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Punjabi ,Panjabi or Jubjub ( in Gurmukhi script, in Shahmukhi script, in Devanagari script, in transliteration) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by inhabitants of the historical Punjab region (in Pakistanmarker and north western Indiamarker).

According to the Ethnologue 2005 estimate, there are 88 million native speakers of the Punjabi language, which makes it approximately the 11th most widely spoken language in the world. According to the 2008 Census of Pakistan, there are 76,335,300 native speakers of (Various Dialects) Punjabi in Pakistan and according to the Census of India, there are 29,102,477 (Eastern Dialects) Punjabi speakers in India.

Punjabi language has many different dialects, spoken in the different sub-regions of greater Punjab. The Majhi dialect is Punjabi's prestige dialect, and is spoken in the historical region of Majha, which spans East-central districts of Pakistani Punjab and the Indianmarker State of Punjabmarker.

Along with Lahnda and Western Pahari languages, Punjabi is unusual among modern Indo-European languages in being a tonal language.

The Language Punjabi today generally refers to "Eastern Punjabi" based on the Majhi, Malwi and Doabi dialects.


Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language like many other modern languages of South Asia. The Punjabi language is a descendant of Sauraseni Prakrit, which was the chief language of medieval northern India.

Punjabi emerged as an independent language in the 11th century from the Sauraseni Apabhramsa. The literary tradition in Punjabi started with Fariduddin Ganjshakar (Baba Farid) (1173-1266), many ancient Sufi mystics and later Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first Guru of Sikhism. The early Punjabi literature was principally spiritual in nature and has had a very rich oral tradition. The poetry written by Sufi saints has been the folklore of the Punjab and is still sung with great love in any part of Punjab.

Between 1600 and 1850, Muslim Sufi, Sikh and Hindu writers composed many works in Punjabi. The most famous Punjabi Sufi poet was Baba Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757), wrote in the Kafi style. Bulleh Shah practiced the Sufi tradition of Punjabi poetry established by poets like Shah Hussain (1538 – 1599), Sultan Bahu (1629 – 1691), and Shah Sharaf (1640 – 1724). His lifespan also overlapped with the legendary Punjabi poet Waris Shah (1722 – 1798), of Heer Ranjha fame. Waris Shah's rendition of the tragic love story of Heer Ranjha is among the most popular medieval Punjabi works. Other popular tragic love stories are Sohni Mahiwal, Mirza Sahiba and Sassi Punnun. Shah Mohammad's Jangnama is another fine piece of poetry that gives an eyewitness account of the First Anglo-Sikh War that took place after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

The linguist George Abraham Grierson in his multivolume Linguistic Survey of India (1904-1928) used the word "Punjabi" to refer to several languages spoken in the Punjab region: the term "Western Punjabi" (ISO 639-3 pnb) covered dialects (now designated separate languages) spoken to the west of Montgomerymarker and Gujranwalamarker districts, while "Eastern Punjabi" referred to what is now simply called Punjabi (ISO 639-3 pan) After Saraiki, Pothohari and Hindko (earlier categorized as "Western Punjabi") got the status of separate languages, the percentage of Punjabi speakers in Pakistan decreased from 59% to 44%.

Association with the Sikhs

Punjabi is not the predominant language of the Sikh scriptures (which are written in several dialects, though in Gurmukhi script). A few portions of Guru Granth Sahib use the Punjabi dialects, but the book is interspersed with several other languages including old Hindi languages (such as Brajbhasha and Khariboli), Sanskrit and Persian. Guru Gobind Singh, the last Guru of the Sikhs composed Chandi di Var in Punjabi, although most of his works are composed in other languages like Braj bhasha and Persian.

However, in the 20th century, the Punjabi-speaking Sikhs started attaching importance to the Punjabi written in the Gurmukhi script as a symbol of their distinct identity. The Punjabi identity was affected by the communal sentiments in the 20th century. Bhai Vir Singh, a major figure in the movement for the revival of Punjabi literary tradition, started insisting that the Punjabi language was the exclusive preserve of the Sikhs. After the partition of India, the Punjab region was divided between Pakistan and India. Although the Punjab people formed the biggest linguistic group in Pakistan, Urdu was declared the national language of Pakistan, and Punjabi did not get any official status. The Indian Punjab, which then also included what are now Haryanamarker and Himachal Pradeshmarker, became Hindi-majority.

