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Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language that is mostly spoken in the countries of South Asia. It is the country's official language as well as the country's lingua franca. Urdu is recognised as an Eighth Schedule language in India, which means that its status, function, and cultural legacy are all acknowledged by the Constitution of India. Additionally, Urdu is recognised as an official language in numerous states within India. Urdu is recognised and used as a recognised regional dialect in Nepal.

The Hindustani language contains a register known as Urdu, which has been regarded as having a Persian influence. Urdu and Hindi both draw their word bases, phonologies, syntactic structures, and grammatical structures from Sanskrit and Prakrit, which enables them to communicate with one another in a manner that is mutually understandable. Formal Urdu borrows literary, political, and technical terminology from Persian, while formal Hindi borrows similar features from Sanskrit. As a result, the mutual intelligibility of the two languages effectively reduces as the factor of formality grows.

Urdu was selected by the British East India Company in 1837 to be the language that would replace Persian throughout northern India while the Company was in control of that region. Prior to this time, Persian had been used as the court language of the Indo-Islamic empires. During the time when Europe was ruled by colonial powers, religious, social, and political forces emerged that campaigned for a differentiation between Urdu and Hindi; this gave rise to the conflict between Hindi and Urdu.

Urdu was first used for writing in the 18th century, about the same time that two distinct standard forms of the language emerged in the cities of Delhi and Lucknow. Since the partition of India in 1947, a third standard has emerged in the city of Karachi, which is now in Pakistan. In the 16th century, the earlier variety of the language known as Deccani, which was spoken in southern India, was adopted as the court language of the Deccan sultanates.

Urdu is expected to have roughly 61.9 million native speakers by the year 2021, placing it as the 21st biggest first language spoken throughout the globe. Urdu is the 10th most frequently spoken language in the world, according to estimations provided by Ethnologue in 2018. This number includes individuals who speak it as a second language, which brings the total number of speakers to 230 million. The Hindustani language, which consists of Hindi and Urdu, is the third most spoken language in the world when colloquial spoken situations are taken into consideration on a large scale.