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Sarāikī (Perso-Arabic: , Gurmukhi: ਸਰਾਇਕੀ, Devanagari: सराइकी), sometimes spelled Siraiki and Seraiki, is an old language belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of Indo-European. It is part of the Lahnda macrolanguage that also includes Western Panjabi. Saraiki itself has a group of dialects. There are 15 million fluent speakers worldwide. Saraiki is the 30th most spoken language in the world.

It is spoken in the southern half of Punjabmarker Province and in adjacent parts of Sindhmarker, Balochistanmarker and NWFPmarker Provinces by nearly 14 million people (1998 Population and Housing Census, Pakistan), as well as by nearly 70,000 emigrants and their descendants in Indiamarker (Census of India, 2001),, 30,000 in the United Kingdommarker and a minority in Afghanistanmarker.

However the development of the standard language of Saraiki distinguished from Western Panjabi, a process which began after the founding of Pakistan in 1947, has been driven by a regionalist political movement. Since 1981, the national census of Pakistan has tabulated Saraiki among the nation's mother tongues.

Geographic distribution and number of speakers

Saraiki is native to what is now the southwestern half of Punjab Province in Pakistan. In 1919, Grierson maintained that the dialects this area constituted a dialect cluster, which he designated "Southern Lahnda" within a putative "Lahnda language". Subsequent linguists have confirmed the reality of this dialect cluster, even while rejecting other aspects of Grierson's scheme of classification, including Grierson's name for it. Saraiki is also spoken in Sindh Provincemarker, particularly the north of that province.

In Indiamarker, Saraiki is spoken by the Saraikis who settled mostly in the urban areas of the states of Punjabmarker, Haryanamarker, Maharashtramarker, Andhra Pradeshmarker, Madhya Pradeshmarker, Uttar Pradeshmarker, Rajasthanmarker, Delhimarker, and Gujaratmarker after the partition of India in 1947. According to the Indian census of 2001, Saraiki is spoken by about 70,000 people spread throughout northwest and north central India.

In Afghanistanmarker, Kandahari, a dialect of Multani/Saraiki is a mother tongue of Afghan Hindus.

Classification within Indo-Aryan

Punjabi, Saraiki, and Sindhi are all members of the Indo-Aryan subdivision of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. Saraiki and Punjabi are part of the macrolanguage referred to as Lahnda. Punjabi and Saraiki are mutually intelligible. Saraiki is distinct from Punjabi in its consonant inventory and in the structure of the verb.

The linguist George Abraham Grierson in his multivolume Linguistic Survey of India (1904-1928) considered the various dialects up to then called "Western Punjabi", spoken north, west, and south of Lahore in what is now Pakistani Punjab, as constituting instead a distinct language from Punjabi. (The local dialect of Lahore is the Majhi dialect of Punjabi, which has long been the basis of standard literary Punjabi.) Grierson proposed to name this putative language "Lahnda", and he dubbed as "Southern Lahnda" the coherent dialect cluster now known as Saraiki. Although Grierson noted that the name Saraiki (the spelling he used) is a Sindhi word meaning '[language] of the north' (sirō), Shackle asserts that this etymology is unverified and is merely the most plausible one advanced.

There is a tendency for some discussions of the Saraiki dialects and their emerging standard literary language to incorrectly include dialects or languages spoken farther north, in particular Hindko and Modern Panjistani or notehr lahnda/pothaory, mirpuri etc.. This error is due to confusion between Saraiki (Grierson's "Southern Lahnda") and the larger category of Lahnda. While these dialects to the north of the Salt Range are considerably similar to Saraiki in linguistic structure, ever since Grierson they have been recognised as definitely distinct from dialects spoken south of the range.

Dialects of Saraiki

The historical inventory of names for the dialects now called Saraiki can be confusing. Several names partially overlap others in their scope of reference; e.g. "Hindki" and "Hindko" refer to various Saraiki and even non-Saraiki dialects in the Punjab Province and farther north within the country. Several Saraiki dialects have multiple names corresponding to different regions or demographic groups. Provinces of Pakistan are divided into districts. Sources often describe the territory of a Saraiki dialect in terms of the districts where it is spoken. When consulting sources before 2000, it is important to know that several of these districts have been subdivided, some multiple times, since the founding of Pakistan. Until 2001, the territorial structure of Pakistan included a layer of Divisions between a Province and its Districts. The name dialect name Ḍerawali is used to refer to the local dialects of both Dera Ghazi Khan and Dera Ismail Khan, but Ḍerawali in the former is Multani and Ḍerawali in the latter is Thaḷi.

