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Punjabi Language

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Overview: Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan. It is by default “official language” of Sikhs all over the world, second most commonly used language in the United…


Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan. It is by default “official language” of Sikhs all over the world, second most commonly used language in the United Kingdom, one of the eighteen national languages of India and fourth most spoken language in Canada. Punjabi is most widely written in Shahmukhi script in Pakistan. Gurmukhi script is the official script for Punjabi in India and is widely used by Sikhs for their day to day religious, social and business communication. Roman script has emerged as the most popular script for writing Punjabi on the internet. Punjabi is the main and official language in the provinces of Punjab (Pakistan) and Punjab (India). Contemporary Punjabi has liberal use of Hindi words and is getting closer to Hindi in India, Urdu in Pakistan, and English on the internet. Rough estimates indicate that over one hundred and ten million people all over the world declare Punjabi as their first language. There are over seventy five million speakers of Punjabi in Pakistan and over twenty-five million in India.

Roots of the language:

To put it simply, Punjabi is the language of natives of the Greater Punjab region. The Greater Punjab region includes: Punjab province of Pakistan, Islamabad capital territory region of Pakistan, Punjab province of India, some counties/districts of Jammu & Kashmir province of India, Himachal Pradesh province of India and Haryana province of India. Punjabi emerged as an independent language in the early 11th century. The current flow of the language and its grammar are derived from Shuraseni, an ancient Indo-Aryan tonal language. There are over thirty distinct major dialects of Punjabi, Majhi is the predominant dialect in use and is also referred to as “Standard Punjabi.”

Language characteristics:

With the ever-growing influence of Hindi, Urdu, and English on the Punjabi language, spoken Punjabi has liberal usage of loanwords from these languages and it is acceptable to use them in spoken form for convenience. Written Punjabi, however, strives to remain close to its original vocabulary. Official Punjabi in Pakistan has replaced many Sanskrit words with Persian or Arabic words and official Punjabi language in India has substituted many Persian or Arabic words with those from Hindi and English.

Written form:

Gurmukhi is a custom created script for Punjabi, in other words Punjabi predates Gurmukhi as a script. Gurmukhi, which means “from the mouth of the Gurus,” (Gurus as in – the ten Sikh Gurus of Sikhism) Gurmukhi script is derived from ancient Brahmi script. It has forty-one consonants, nine vowels and three symbols. Gurmukhi script was created, standardized, and adopted as script for Punjabi language by the second Guru of Sikhs – Shri Guru Angad Dev Ji sometime during the fourth decade of the 16th century. The holy book of Sikhs, which is respected as the living Guru, is fully written in the Gurmukhi script. Shahmukhi script is the official script for Punjabi language and is wholly based on the Urdu alphabet. The script, however, has evolved in the 19th century and now has four additional letters and three symbols over the original Urdu alphabet. Shahmukhi means “from the King’s mouth,” and is written left to right in the Arabic/Persian style of writing. Devanagari and Roman scripts are also used informally for written communication by those who are not comfortable with Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi scripts.

Punjabi Music and Bollywood:

The influence of Punjabi as a language in Bollywood movies has been growing. Most Bollywood movies now have Punjabi vocabulary mixed in, along a few songs fully sung in Punjabi. At any point of time, Punjabi songs in Bollywood movies now account for more than 50% of the top of the charts listings.

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