdu spoken in Rampur and other areas of Rohilkhand. Compiled by Raees Rampuri and published by Khuda Bakhsh Library, Patna, in 1995, the dictionary reflects the historical fact that the Afghan and Pathan tribes had settled here centuries ago and lent their vocabulary to local dialects of Urdu. In 1999, a Lahore publisher had published an enlarged edition of the book.

Bhopali Urdu

Bhopal too developed its own version of Urdu. Though a few articles by renowned scholars have enhanced the value of the book, more valuable is a glossary of words and phrases used in Bhopal's Urdu. The glossary, compiled by Dr Abdul Wadood, is based on the books by Takhallus Bhopali, a humorist who used the Bhopali variety in his works. Dr Razia Hamid had compiled the book that was published from Bhopal in 2006.

Dakani Urdu ki lughat

Deccan had developed its variety of Urdu and it is one of the oldest versions of literary Urdu. The variety is so much different, apparently because of the influence of the local Dravidian languages, that some scholars thought it was a different language. But scholars from Deccan have compiled a number of dictionaries listing the usage and emphasising that it is just a regional variety of Urdu. Among them perhaps the most authentic is the large-size, 380-page Dakani Urdu ki lughat, compiled by Masood Hussain Khan and Ghulam Umar Khan and published by Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Academy in 1969.

Dakani lughat

Another authentic dictionary of Dakani Urdu, a large-size, 520-page Dakani lughat was compiled by Dr Syeda Jafer and published by Delhi's National Council for promotion of Urdu in 2008.

Dakani lughat

Subtitled 'tazkira-i-Dakani makhtooAtaat', the dictionary was compiled by Prof Agha Hyder Hasan, a legendary figure who loved and collected antiques and manuscripts. It was edited by Prof Mughni Tabassum and published in 2002 from Hyderabad (Deccan).

Bazaari zaban

The full title is Bazaari zaban-o-Istilahaat-i-paisha varaan. It is a dictionary of Urdu's non-standard, slangy varieties and social dialect used by working classes. It was compiled by Muneer Lukhnavi and published from Kanpur in 1930.

Awami rozmarra aur muhavre

Compiled by Shabbir Ali Kazmi and published in 50th issue of Urdu nama, Karachi, in 1975, the work lists non-standard and slang expressions of Urdu used by men in street.

Urdu slang lughat

Compiled by Qasim Yaqoob and published in 2016, the book lists Urdu's slangy words, informal idioms and expressions.

Aside from compiling glossaries and vocabularies, some of our scholars have carried out research on Urdu's dialects, regional varieties and informal usages peculiar to some other areas such as Rajasthan, Poona, Lahore, Mumbai (known as Bambaiyya Urdu) and Kolkata (called Kalkatya Urdu). Gopi Chand Narang and Naseer Ahmed Khan have published books on Karkhandari, Urdu's social dialect spoken in Delhi.
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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 8, 2018
Words:872
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