In the 1960s, the Shiromani Akali Dal proposed "Punjabi Subamarker", a state for Punjabi speakers in India. Paul R. Brass, the Professor Emeritus of Political Science and South Asian Studies at the University of Washington, opines that the Sikh leader Fateh Singh tactically stressed the linguistic basis of the demand, while downplaying the religious basis for the demand—a state where the distinct Sikh identity could be preserved. The movement for a Punjabi Suba led to trifurcation of Indian Punjab into three states: Punjab marker, Haryanamarker and Himachal Pradeshmarker.

Modern Punjabi

In India, Punjabi is one of the 22 languages with official status in India. It is the first official language of Punjab marker and Union Territory State Chandigarhmarker and the 2nd official language of Haryanamarker, Himachal Pradeshmarker and Delhimarker. In Pakistan, Punjabi is the provincial language of Punjab marker the second largest and the most populous province of Pakistanmarker.

The famous Punjabi writers from Pakistan include:

The famous Indian Punjabi poets in modern times are:

Geographic distribution


Punjabi is the most spoken language of Pakistanmarker. Punjabi is spoken as first language by over 44.15% of Pakistanis. Punjabis comprise the largest ethnic group in the country. Punjabis are dominant in key institutions such as business, agriculture, industry, government, army, navy, air force, and police which is why about 70% of Pakistanis can understand or speak Punjabi.

The Punjabis found in Pakistanmarker are composed of various social groups, castes and economic groups. Muslim Rajputs, Jat, Dogars, Gujjars, Gakhars, Khatri or Punjabi Shaikhs, Kambohs, and Arains, comprise the main tribes in the north, while Awans, Gilanis, Gardezis, Syeds and Quraishis are found in the south. There are Pashtun tribes like the Niazis and the lodhis, which are very much integrated into Punjabi village life. People in major urban areas have diverse origins, with many post-Islamic settlers tracing their origin to Afghanistanmarker, Persiamarker, Turkeymarker, Arabia and Central Asia.

Census History of Punjabi Speakers in Pakistan
Year Population of Pakistan Percentage Punjabi Speakers
1951 33,740,167 67.08% 22,632,905
1961 42,880,378 66.39% 28,468,282
1972 65,309,340 66.11% 43,176,004
1981 84,253,644 48.17% 40,584,980
1998 132,352,279 44.15% 58,433,431

Source: In the National Census of Pakistan (1981) Saraiki, Pothohari and Hindko (Before categorized as "Western Punjabi") got the status of separate languages thats why number of Punjabi speakers got decreased.

Provinces of Pakistan by Punjabi speakers (2008)
Rank Division Punjabi speakers Percentage
Pakistanmarker 76,335,300 44.15%
1 Punjabmarker 70,671,704 75.23%
2 Sindhmarker 3,592,261 6.99%
3 Islamabad Capital Territorymarker 1,343,625 71.66%
4 NWFPmarker 396,085 0.97%
5 Balochistanmarker 318,745 2.52%
6 F.A.T.A. 12,880 0.23%


Districts of Punjab along with their headquarters

Punjabi is spoken as a native language by over 2.85% of Indians. Punjabi is the official language of the Indian state of Punjabmarker and the shared state capital Chandigarhmarker. It is one of the official languages of the state of Delhimarker and the second language of Haryanamarker.

The Punjabis found in Indiamarker are composed of various ethnic groups, tribal group, social groups and economic groups. Some major sub-groups of Punjabis in India include Ahirs, Arora, Bania, Bhatia, Brahmin, Gujjar, Kalals/Ahluwalias, Kambojs, Khatris, Lobanas, Jats, Rajputs, Saini, Sood and Tarkhan. Most of these groups can be further sub-divided into clans and family groups.

Most of East Punjab's Muslims (in today's states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Chandigarh) left for West Punjab in 1947. However, a small community still exists today, mainly in Malerkotlamarker, the only Muslim princely state among the seven that formed the erstwhile Patialamarker and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU). The other six (mostly Sikh) states were: Patialamarker, Nabhamarker, Jindmarker, Faridkotmarker, Kapurthalamarker and Kalsia.

Census History of Punjabi Speakers In India
Year Population of India Punjabi Speakers in India Percentage
1971 548,159,652 14,108,443 2.57%
1981 665,287,849 19,611,199 2.95%
1991 838,583,988 23,378,744 2.79%
2001 1,028,610,328 29,102,477 2.83%

The Punjabi Diaspora

Punjabi is also spoken as a minority language in several other countries where Punjabis have emigrated in large numbers, such as the United Statesmarker, Australia, the United Kingdommarker (where it is the second most commonly used language) and Canadamarker, where in recent times Punjabi has grown fast and has now become the fourth most spoken language.. Punjabi is the 2nd most common language in the UK after English and the 4th most common spoken language in Canada after English, French and Chinese.

