Abstract: Based on historical data from the 19th century colonial India, supplemented with contemporary data, this talk will present the multilayered sociolinguistic imaginaries of Urdu during and after the British Raj. Firstly, I show the sociolinguistic representations of the Urdu language and its script during the Hindu nationalist movement of the 19thcentury, foregrounding the changes in the indexicalities of Urdu in postcolonial India. Secondly, I show how these conceptions of Urdu relate to its current use in Bollywood songs across the last five decades.
As I sketch the journey of Urdu over three centuries, I bring to the fore the complex web of language, script, politics, and identity that has shaped and has been shaped by the Urdu language. The study is informed by a combination of theories and methods from (historical) sociolinguistics, linguistic ethnography, and quantitative sociolinguistics.