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Punjabi language

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Background Information

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ਪੰਜਾਬੀ پنجابی Pañjābī
Native to Pakistan (80 million speakers)
India (30 million speakers)
UK, USA, Canada, Dubai, Philippines and other countries with Punjabi migrants
Region Punjab
Native speakers Western: 61-62 million
Eastern: 28 million
Siraiki: 14 million
Total: 104 million  (date missing)
Language family
  • Indo-Iranian
    • Indo-Aryan
      • Punjabi
Writing system Shahmukhi, Gurmukhi
Official status
Official language in India Punjab, Delhi, Haryana
Language codes
ISO 639-1 pa
ISO 639-2 pan
ISO 639-3 Variously:
pan – Punjabi (Eastern)
pnb – Punjabi (Western)
pmu – Punjabi (Mirpuri)
lah – Lahndi
Indic script
This page contains Indic text. Without rendering support you may see irregular vowel positioning and a lack of conjuncts. More...
Punjabi gurmukhi shahmukhi devanagari.png

Punjabi (also Panjabi; ਪੰਜਾਬੀ in Gurmukhi, پنجابی in Shahmukhi , Pañjābī in transliteration) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Punjabi people in India, Pakistan and other parts of the world.

It is an Indo-European language within the smaller 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 linguistic typology it is an inflecting language, and word order is Subject Object Verb.

Dialects and geographic distribution

Being one of the most spoken languages in the world, Punjabi is the official language of the Indian state of Punjab and the shared state capital Chandigarh. It is one of the second official languages of Delhi and Haryana. It is also spoken in neighbouring areas such as Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. Punjabi is the predominantly spoken language in the Punjab province of Pakistan (and the most widely spoken language in Pakistan according to the CIA factbook), 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, England (where it is the second most commonly used language) and Canada (where it is the fifth most commonly used language). In recent times Punjabi has grown fast and has now become the fourth most spoken language in Canada.

Punjabi is the preferred language of most Sikhs, (most of their religious literature being written in it) and Punjabi Hindus. 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.

Punjabi University, Patiala, lists the following as dialects of Punjabi:

  • Bhattiani
  • Rathi
  • Malwai
  • Powadhi
  • Pahari
  • Doabi
  • Kangri
  • Chambiali
  • Dogri
  • Wajeerawadi
  • Baar di Boli
  • Jangli
  • Jatki

When you talk about the villagers

  • Chenavri
  • Multani
  • Bhawalpuri
  • Thalochri
  • Thali
  • Bherochi
  • Lahore-gujranwala
  • Chakwali
  • Kachi
  • Awankari
  • Lubanki
  • Dhani
  • Ghebi
  • Hindko
  • Swaen
  • Chacchi
  • Pothohari/Pindiwali
  • Gojri
  • Punchi

Some of these dialects, such as Dogri, Siraiki and Hindko are sometimes considered separate languages, and are classified in different zones or divisions of Indo-Aryan:

  • Eastern ( Central Zone): Bhattiani (a mixture of Punjabi and Rajasthani), Powadhi, Doabi, Malwai, Majhi, Bathi
  • Western ( Northwestern Zone, Lahndi): Multani, Hindko, Pothohari
  • Northern Zone: Dogri, Pahari

As classified in SIL Ethnologue:

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

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 Punjabi — on both the Indian and Pakistani side — is Majhi or Majhaili. Grierson defined Western Punjabi (which he called " Lahnda") as being west of a line running north-south from Sahiwal and Gujranwala districts. This is well within present day Pakistan. Masica remarks that "whatever validity Frierson's line may once have had has no doubt been disturbed by the great movements of population associated with partition". Contrary to this, Ethnologue has come to classify Lahndi as the dialect of Punjabi spoken in all of Pakistan.


Front Central Back
Near-close ɪ ʊ
Close-mid ə
Open ɛː ɑː ɔː
Bilabial Labio-
Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɳ ɲ ŋ
Plosive and
voiceless p ʈ ʧ k
voiceless aspirated t̪ʰ ʈʰ ʧʰ
voiced b ɖ ʤ g
Fricative (f) s (z) (ʃ) ɦ
Flap ɾ ɽ
Approximant ʋ l ɭ j


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. In the Punjab province of Pakistan, the script used is Shahmukhi (from the mouth of the Kings), a modified version of Persian-Nasta'liq (Arabic) script. In the Indian state of Punjab, Sikhs and others use the Gurmukhī (from the mouth of the Gurus) script. Hindus, and those living in neighbouring Indian 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.

Role in Education

Notable authors


  • Punjabi Dictionary English to Punjabi Dictionary
  • Punjabi to English Dictionary Convert Punjabi word into English
  • Punjabi to English dictionary Punjabi Dictionary
  • Punjabi Kosh Free Windows based Punjabi->English->Punjabi dictionary
  • Punjabi Kashmiri Dictionary by Omkar N Koul and Rattan Lal Talashi. Patiala: Language Department. 1998.
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