List in order of native speakers

Rank Country First language
1 76,335,300
2 Republic of Indiamarker 29,109,672
3 2,300,000
4 1,100,000
5 720,000
6 640,000
7 620,000
8 260,000
9 185,000
10 140,000
11 120,000
12 90,000
13 80,000
14 75,000
15 75,000
16 70,000
17 70,000
18 68,000
19 65,000
20 60,000
21 55,000
22 50,000
23 45,000
24 40,000
25 35,000

Dialects: linguistic classification

In Indo-Aryan dialectology generally, the presence of transitional dialects creates problems in assigning some dialects to one or another "language". However, over the last century there has usually been little disagreement when it comes to defining the core region of the Punjabi language. In modern India, the states are largely designed to encompass the territories of major languages with an established written standard. Thus Indian Punjab is the Punjabi language state (in fact, the neighboring state of Haryana, which was part of Punjab state in 1947, was split off from it because it is a Hindi speaking region). Some of its major urban centers are Ludhianamarker, Amritsarmarker, Chandigarhmarker, Jalandharmarker, and Patialamarker. In Pakistan, the Punjabi speaking territory spans the east-central districts of Punjab Province. Lahoremarker, Rawalpindimarker, Faislabadmarker, Gujranwalamarker, Sargodhamarker, Sialkotmarker, Jhelummarker and Gujratmarker. Lahoremarker the historic capital of Punjab is the largest Punjabi speaking city in the world. Lahoremarker has 86% native Punjabis of total population of the city. and Islamabadmarker the Capital of Pakistanmarker has 71% Native Punjabis of total population.

Major Punjabi dialects

The Majhi dialect is Punjabi's prestige dialect and spoken in the heart of Punjab where most of the Punjabi population lives. The Majhi dialect, the dialect of the historical region of Majha, which spans the Lahoremarker, Sheikhupuramarker, Kasurmarker, Okara, Gujranwalamarker, Wazirabadmarker, Sialkotmarker, Narowalmarker, Gujratmarker and to some extant in Jhelummarker District of Pakistani Punjabmarker and Amritsarmarker, Tarn Taran Sahibmarker, and Gurdaspurmarker Districts of the Indianmarker State of Punjabmarker.

This dialect is spoken in north Pakistani Punjabmarker. mainly The area where Pothowari is spoken extends in the north from Muzaffarabadmarker to as far south as Jhelummarker, Gujar Khanmarker, Chakwalmarker and Rawalpindimarker. [phr] 49,440 (2000 WCD). Murree Hillsmarker north of Rawalpindi, and east to Bhimbermarker. Poonchi is east of Rawalakotmarker. Potwari is in the plains around Rawalpindi. Alternate names: Potwari, Pothohari, Potohari, Chibhali, Dhundi-Kairali. Dialects: Pahari (Dhundi-Kairali), Pothwari (Potwari), Chibhali, Punchhi (Poonchi), Jhelumi, Mirpuri. Pahari means 'hill language' referring to a string of divergent dialects, some of which may be separate languages. A dialect chain with Panjabi and Hindko. Closeness to western Pahari is unknown. Lexical similarity 76% to 83% among varieties called 'Pahari', 'Potwari', and some called 'Hindko' in Mansehramarker,Muzaffarabadmarker, and Jammun. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northern zone, Western Pahari.

Jhangochi or Rachnavi
Jhangochi (جھنگوچی) dialect is spoken in Pakistani Punjabmarker. Jhangochi or Rachnavi is the oldest and most idiosyncretic dialect of the Punjabi. It is spoken throughout a widespread area, starting from Khanewalmarker and Jhang at both ends of Ravimarker and Chenabmarker to Gujranwala districtmarker. It then runs down to Bahawalnagarmarker and Chishtianmarker areas, on the banks of river Sutlejmarker. This entire area has almost the same traditions, customs and culture. The Jhangochi dialect of Punjabi has several aspects that set it apart from other Punjabi variants. This area has a great culture and heritage, especially literary heritage, as it is credited with the creation of the famous epic romance stories of Heer Ranjha and Mirza Sahiba. It is spoken in the Bar areas of Punjab, i.e. areas whose names are often suffixed with 'Bar', for example Sandal Bar, Kirana Bar, Neeli Bar, Ganji Bar and also from Khanewalmarker to Jhang includes Faisalabadmarker and Chiniotmarker.