There are four main dialects of saraiki. These are dubbed Central (i.e., Multani); Southern (i.e., Bahawalpuri, spoken primarily in Rahim Yar Khanmarker district and in Bahawalpur District south of the city of Bahawalpur); Sindhi (spoken in Sindh province by emigrants); Northern (Thaḷi).Some saraiki linguists claim that Shahpuri(mainly spoken in Sargodha district ) & jhangochi(mainly spoken in jhang district) are also dialects of saraiki, but it is not true. In fact, these are dialects of Punjabi with some saraiki features,and the native speakers of these languages call their language as Punjabi.

A list of names in use at one or another time during the 20th century for Saraiki dialects and dialect groups is compiled in the table below. The dialect names are spelled in the standard Anglicized spelling. 'C' and 'ch' both resemble English 'ch'; 'c' represents an unaspirated sound, 'ch' an aspirated. A macron over a vowel indicates a long vowel.
Dialect Subdialect Where spoken Alternate names Notes
Mūltānī Multan, Bahawalpur, Muzaffargaṛh, Rahim Yar Khan Districts; also spoken by Saraikis in various states of India Bahāwalpurī/Riyāsatī, both names in use in Bahawalpur District. According to Masica, Bahāwalpurī and Riyāsatī are locally specific names for the Mūltānī dialect group, possibly specific dialects within the group. According to Shackle, they denote a distinct dialect group. Also according to Shackle, Bahawalpur District (i.e., within its 1976 boundaries) is split between Multani in the north and Bahawalpuri in the south, with the dialect of Bahawalpur city being of blend of these two.
Ḍerāwāli Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur District (Punjab Province); Derawal Nagar (Delhi)
Thaḷī Jhang, Sargodha, Muzaffargarh Districts (Punjab Province); Mianwali, Bannu Districts (North-West Frontier Province Thaḷochṛi in Jhang District; Jaṭkī; Hindkō, Hindkī, Ḍerāwālī west of the Indus River, the last referring to the vicinity of Dera Ismail Khan Named after the Thaḷ, a region bordered by the Indus River to the west and the Jhelum and Chenab Rivers to the east.
Kacchṛī Kacchṛī is named for alluvial desert plain of Kacchī, SW of Jhang town
Sindhī Sarāikī northern part of Sindh Province Sirāikī dialect which has some features of the Sindhī language

Number of speakers of Saraiki Language

The national census of Pakistan included Saraiki for the first time in the census of 1981. In that year, the percentage of respondents nationwide reporting Saraiki as their mother tongue was 9.83. In the census of 1998, it was 10.53 out of a national population of 132 million, for a figure of 13.9 million Saraiki speakers resident in Pakistan. Also according to the 1998 census, 12.8 million of those, or 92%, lived in the Province of Punjab. The next census of Pakistan will be conducted in October 2008.

In Indiamarker, the Multani dialect of Saraiki is spoken by 56,096 persons and the Bahawalpuri dialect is spoken by 11,873 individuals. Other dialects of Saraiki that are spoken by Indian Saraikis include Derawali, Jafri, Siraiki Hindki, Thali,.


Saraiki and Sindhi both have somewhat similar consonant inventory . This inventory includes phonemically distinctive implosive consonants, which makes Sindhi and Saraiki unusual among the Indo-European languages (and not just among the Indo-Aryan languages).



Saraiki has three short vowels, seven long vowels and six nasal vowels.


Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Stops and

Fricatives Voiceless
Trills ]]

Writing system

There are two writing systems for Saraiki, though very vew Saraiki speakers—even those literate in other languages—are able to read or write their own language in either writing system. The most common Saraiki writing system today is a 42-character alphabet based on Arabic script, which has also been adapted for use on computers. The other system, written from left-to-right, was used by Hindus, especially traders. Though not used present-day Pakistan, there are still people of the generation that learned the script before the partition of India, who fled, settled and assimilated in different regions and linguistic territories of Indiamarker and other places of the world. Some Indian Multanis also write in the Devanagari script and Gurmukhi script.

In the process of creating a distinct identity of Saraiki language, Saraiki activists have also paid attention to creating a standard Saraiki script and orthographic norms. Orthographic and linguistic standardization of Saraiki seems more connected with the politics of identity and antiquity. The emphasis was on the creation of markers which would reflect the independent status of Saraiki sounds. Although Saraiki shares four implosive sounds with Sindhi, care was taken so that the Saraiki script and the representation of these symbols should be different from that of Sindhi so that the Sindhis should not lay any claims over Saraiki literature as theirs. Various primers have been published from time to time between 1943 and 2001 by a number of people. For example, Ansari, Bhatti, Gabool & Faridi, Kalanchvi & Zami, Mughal, Pervaiz, Qureshi, Rasoolpuri, Sindhi, Siyal, each proposing a different system of representing the distinctive Saraiki sounds. Several collective efforts after the partition have also been made to standardize the Saraiki script. However, despite the claims of the Saraiki language planners on the agreement and use of a standard Saraiki script, writings with modified diacritics are still common , with increasing trend of using only agreed marks.

