Words and concepts in urban development and planning in India

Amitabh Kundu, Somnath Basu

MOST City Words Project
Inde du Nord / Northern India, Working Paper N° 4, December 1999


This paper proposes an analysis of the types of words used in the North Indian towns and cities of the Hindi belt, with emphasis on urban development and planning. Hindi words, but also Urdu words of Persian lineage and English terms are used in this area which has a long tradition of multiple cultures and a long history of urbanisation. Attention is paid to the various levels of languages : popular parlance or urban’s planners terminology for instance. Regional variations are also taken into account, through a few significant examples. The use of words borrowed from the general vocabulary, the strength of vernacular terms, the process of standardisation and, on the opposite, the impact of policy changes on terminologies are assessed, as well as the acronyms which symbolize today the importance of the state intervention in urban development.
The second part of the paper offers a thematic and commentated glossary which, while not aiming at exhaustivity, offers a significant panorama of the diverse terminologies found in Northern India, be they in Hindi, in Urdu/Persian, in English, and even sometimes in a mix of two languages. These samples - 68 of then - are grouped in four categories : process of urbanisation, urban economy (mostly refering to types of employment visible in the urban landscape) ; physical aspects of urban development, and intervention of the state and administration in urban development.