We have noted elsewhere that Punjabi is spoken in Punjab, India as well as Punjab, Pakistan. Different writing systems are in vogue on either side of the international border. While Gurmukhi script is used in India Shahmukhi script is used in Pakistan. In this book, as of now, we are concerned with Punjabi as written in Gurmukhi script.
Gurmukhi is also called ‘Penti’ which literally means thirty five or consisting of thirty five. The original script, as the name suggests, consisted of thirty five letters, the present script though contains 41 letters. The additional six letters have been added as the neo-group as a result of Persian and other foreign language influences. The letters are arranged in rows according to the place of articulation of sound. Letters of successive rows, leaving aside the first and the last of the original Penti, are articulated at starting with the velum in the back of the mouth and moving out with each successive row and ending up at the lips.
Gurmukhi has special symbols called matras to denote vowels. First three letters of Gurmukhi are used to carry the matras when a consonant is not present. The remaining 38 letters are consonants and are introduced in the chapters 1 and 4 to 10. Gurmukhi also has three diacritics, three sub joined letters and its own set of numerals through 0 to 9 besides the punctuation marks. Chapter 11 will be devoted to Gurmukhi conjuncts. The international numerals are popularly used in Punjabi instead of the Gurmukhi numerals and the punctuation marks are also the same as used in English, except for full stop, a bar representing it instead of the dot. For that reason we will not touch them here.
Unlike the Roman script Gurmukhi is a near phonetic script. Each spoken sound is represented by a letter or matra and each letter or matra represents a unique sound. We will take advantage of this feature and after we are done with introducing Gurmukhi script module, use of Roman letters to show pronunciation will no more be required and will be dispensed with. It is, therefore, important that you should thoroughly learn and practise the use of the script before you move on to other modules of the book.