Variants in the Anglicized spelling

The English language spelling of the name, specifically the vowel of the first syllable, is not agreed on even within the Indian subcontinent. The name in general was adopted in the 1960s by regional social and political leaders. The name is widely considered to have originated with the word for "northern" in the neighboring Sindhi language (see discussion below), and linguists specializing in the language have consistently used the 'i' spelling for the vowel of the first syllable. But among nonlinguists "Saraiki", "Siraiki", and "Seraiki" are all found, with the last possibly the most frequent (all three spellings represent short vowel sounds). As for the native scripts, the 'a' spelling (or rather, its native equivalent) is the standard. In the Gurmukhi and Devanagari spellings given above, this is manifested by the lack of any vowel diacritic, as is typical of native Indo-Aryan orthographies, where the absence of any diacritic indicates the vowel sound, short 'a', while diacritics are used to indicate any other vowel sound.

Political Influence

In 2009 Saraiki Nationalist Claimed that there are over 30 million Saraiki people in Pakistan speake Saraiki language mostly in Saraiki Wasaib Southern Punjab and adjacent parts of sindh and Balochistan provinces, mainly based in the former princely state of Bahawalpur. (Formerly Administrated by the Nawab of Bahawalpur)

Beginning in the 1960s, Saraiki nationalists have sought to gain language rights and lessen Punjabi control over the natural resources of Saraiki lands. This has led to a proposed separate province Saraikistan, a region being drawn up by activists in the 1970. The 1977 coup by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, a centralist ruler, caused the movement to go underground. After his death in 1988 allowed the Saraiki movement to re-emerge openly with the goals to have a Saraiki nationality recognised, to have official documents printed in Saraiki, a Saraiki regiment in the Pakistan Army, employment quotas and more Saraiki language radio and television.

Saraiki Nationalist Claims that:
  • Most of the budget of Punjab province spent on upper (Northern) Punjabmarker and specially in the central Punjab Southern Punjab always being ignored. Even current Prime Minister Gillani admitted this fact.
  • Saraiki is not accepted as separate language and ignored saying it as dialect.
  • Punjabi are in majority so their demands are always ignored as an political tactic.
  • Punjab have 56% population of Pakistan and punjabis did not accept the culture of other languages to prevent thair interest and hold the democratic and political interests.
  • Other Provinces are also claiming the dishonesty of punjabis even the south half and north most side of punjab.
  • The Partition of Punjab is The demand of Management and the time.
  • The Statistics which is mainly provideid by punjabis and pro-punjabis are not presenting right picture.

Several parties are working for this mission like Pakistan Saraiki Party, Siraikistan Qaumi Movement, and the Saraiki National Party. Majid Kanjoo is one of the leaders of the Saraikistan movement.

There are some political parties and groups which are working for Saraiki province in Pakistan:
  • Pakistan Saraiki Party :Its head office is at Multan. Thaj Muhamaad Khan Langah is its president and Aslam Rasoolpuri is its secretary general.
  • Saraki qaumi Movement , Malik Abdul Majeed Karwani Awan (multan)
  • Saraikistan Qaumi Movement :Its head office is at Dera Ghazi Khan. Hameed Asghar Shaheen is its president.
  • Saraiki National Party : Its head office is at Rahimyarkhan. Its president is Abdul Majeed Kanjo.
  • Seraikistan Qaumi Ithad :Its head office is at Mithankot.Khawaja Ghulam Farid Sani is its president.
  • Saraikistan Qaumi Inqalabi Party: its head office at Rajan pur & its first President was Malik Manzoor Ahmad Bhoar he was died in 2006. Dr.Ashiq Zaffar Bhatti was the General Secretary of the party. After the Death of Malik Manzoor Bhohar Party Decided that Dr. Ashiq Zaffar Bhatti is the most Senior in the party & he is able to run the party. so all members elected Dr.Ashiq Zaffar Bhatti for President & Khalid Bedar was elected as a general Secretary of the party & decided the Jatoi district Muzaffar Garh will the head office of party. For Contact any quarries.
Dr.Ashiq Zaffar Bhatti +92301-7870843'
  • Saraiki Soba Movement, a registered party with Election Commission of Pakistan (Registration notification number F-2(5)2002-CORD (1) dated 21 August 2002). Its head office is located in Multan. The current President is Mr. Malik Mumtaz Hussain Jai (Advocate Supreme Court Pakistan)

By the efforts of Saraiki Nationalist The Government put its consuntration to the development of Southern Punjab and they also got some Cultural Benifts. Like the three well known universities of Pakistan located in this area, Baha-ud-din Zakariya University Multanmarker,Gomal University Dera Ismail Khanmarker and Islamia University Bahawalpurmarker is now issuing the degrees in Saraiki Language, Which Includes PhD in Saraiki Language.The Rohi tv, kook tv,wseb tv and PTV are promoting Saraiki culture. Rohi tv is also online tv working on internet , serving the 10th largest language.

