Gujarati  
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  • Spoken (along with Hindi) in Gujarāt, a state in western India.
  • Derived from Sanskrit.
  • An Indo-European language, of the Indo-Aryan family, spoken by about 46 million people worldwide, making it the 23rd most spoken language in the world. Of these, roughly 45.5 million reside in India, 150,000 in Uganda, 250,000 in Tanzania, 50,000 in Kenya and roughly 100,000 in Pakistan.
  • A considerable population of Gujarati speakers exists in North America and the United Kingdom as well. In the United Kingdom, Leicester (Midlands) and Wembley (North London) are two areas popular with Gujaratis. The two most common surnames among Gujarati speakers are Shah and Patel; the latter surname has gained an alternate meaning in the United States, as many bearers of the name own and operate mostly small and medium-sized motels throughout the country; indeed, some estimates suggest that more than half of all such establishments in America not affiliated with major chains are owned and/or managed by Gujaratis, many of them surnamed Patel.
  • The history of the language can be traced back to 12th c. CE. A formal grammar of the precursor of this language was written by Jain monk and eminent scholar Hemachandra-charya in the reign of Rajput king Siddharaj Jayasinh of Patan. This was called Apabhransa grammar, signifying a language which is a corrupted form of languages like Sanskrit and Ardha-magadhi. The earliest literature in the language survives in oral tradition and can be traced to two stalwarts, the Krishna devotee and great egalitarian Narasinh Mehta (later a source of inspiration to Mahatma Gandhi) dated to be in the 17th century. The story of Narasinh Mehta himself was composed as a long narrative ballad by Premananda, accorded the title "maha-kavi" or great poet by modern historians of the language. His date is perhaps late 17th century. Other than this a large number of poets flourished during what is now characterised as the bhakti or devotional movement in Hinduism, a movement of the masses to liberate the religion from entrenched priesthood.
  • Modern exploration into Gujarat and its language is credited to British administrator Alexander Kinloch Forbes. During the nineteenth century at a time when the British rule was more consolidatory and progressive this gentleman explored much of the previous thousand years of the history of the land and compiled a large number of manuscripts. The learned body devoted to Gujarati language is named after him, Farbas Gujarati Sabha with headquarters in Mumbai.
  • The Gujarati spoken today takes considerable vocabulary from Persian due to the more than five centuries of the rule of Sultan kings who were Muslim. These words occur mostly in reference to worldly and secular matters. The other elements of the language however draw quite a lot on the native tribes of the specific region, as listed above under Dialects.
  • It is written in Gujarati script, an abugida very similar to Devanagari (the script used for Sanskrit and Hindi), but without the line at the top of the letters.


     

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