Urdu, just like other languages of Pakistan is classified as an Indo-Iranian language. The language group is part of the larger Indo-European language family. According to Tariq Rahman who is an oral historian, Urdu has been in existence in the region of Pakistan since the 14th century, and it was formerly called Hindustani. It is written using the Nastaliq script, which is a modified form of the Perso-Arabic alphabet. The alphabet has 32 characters. While writing Urdu, the words are written from right to left, and most of the letters in a word are connected. Besides Urdu, Pakistan also has four provincial languages which are the first languages of natives of various provinces. They include Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, and Balochi.

Only 8% of Pakistanis speak Urdu as their first language. They are mainly Muslim refugees from various parts of India who took refuge in Pakistan after its independence in 1947. The rest of Pakistanis speak it as an acquired language. Punjabi is the first language of the majority of Pakistanis who live in Punjab province. The population of Punjabi speakers comprises 44% of Pakistanis. Pashto speakers mostly live in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa area, and they make up 15.44% of the population. Sindhi is spoken by about 14.5% of Pakistanis, mainly from the rural region of Sindh Province. Only 4% of Pakistan nationals talk Balochi, and the language is predominant in Balochistan province.

The phrase for common greetings in Urdu is āssālam ‘alaykum. The response to the greetings is wālaikum assalām or sālam in informal circumstances. To say thank you in Urdu, Pakistanis will either say bahut shukriya or simply shukriya. Khush āmdīd is the Urdu expression for welcome while khuda hafiz is used when saying goodbye. The letter k in Khush and khuda is silent, and it is omitted during pronunciation.

There are about 60 minor languages in Pakistan, some of which are highly endangered. The speakers of these languages range from a few hundred people to tens of thousands. Some of the minority languages include Gujarati, an Indo-Aryan language just like Urdu and it is also part of the Indo-European language family. The Jogis of Sindh Province speak Jogi language which is also a minor language in Pakistan. Brahui language is also categorized as a minority language although it has many native speakers who are mostly found in Balochistan Province. According to a report published by UNESCO in 2009, Brahui is among 27 Pakistani languages that face the threat of extinction.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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