Saraiki Versus Punjabi

The saraikis strongly feel the resentment at Punjabis' not recognizing saraiki as a language in its own right and relegating it to the status of a dialect of Punjabi. Punjabis on their part see the activities of saraiki enthusiasts as, treacherously weakening the integrity of Punjab and impeding its proper re-identification under the aegis of a single provincial language. saraikis complain of three types of encroachments by Punjabis, namely on saraiki linguistics, poetry, and folk music. They are quite bitter about the inclusion of works of Khwaja Farid (who is a saraiki poet) in the M.A. syllabus of Punjabi which claims him to be a Punjabi poet. As for the claims on other classical poets, Shackle observes that the famous Sufi poets of the region like Shah Hussain Sultan Bahu or Bullhe Shah were eclectic in their choice of diction from different dialects to suit their metre and rhyme so in this sense their works to some extent are open to claims from Saraiki as well as from Punjabi.

Confusion has also arisen over the name of the Punjab province. Anything belonging to the Punjab province and presented as Punjabi, like literature, culture, heritage might be interpreted as representing not Punjab the region but Punjabi language and this is unacceptable to the identity conscious saraikis because they believe that, when reference is made to Punjabi culture it doesn't refer to administrative unit but to cultural are being deprived of your social, cultural and linguistic identity legally and officially' .

Some writers tend to take saraiki as a dialect of Punjabi, The explanation lies either in the fact that they are not adequately informed, or in their desire to exaggerate the importance of Panjabi'. Lahndi [saraiki] and Sindhi are the sister languages which have a near relation ...with Punjabi'. while comparing saraiki with Punjabi, points to a great difference existing even between the sub-dialects of Punjabi merging into saraiki which he terms Western Punjabi. Both saraiki and Punjabi despite having grammatical, phonological and phonetic differences share many morphological, lexical and syntactic features and are mutually intelligible saraiki differs radically from the Punjabi of Lahore area in tone and consonant sounds. saraiki activists make the most of these differences to assert their separate linguistic identity.

The emphasis on the difference from the Punjabi language also means an escape from the clutches of the all-inclusive label of Punjabi which activists fear would swallow their own culture and identity. The saraikis emphasize their differences from Punjabis in order to stress their specific cultural and ethnic identity and it would be counter productive for them to accept saraiki as a dialect of Punjabi. The saraikis and Punjabis use the functional definition of language which takes language as a super imposed norm' in Haugen's sense, according to which all mutually intelligible varieties of it are considered deviations from it. However, if we use Haugen's structural definition, then a language would be the sum of all intelligible varieties of it with the most prestigious norm as one of them. In such a case both saraiki and Punjabi can be called varieties of Greater Punjabi' or Greater saraiki'. (AA)

See also

Notes and References

  1. Abstract of speakers’ strength of languages and mother tongues – 2001, Census of India (retrieved 19 March 2008)
  3. Rahman 1997:838
  4. Shackle 1977
  5. Masica 1991:18, 20
  6. Shackle 1977:388
  7. Grierson 1919:239ff.
  8. Masica 1991, Appendix I:220-245
  9. Pakistan census 1998
  10. Masica 1991
  • Grierson, George A. 1919. Linguistic survey of India. vol. VIII, Part 1. Calcutta. Reprinted 1968 by Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi.
  • Masica, Colin. 1991. The Indo-Aryan languages. Cambridge University Press.
  • Pakistan. 1998. Population and Housing Census of Pakistan.
  • Rahman, Tariq. 1997. Language and Ethnicity in Pakistan. Asian Survey, 1997 Sep., 37(9):833-839.
  • Shackle, C. 1976. The Saraiki language of central Pakistan: a reference grammar. London:School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
  • Shackle, C. 1977. Saraiki: A Language Movement in Pakistan. Modern Asian Studies, 11(3):379-403.
  • AA- Seraiki Language and Ethnic Identity by Dr Saiqa Imtiaz Asif.

Further reading

External links

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