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PETER Trudgill is one of the world’s renowned authorities on sociolinguistics and dialects. Trudgill says in his book On dialect: Social and geographical perspectives that “one of the things that dialectology does very well is to supply data and it is regrettable that sociolinguists often ignore this data, or discover it themselves, with surprise, decades after dialectologists knew all about it”.

Just imagine how well, or bad, we are doing when it comes to dialects and their data, as we do not have any such thing that can be called data on dialects and languages spoken in our country. We do not have any linguistic atlas of our own that could tell us precisely what languages and dialects are spoken in which part of our country. ‘Atlas of languages and ethnic communities of South Asia’ by Roland Breton includes maps that show regions of different dialects. Aside from a few authentic sources like Breton’s atlas, we know very little about Pakistani languages and the dialects of Urdu.

As discussed in the previous piece published in these columns, there is a yawning gap between the facts about Urdu’s dialects and what is generally believed about Urdu’s dialects. Misconceptions about Urdu’s dialects abound.

So here is a brief introduction to some of Urdu’s dialects. The information is based on some books and Among the books helpful in understanding Urdu’s dialect is Azhar Ali Farooqi’s Uttar Pradesh ke lok geet, describing not only the areas of these dialects and their sub-dialects but also the peculiar vocabularies of the respective regions where they are spoken.

The regions mentioned with these dialects below are main areas where these dialects are spoken but the boundaries of these dialects often overlap and many dialects are spoken in adjoining areas and elsewhere, too.

Awadhi or Avadhi

Avadhi is spoken in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Its sub-dialects are Baiswari Avadhi and Kosali. Malik Muhammad Jaisi’s Padma vat, one of the classical poetic works of Urdu, is composed in Avadhi dialect of Urdu. Lahore’s Majlis-i-Taraqqi-i-Adab has published it.


Also known as Baagri Boli, Vaagri and Waagri, Bagri is basically spoken in a region called Bagar or Wagar in northwest India, including some southern parts of Pakistani Punjab. It is spoken in the areas of Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur in Pakistan and Haryana and Rajasthan in Indian Punjab. Some researchers believe that a dialect known as Shaikhawati too is a kind of Bagri. An interesting piece in Bagri Boli, titled ‘Lobh ma laabh na’ was published in a 1965 issue of Urdu nama, a magazine published by Urdu Dictionary Board.


Spoken in Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, Bhojpuri is also subdivided into sub-dialects with their own names in the respective areas. Its sub-dialect, for example, spoken in the areas around Banaras (now Varanasi) is known as Kashika.

Brij Bhasha

Also called Brij or Brij Bhasha, it is spoken in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana Rajasthan and some other regions. Muhammad Hussain Azad had opined in Aab-i-hayat that Urdu had developed from Brij Bhasha spoken in the areas around Agra and Mathura. Before 1800, it was the literary language and some early literary pieces of Urdu have a distinct stamp of Brij on them. It was due to the fact that before Delhi, the capital of Mughals was Agra. But once the capital was shifted to Delhi, the Khari Boli dialect took over.


Its other name is Bundelkhandi and it is spoken in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Some of its sub-dialects resemble Bagheli and Braj.


It is mostly spoken in Rajasthan, especially areas in and around Tonk, Jaipur and, to some extent, Ajmer.


Haryani or Haryanvi is spoken in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. When Hafiz Mahmood Sherani surmised that Urdu had developed from Punjabi, he basically kept in view the resemblance between Urdu and Haryanvi.


Also known as Kannauji and Qannauji, it is spoken in Uttar Pradesh. Renowned linguist A.G. Grierson thought it was a form of Brij Bhasha. Its variety spoken in Kannauj and Farrukhabad is considered pure.

Khari Boli

The latest linguistic research shows that Khari Boli is most probably the dialect from which both Urdu and Hindi developed and it is this dialect that has now become standard Urdu language and standard Hindi language. It is sometimes called simply Khari. According to Azhar Ali Farooqi, Khari’s other name is Kaurvi. But some scholars believe Kaurvi is a sub-dialect of Khari Boli spoken in specific areas. It is spoken in Delhi, Meerut and many major cities as well as in rural areas in Uttar Pradesh.


A Rajasthani dialect of Urdu, Mewati is spoken in Mewat region, especially in Bharatpur and Alwar.


Some scholars say that Purabi is a sub-dialect of Bhojpuri spoken in Banaras, Azamgarh and Mirzapur.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2018