The origin of language as a medium of instruction and medium of communication arose by virtue of the socio development of primitive man into organized and more complex civil societies overtime and language invariably has reflected the stage of development of man at any given time. It has served a purpose in the space of time it has existed, well suited to cater to the needs of the particular society and time in which it developed and evolved. Thus, language has evolved along with evolution of man and his society and has played an integral part in building the foundations of modern nations and their relations amongst each other. The importance of language therefore, as a tool of empowerment, as a basis for the foundation of any educated and civilized society and its survival therefore cannot be ignored. This is because language enables us to communicate with one another, facilitates understanding and serves as the very means towards laying down rules and principles that govern the society and the relationships, the rights and duties of people with one another.

Having said so, however, we must not forget that social development of man is an evolutionary process and that language being a “tool” to assist man in that sphere is basically just that – a tool. A tool will only be useful until such time that it serves the purpose for which it is built and until such time that a more efficient alternative is not developed by man to suit his ever evolving needs. Language therefore, is a tool that cannot stay stagnant and must reflect and compliment the evolutionary process that man undergoes at each stage of development. If not, the “outdated” language will meet its ultimate fate that any other outdated tool does i.e. it will die.

Precisely this is what is happening to Urdu as a language in our society. This language is gradually ceasing to perform a useful function for its people and with the development of better and more efficient alternative in the form of English Language for example, this anachronistic tool is slowly but surely nearing its expiry date as is alleged by the traditional users of this medium of instruction.

This however, may not really be the case. As mentioned earlier, language is an evolutionary tool and has complimented the development of man since the first cave paintings appeared and primitive societies became more organized. Paintings evolved into symbols and symbols into alphabets and hence, language kept evolving and changing as man kept evolving and developing.

This is a reality that we need to embrace and approach what is happening to Urdu language with a wide open mind.

Urdu is not “dying” as is often alleged rather, it is “evolving” in a way that is unprecedented. Perhaps this explains why the evolution of Urdu has not been recognized and instead claims of its death have been made. The unprecedented evolution of Urdu came along with advent of the Information Age which has had an influence on our lives in ways that we could not even have imagined. The internet has given birth to a “new kind of Urdu” popularly called “Roman Urdu”. Not that Romans have got anything to do with this but apparently that is how the new form of Urdu has come to be known. In this form, the traditional letters of Urdu have been replaced by English alphabets which the generation and youth of today relate more easily to. They comprehend it and above all use it quite naturally in the daily sphere of their lives when they communicate online or otherwise. Whether this trend is a good thing or a bad thing is a separate issue that is open for debate but the reality that this evolution and change to Urdu language has happened and is going on happening is a reality that you and I cannot deny in this day and age.

It is therefore, advisable to embrace this change in a way that it can be directed towards achieving a constructive outcome rather than deny it and feel remorse at the death of a language that has in fact evolved. I suggest we adopt Roman Urdu as a language and even go to the extent of translating traditional Urdu writings into this evolved version of Urdu for our current generation to relate to, thus making the language hold appeal for the needs of the current generation. In this way, at least the ‘spirit’ of the language may be preserved and transferred, if not the ‘form’.

The writer holds LLB (Hons) LLM (Law and Development) from University of London. She is working  as an Investment Law consultant  in Lahore.