Punjabi language

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ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, پنجابی
Spoken in PunjabPakistan (80 million speakers)
India (30 million speakers)
Other countries with Punjabi migrants
Total speakers Western: 61-62 million
Eastern: 28 million
Siraiki: 14 million
Total: 104 million
Language family Indo-European
Language codes
ISO 639-1 pa
ISO 639-2 pan
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. See IPA chart for English for an English-based pronunciation key.

Punjabi (also Panjabi; ਪੰਜਾਬੀ Pañjābī in Gurmukhī, پنجابی Panjābī in Shāhmukhī) is the language of the Punjabi people and the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan.

It is an Indo-European language of the Indo-Iranian subfamily. Unusually for an Indo-European language, Punjabi is tonal; the tones arose as a reinterpretation of different consonant series in terms of pitch. In terms of morphological complexity, it is an agglutinative language[1] (also very unusual for an Indo-European language, most of which are inflecting) and words are usually ordered 'Subject Object Verb'.

The Punjabi people suffered a split between India and Pakistan during the Partition of 1947. However, Punjabi language and culture tend to be uniting factors in spite of national and religious affiliations.

Dialects and geographic distribution

Punjabi is the official language of the Indian state of Punjab and Chandigarh. It is one of the second official languages of Delhi and Haryana.[2] It is also spoken in neighbouring areas such as Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. Punjabi is the predominant spoken language in the Punjab province of Pakistan although it has no official status there, and both Urdu and English are preferred languages of the elite.

Punjabi is also spoken as a minority language in several other countries where Punjabis have emigrated in large numbers such as the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom (where it is the second most commonly used language[3]) and Canada (where it is the fifth most commonly used language[4]). Punjabi is the preferred language of the Sikhs, in which some of their religious literature is written. It is the usual language of Bhangra music, which has recently gained wide popularity both in South Asia and abroad.

There are many dialects of Punjabi and they all form part of a dialect continuum, merging with Sindhi and related languages in Pakistan, and Hindustani in India. The main dialects of Punjabi are Majhi, Doabi, Malwai and Powadhi in India, and Pothohari, Lahndi and Multani in Pakistan. Majhi is the standard written form of Punjabi and is the dialect used in both Amritsar and Lahore.

The Punjabi University, Patiala, lists the following as dialects of Punjabi:[5]

As classified in Ethnologue:

├Northern zone
│└Western Pahari
│ └Dogri [dgo]
├Northwestern zone
│└Lahnda [lah]
│ ├Jakati [jat]
│ ├Khetrani [xhe]
│ ├Mirpur Punjabi [pmu]
│ ├Northern Hindko [hno]
│ ├Pahari-Potwari [phr]
│ ├Siraiki [skr]
│ ├Southern Hindko [hnd]
│ └Western Punjabi [pnb]
└Central zone
└Eastern Punjabi [pan]

Some of these dialects, such as Dogri, Siraiki and Hindko are sometimes considered separate languages.

Western and Eastern Punjabi

Many sources subdivide the Punjabi language into Western Punjabi or Lahndi (ਲਹਿੰਦੀ), and Eastern Punjabi. They tend to do so based on GA Grierson's Linguistic Survey of India. The decision to divide the language has been controversial. The exact division of the language and even the legitimacy of such a division is disputed.

The dialect spoken in central Punjab — on both the Indian and Pakistani side — is Majhi. Grierson defined Western Punjabi as being west of a line running north-south from Montgomery and Gujranwala districts. This is well within present day Pakistan.[6] Contrary to this, Ethnologue has come to classify Lahndi as the dialect of Punjabi spoken in all of Pakistan.


Modern Punjabi vocabulary has been influenced by other languages, including Hindustani, Persian, Sanskrit and English.

Much like English, Punjabi has moved around the world and developed local forms by integrating local vocabulary. While most loanwords come from Hindustani, Persian and English, Punjabi emigrants around the world have integrated terms from such languages as Spanish and Dutch. A distinctive "Diaspora Punjabi" is thus emerging. As there is no formal consensus over vocabulary and spelling in Punjabi, it is likely that Diaspora Punjabi will increasingly deviate from the forms found on the Indian Subcontinent in the future.

Writing system

There are several different scripts used for writing the Punjabi language, depending on the region and the dialect spoken, as well as the religion of the speaker. The script used for writing Punjabi in the Punjab province of Pakistan is known as Shahmukhi (from the mouth of the Kings) which is a modified version of Persian-Nasta'liq script. Sikhs and others in the Indian state of Punjab tend to use the Gurmukhī (from the mouth of the Gurus) script. Hindus, and those living in neighbouring states such as Haryana and Himachal Pradesh sometimes use the Devanāgarī script. Gurmukhī and Shahmukhi scripts are the most commonly used for writing Punjabi and are considered the official scripts of the language.


English Gurmukhi Shahmukhi Transliteration Notes
Hello ਸਤਿ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਅਕਾਲ


ਅੱਸਲਾਮ ਅਲੈਕਮ

سات سری اکال


السلام علیکم

Sat Srī Akāl (Sikh)

Namastē/Namaskār (Hindu)

As'salām Alaikam (Muslim)

The greeting used depends on the religion of the speaker and the person to whom is being spoken to.
Yes (Informal) ਹਾਂ ہاں Hāṁ
Yes (Formal) ਹਾਂ ਜੀ ہاں جی Hāṁ Jī
No (Informal) ਨਹੀਂ نہیں Nāhīṁ
No (Formal) ਨਹੀਂ ਜੀ نہیں جی Nahīṁ/Nahīṁ Jī
My name is ___. ਮੇਰਾ ਨਾਂ ___ ਹੈ । میرا نا ___ ہے۔ Mērā Nāṁ ___ Hai
My ਮੇਰਾ । Mērā


  1. Bhatia, T. "Punjabi: A Cognitive-Descriptive Grammar", 1993. p 279. ISBN 0-415-00320-2
  2. The Times of India - "Punjabi, Urdu made official languages in Delhi" 25 June 2003
  3. "Punjabi Community". The United Kingdom Parliament.
  4. Canadian Census Data (2001)
  5. Advanced Centre for Technical Development of Punjabi Language, Literature and Culture
  6. Masica, CP, "The Indo-Aryan Languages", ISBN 0-521-29944-6, p 20

Bhatia, Tej K. Punjabi. Facts about the world's languages: An encyclopedia of the world's major languages, past and present. Ed. Jane Garry, and Carl Rubino: New England Publishing Associates, 2001.

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