This dialect is spoken in Pakistani Punjabmarker. The Shahpuri language has been spoken by the people of the town Shahpurmarker. This language has been spoken by the people of District Sargodhamarker including Dera Chanpeer Shah, Khushabmarker, Jhangmarker, Mianwalimarker, Attockmarker, parts of Faisalabadmarker (foremerly Lyallpur), parts of Dera Ismail Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bahawalnagarmarker, Chakwalmarker, Mianwalimarker, Sargodhamarker, Khushabmarker and Mandi Bahauddinmarker districts.

Classified under Lahnda languages by many linguists; perhaps differs from Punjabi. This dialect is spoken in north west Pakistani Punjabmarker and NWFPmarker mainly this dialect is spoken in districts of Peshawarmarker, Attockmarker, Nowshehramarker, Mansehramarker, Balakotmarker, Abbottabadmarker and Murreemarker and the lower half of Neelum District and Muzafarabad.

Malwi spoken in the eastern part of Indian Punjabmarker. Main areas are Patiala Ludhianamarker, Ambalamarker, Bathindamarker, Ganganagarmarker, Malerkotlamarker, Fazilkamarker, Ferozepurmarker. Malwa is the southern and central part of present day Indian Punjabmarker. It also includes the Punjabi speaking northern areas of Haryanamarker, viz. Ambalamarker, Hissarmarker, Sirsa, Kurukshetramarker etc. Not to be confused with the Malvi language, which shares its name.

Doabi spoken in Indian Punjabmarker. The word "Do Aabi" means "the land between two rivers" and this dialects is spoken between the rivers of Beas and Sutlejmarker. It includes Jalandharmarker and Hoshiarpurmarker districts.

Powadh or Puadh or Powadha is a region of Punjab and parts of Haryana between the Satluj and Ghaggar rivers. The part lying south, south-east and east of Rupnagar adjacent to Ambala District (Haryana) is Powadhi. The Powadh extends from that part of the Rupnagar District which lies near Satluj up to the Ghaggar river in the east, which separates the states of Punjab and Haryana. Parts of Fatehgarh Sahib district, and parts of Patiala districts like Rajpura are also part of Powadh. The language is spoken over a large area in present Punjab as well as Haryana. In Punjab, Kharar, Kurali, Ropar, Nurpurbedi, Morinda, Pail, Rajpura and Samrala are the areas where the Puadhi language is spoken and the area itself is claimed as including from Pinjore, Kalka to Bangar area in Hisar district which includes even Nabha and Patiala in it.

Punjabi University classification

Punjabi Universitymarker, Patialamarker, State of Punjab, India takes a very liberal definition of Punjabi in that it classifies Saraiki, Dogri, and Pothohari/Pothwari as Punjabi. Accordingly, the University has issued the following list of dialects of Punjabi:

The "Lahnda" construct

The name "Punjab" means "5 waters" in Persian (panj ab) and refers to five major eastern tributaries of the Indus Rivermarker. The historical Punjab region, now divided between Pakistan and India, is defined physiographically by the Indus Rivermarker and these five tributaries. The bulk of the Panjab, 3.5 rivers are located in Pakistan. One of the five, the Beas River, is a tributary of another, the Sutlejmarker River, and lies entirely in present day India, well within the eastern half of historical Punjab.

The British linguist George Abraham Grierson came to the conclusion that a group of dialects known collectively as "western Punjabi" or Lahnda spoken north and west of the Punjab heartland, in the Indus valley itself and on the lower reaches of the other four tributaries (excluding the Beas River), in fact constituted a language distinct from eastern or jurdga Punjabi. He christened this group of dialects "Lahindā" in a volume of the Language Survey of India (LSI) published in 1919. He grouped as "southern Lahnda" the dialects that are now recognized as multani or Saraiki. The northern Lahnda sub-Group has eveloved into Modern Panjistani (or pahiri/mirpur/pothoahri)and modern Hindko .Grierson tentatively identified the boundary between Punjabi and "Lahnda" as a north-south line running from the Gujranwala District to the former Montgomery Districtmarker (near the town on Sahiwal). This line lies well west of Lahore and within the boundary of Pakistan.

In the aftermath of the independence of Pakistan and subsequent Partition of 1947, some investigators supposed that the Punjabi speakers in new Pakistan might give up their native dialects and adopt one or another "Lahnda" dialect; but this did not occur. Most Punjabis in Pakistan including Muslim migrants from East Punjab now speak the Lahnda dialect.

Classification by Ethnologue

Because of the stature of Ethnologue as a widely accepted authority on the identification and classification of dialects and languages, their divergent views of the geographical distribution and dialectal naming of the Punjabi language merit mention. They designate what tradition calls "Punjabi" as "Eastern Punjabi" and they have implicitly adopted the belief (contradicted by other specialists) that the language border between "western Panjabi" and "eastern Panjabi" has shifted since 1947 to coincide with the international border.


