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Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly in India and Pakistan. It is one of the two standardized registers of Hindustani, distinguished from the other, Hindi, mainly in its writing system. While Hindi is written with Devanāgarī script, also used to write the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, Urdu is written in an alphabet based on the Islamic Nasta'liq script. The vocabulary and phonetics also show more Persian influence than Hindi.
The national language of Pakistan, Urdu is also one of the official languages of India. It boasts over 100 million speakers worldwide. The language is associated with Muslim speakers, and in its standard form, it includes many Arabic and Persian loanwords.
There are four recognized dialects: Dakhini, Pinjari, Rekhta, and Modern Vernacular Urdu. Dakhini is spoken in South India and contains less Arabic and Persian loanwords than other dialects. Rekhta, on the other hand, has the most Persian influence and is typically used for Urdu poetry.
Urdu developed under Persian influence on the Indian subcontinent during the 13th century. It was a minority language for much of its history, though it began to rival Persian as the language of literature and the elite in the latter era of Islamic rule in India. In 1947, Urdu became the official language of Pakistan and gained a much wider following. Today, it is the language of majority in Pakistan and a few Indian states.
There is a large body of literature in Urdu, especially various forms of poetry, many religious in nature. It also boasts the third largest body of Islamic literature, after Arabic and Persian. Secular short stories are another well-developed form in Urdu literature.
Though linguists consider Urdu and Hindi two registers of a single language, speakers often disagree. The two registers are usually mutually intelligible, but a great deal of nationalism is involved in which register one speaks. The language is not simply a register to its speakers, but a symbol of national, religious, and sometimes political identity.