Punjabi Language


Punjabi is a robust and vibrant language, as is Punjabi culture, rich in literature with traditions in folk and modern literatures alike. Though it is mother tongue of the natives of Punjab in India and Pakistan, it is spoken internationally by an estimated 100 to 125 million people. It is the official language of Indian state of Punjab. It is also the second official language of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi states of India and the de facto sacred language of Sikhs, being the language of the Sikh scriptures and religious literature. In Pakistan though, Urdu and English are the official languages, Punjabi speakers form the single largest linguistic group.

Punjabi is spoken as a minority language in several countries, including Afghanistan. It is also spoken in many countries where Punjabis have emigrated in large numbers, such as Britain, Canada, Australia and the United States. The language finds a place of pride in many countries including Canada where it is the fourth most spoken language. Much like English, Punjabi has moved around the world and developed local forms by assimilating local vocabulary and cultures. While most borrowed words come from English, Hindi and Urdu and indirectly from Persian, Punjabi has also taken words from languages such as Spanish and Dutch. A distinctive "Diaspora Punjabi" is thus emerging.

Like other Northern Indian languages, Punjabi derives from Sanskrit and therefore belongs to the Indics, a branch of Indo-European family of languages. It uses the Gurmukhi script though in Pakistan a modified variant of Arabic script called Shahmukhi is used. Gurmukhi has evolved over centuries and passed through many phases from Brahmi to Landas. With a great deal of contribution from Sri Guru Angad Dev, the second Sikh Guru, it has assumed the modern day form, though it continues to evolve. Like other Indic scripts it is most scientifically ordered.

Punjabi culture much like its Bengali counterpart, suffered a split between India and Pakistan during the Partition of 1947. As such, Punjabi language and culture tend to be unifying factors for the peoples of India and Pakistan in spite of the national and religious affiliations.