Literary notes Darya-e-Latafat a remarkable work on Urdu and its grammar.

POET and prose writer Insha Allah Khan Insha (1752-1817) was a genius: he knew Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Sanskrit, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Bengali and Marathi and wrote in five of these languages.

He had a knack for learning and mastering languages and knew some dialects of Urdu, too, for instance, Brij Bhasha, Khari Boli, Purbi, Marvari and a few more. He was one of the earliest poets who used English words in their Urdu poetry. Some of the examples showing earliest use of English words in Urdu - like powder, fire, coach, glass, court, paltan (platoon) - are found in Insha's Urdu poetry.

His mastery over prosody was remarkable and he even concocted some new metres for composing Urdu poetry. Insha wrote with authority on rhetoric, exposition, grammar and other branches of knowledge relating to poetics and linguistic skills.

The work that amply shows Insha's command over linguistic themes and grammatical issues is Darya-e-Latafat. It discusses Urdu grammar and true colours of Urdu language. Written in Persian, it is the first ever grammar of Urdu written by a native. Until then, grammars of Urdu language were written by Europeans in European languages, such as, Dutch, Latin and English. Later on, in 19th century, Urdu grammars were penned in French, German and Italian as well. In 20th century, some Russian scholar wrote grammar of Urdu, not to mention scores of Urdu grammars that began appearing in 19th century. But the earliest grammar of Urdu written in Urdu by a native is Qavaed-e-Sarf-o-Nahv-e-Zaban-e-Urdu. It was written by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in 1840.

Many followed suit; however, it was Insha, the first local, who led the way when he, in collaboration with Mirza Muhammad Hasan Qateel, penned Darya-e-Latafat in 1222 Hijri, or 1807/08 AD, albeit it could not see light of day until 33 years after Insha's death. It was ultimately published from Murshidabad in 1850.

Initially, the Persian version of Darya-e-Latafat had about 475 pages and two sections. Each section is divided into several subsections. The first portion having about 300 pages was penned by Insha and the rest was by Qateel's pen. Insha also wrote the epilogue.

The first portion analyses Urdu's place of birth, its alphabet, its different accents, Urdu as spoken in Delhi and Urdu's varieties that different social strata in Delhi used. Parlances used by Delhi's Punjabis, Kashmiris, Syeds, Purbis and Delhi's women come under discussion with interesting, sometimes even...

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