Language experts have traced three main stages in the development of Indo-Aryan languages. The first stage was the Sanskrit language. Migrant peoples from the northwest used Sanskrit in northern India sometime before 1000 B.C.
In the next stage, Prakrit evolved from Sanskrit by 250 B.C. Pali was another language of these times that derived from Sanskrit. From about A.D. 1000, later forms of Prakrit, collectively called Apabhramsha, gave birth to the various regional languages in common usage today.
The main modern languages to evolve from the various regional forms of Apabhramsha are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Konkani, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajasthani, and Sindhi. These languages began to emerge after A.D. 1000. As they evolved, they borrowed words from Sanskrit and also from Persian (one of the languages of India's Muslim dynasties). These northern Indian languages are now major regional languages, each spoken by several million people.
Nepali, a close relative of Hindi, is the national language of Nepal. Bengali is the national language of Bangladesh as well as being the language of West Bengal. Modern Hindi, which is based on a Delhi dialect but borrows many words from Sanskrit, is India's majority language. Hindi's sister language, Urdu, has the same grammar but borrows many words from Persian and Arabic. Urdu is the national language of Pakistan.
Apart from Persian and Arabic loan words, modern Indo-Aryan languages have borrowed many words from English and other European languages. The main modern languages to evolve from the various regional forms of Apabhramsha are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Urdu and Sindhi.
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