English Majhi, Lahori/Amritsari Pothohari Dogri Kangri Pahari
What are you doing? (masculine) Ki karda ae? Ka karne uo? Ke karde o? Ke (kay) peya kare-nanh?
What are you doing? (masculine to address female) Ki kardi aa? Ka karani ay? Ke karani ae? Ke (kay) pai (payi) kare-neenh?
How are you? Ki haal hai, Keh aal e? ke aal a? Tudda ke haal e (eh)?
Do you speak Punjabi? Tusin Punjabi Bol laende ho ? Punjabii bolne uo? Punjabi bolde o? Punjabi uburne o?
Where are you from? Tusin kidhar to ho?/ Tusi kidron aaye ho? Tusa kudhr nay aiyo? Tus kudhr to o? Kathe ne o?
Pleased to meet you Tuhanu mil ke bahut khushi hoyi Tusan milay tay boo khushi oye Tusan nu miliye bahut khusi oyi Tussan mil ke khushi thi.
What's your name? Tuhada naam ki e? Tusan naa ke aa? Tusan da naa kay ai? Tudda ke naanh ve?
My name is ... Mera naam ... e Mara naa ... e Mera naa ... e Mainda naanh ... eh
What is your village's name? Tuhade pind/graan da naam ki hai?/ Tuhada pind/graan kehda hai? Tusane graana naa ke aa? Tusan da graan kay aa? Tudde gerayenh na ke naanh ve?
Yes Haan Ahoo Ah Hanh
No Nahin Naa Naa Nainh
Would you like (to eat) some sweets? Mithaee lainee aa? / Mithaee Khaauge? Mithaee Kaso? Mithaee khaani e? Kuj mitha khaine o?
I love you. Main tainu pyar kardaa Mai tuki pyar karna Mai tusi pyar karna Main tuhan pyar kare-nanh.
We went to the Cinema Assi Cinema gaye sige Assa cinema gaye saa Assi cinema gaye ayan.
Where should I go? Mainu kitthe jana chahida hai? mai kudhar jaa


Front Central Back

There are also nasalized vowels.

Bilabial Labio-

Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive and

voiceless aspirated


Punjabi has three phonemically distinct tone that developed from the lost murmured (or "voiced aspirate") series of consonants. Phonetically the tones are rising or rising-falling contours and they can span over one syllable or two, but phonemically they can be distinguished as high, mid, and low.

A historical murmured consonant (voiced aspirate consonant) in word initial position became tenuis and left a low tone on the two syllables following it: "horse". A stem final murmured consonant became voiced and left a high tone on the two syllables preceding it: "October". A stem medial murmured consonant which appeared after a short vowel and before a long vowel became voiced and left a low tone on the two syllables following it: "to be lit". Other syllables and words have mid tone.


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 and differs from the standard Nastaʿlīq script as it has four additional letters. The eastern part of the Punjab region, located in Indiamarker, is divided into three states. In the state of Punjabmarker, Sikhs and others use the Gurmukhī script. Punjabi Hindus who are mainly concentrated in the neighbouring Indian states such of Haryanamarker and Himachal Pradeshmarker, as well as the national capital territry of Delhimarker, sometimes use the Devanāgarī script to write Punjabi.

Notable authors

See List of eastern or judrga Punjabi authors.


Pothohari (Nothern Lahnda,pahari or Modern panjistani) dictionary by Sharif Shad

See also



  • Burling, Robbins. 1970. Man's many voices. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Ethnologue. Indo-Aryan Classification of 219 languages that have been assigned to the Indo-Aryan grouping of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages.
  • Ethnologue. Languages of India
  • Ethnologue. Languages of Pakistan
  • Grierson, George A. 1904-1928. Grierson's Linguistic Survey of India. Calcutta.
  • Masica, Colin. 1991. The Indo-Aryan languages. Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Rahman, Tariq. 2006. The role of English in Pakistan with special reference to tolerance and militancy. In Amy Tsui et al., Language, policy, culture and identity in Asian contexts. Routledge. 219-240.
  • Shackle, C. 1970. Punjabi in Lahore. Modern Asian Studies, 4(3):239-267. Available online at JSTOR.

Further reading

  • Bhatia, Tej. 1993. Punjabi : a cognitive-descriptive grammar. Routledge. Series: Descriptive grammars.
  • Gill H.S. [Harjit Singh] and Gleason, H.A. 1969. A reference grammar of Punjabi. Revised edition. Patiala, Punjab, India: Languages Deparmtent, Punjab University.
  • Shackle, C. 1972. Punjabi. London: English Universities Press.

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