Punjabi Language – Rich In Every Which Way

Punjabi is an Indo Aryan language, and is ranked as the 10th most widely spoken language, spoken by 100 million native speakers worldwide. It is spoken in Indian Punjab, Pakistani Punjab (that forms about 60% of Pakistani population) and Punjabi diaspora which is spread across the globe, that is the UK, Canada, the USA, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Australia  Punjabi descended from the Shauraseni language of medieval northern India and became a distinct language during the 11th century.

In India Punjabi is written with the Gurmukhi (ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ) alphabet, while in Pakistan it is written with a version of the Urdu alphabet known as Shahmukhi (شاہ مکھی). The written standard for Punjabi in both India and Pakistan is known as Majhi (ਮਾਝੀ/ ماجھ), which is named after the Majha region of Punjab.

Punjabi language is a very old language. In Indian Punjab, the language is written in Gurmukhi script. Even about the Gurmukhi script, there is a misconception that it was created by Sikh Gurus. The word Gurmukhi has connotative meaning that the script was appropriated and popularized by the Sikh Gurus in general and Guru Angad Dev Ji in particular.

Punjabi is mainly written in the below Scripts

Gurmukhi Script (In India)

Shahmukhi Script (In Pakistan)

Devnagri Script (Dogri Upboli or Dialects)

GURMUKHI SCRIPT: The Gurmukhi alphabet developed from the Landa alphabet and was standardised during the 16th century by Guru Angad Dev Ji, the second Sikh guru. The name Gurmukhi means “from the mouth of the Guru” and comes from the Old Punjabi word guramukhī. The type of writing system is syllabic alphabet and the direction of writing is from left to right in horizontal lines.

Modern Gurmukhi has thirty-eight consonants (vianjan), nine vowel symbols (lāga mātrā), two symbols for nasal sounds (bindī andṭippī), and one symbol which duplicates the sound of any consonant (addak). In addition, four conjuncts are used: three subjoined forms of the consonants Rara, Haha and Vava, and one half-form of Yayya. Use of the conjunct forms of Vava and Yayya is increasingly scarce in modern contexts.

SHAHMUKHI SCRIPT: The Shahmukhi alphabet is a version of the Urdu alphabet used to write Punjabi in Pakistan. It is normally written in Nastaʿlīq style and has been used since the second half of the 20th century. The name Shahmukhi means “from the King’s mouth”. It is a Perso-Arabic alphabet used by Muslims in Punjab to write the Punjabi language.The Shahmukhi alphabet was first used by the Sufi poets of the Punjab; it became the conventional writing style for the Muslims in Pakistan. The direction of writing in this case is from right to left in horizontal lines.

It’s used in Indian Punjab is mainly confined to the elderly generation, although it is also recommended to be studied for students studying at M.A level in Punjabi. It is however, used as the main alphabet to write the Pothohari dialect in Indian Jammu and Kashmir.

DEVNAGARI SCRIPT: Punjabi is mainly written in Shahmukhi and Gurmukhi but Devnagari  also used to write dogri dialect of punjabi language. It is less popular and a lesser known script for Punjabi.


And then there are different dialects of Punjabi.


Spoken in the heart of Punjab i.e., Lahore , Sialkot, Gujaranwala, Gurdaspur, Amritsar. Most of the population of Punjab lives in this area and linguists also say that Majhi dialect is the “Tixali boli” i.e., it has been influenced by all other dialects


Spoken in the east Punjab area of Ludhiana, Ambala, Bathinda, Ganganagar, Maleerkotla Fazilka, Ferozepur. This area (Malwa) is the southern and central part of present day Indian Punjab. Also includes the Punjabi speaking areas of Haryana, viz. Ambala, Hissar, Sirsa, kurukhetra etc. (northern parts of Haryana mainly).


Land between the rivers of Beas and Satluj is called Doaba. Do Aaba literally means “the land between two waters” in Persian. It includes Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur.


The area where Pothohari is spoken extends in the north from Kashmir to as far south as Jehlum and Gujar Khan and includes the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. This dialect is similar to some extent to the Hindko dialect of Punjabi which is spoken in Peshawar, Nowshehra, Mansehra all these areas lie in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan where majority language is Pashto, but Hindko speakers area also found in sizable numbers.


The region where Jhangvi is spoken stretches from Khanewal to Jhang and includes the cities of Faisalabad, Chiniot. Jhangvi dialect is also called the “Jangli” dialect of Punjabi. 


The dialect spoken in Multan, Bahawalpur, Khairpur, Daira Ghazi Khan, Muzafar Garh i.e., southern deserts of Punjab is called Multani (also Lehndi by some) and perhaps differs from Punjabi more than any other dialect. Those who closely know the dialect say that it is a very “mithi boli.” This is the land of Muslim Sufis, perhaps “Shah Shams Sabazwari” who came to Multan in 1165 AD was the first in a long series of Sufis to base themselves in Multan. Multani becomes more and more different as you move down south, as the influence of Sindhi increases, it is also known as Siraiki there. Siraiki itself is Sindhi word and means northern.

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