Writing systems of Punjabi
We have noted elsewhere that Punjabi is spoken in Punjab, India as well as Punjab, Pakistan. There are different writing systems on either side of the international border. While Gurmukhi script is used in India Shahmukhi script is used to write Punjabi in Pakistan. In this book we are concerned with Punjabi as written in Gurmukhi script.
Gurmukhi is also called ‘Penti’ which literally means consisting of thirty five. The original script consisted of thirty five letters (and hence the name), 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 succesive 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 succesive 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 lessons 1 and 4 to 10. Gurmukhi also has six diacritics and its own set of numerals through 0 to 9 besides the punctuation marks. Lesson 11 will be devoted to conjuncts in Gurmukhi. 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 and for that reason we will not touch them here.
Unlike the Roman script Gurmukhi is a phonetic script meaning thereby that 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, use of Roman letters to show pronunciation will no more be required and will be dispenced with. This means that before you move on to other modules of the book you need to thoroughly learn and understand the script and its proper usage.