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Punjabi : Language of the Bhangra

Brief Description

It is an Indo-European language within the Indic branch of the Indo-Iranian subfamily. Unusually for an Indo-European language, Punjabi is tonal; the tones arose as a reinterpretation of different consonant series in terms of pitch. In terms of morphological complexity, it is an agglutinative language (also very unusual for an Indo-European language, most of which are inflecting) and words are usually ordered 'Subject Object Verb'.

Gurmukhi has 35 letters and nine vowel modifiers. In addition, there are five special sound modifiers symbols. A vertical bar is used to indicate the end of a sentence. Two vertical bars indicate pauses between sentences or paragraphs. Stylistically, Gurmukhi derives its letter shapes from "Landa", a trading argot derived from various sources by the mercantile community in the Punjab, but the Nagari script's influence is evident from the top horizontal bar present in most letters. The Punjabi language employs three tones. However, they are not represented in the writing system except for the sporadic use of the "ha" letter (reduced to a subscript) to indicate a high tone.

Regions where spoken

It is the language of the Punjabi people and the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan. Punjabi is the official language of the Indian state of Punjab and the shared state capital Chandigarh. It is one of the second official languages of Delhi and Haryana. It is also spoken in neighbouring areas such as Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. Punjabi is the predominantly spoken language in Punjab province of Pakistan (and the most widely spoken language in Pakistan according to the CIA factbook), although it has no official status there, and both Urdu and English are preferred languages of the elite.

Punjabi is also spoken as a minority language in several other countries where Punjabis have emigrated in large numbers such as the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom (where it is the second most commonly used language) and Canada (where it is the fifth most commonly used language). Punjabi is the preferred language of the Sikhs because much of their religious literature is written in a similar language. It is the usual language of Bhangra music, which has recently gained wide popularity both in South Asia and abroad.

Development & Spread

The period between 1600 and 1850 covers the most significant portion in Punjabi linguistic history, with many writers employing Punjabi in varying degrees of intensity. The best-known Punjabi scholar and Persian poet of the 17th century was Chandar Bhan, a resident of Lahore. Another significant work in this period was the "Bara Anva" (literally "Twelve Topics"), an innovative thesis on Islam written entirely in Punjabi, by the poet Abdullah. During this age, many Sufi poets gained ascendance to the forefront and their compositions, entirely Punjabi in spirit and content, form an integral part of Punjabi literature. Baba Bulle Shah was one of the greatest Sufi poets in Punjab's history whose "Kafis" or short poems attained enormous popularity. Ali Haidar, a contemporary of Bulle Shah's, wrote a large number of poems generically titled "Si-harfis", each of approximately 30 stanzas in length, with each stanza beginning with a letter of the Persian alphabet. In this same era Jasoda Nandan wrote a poem of 88 stanzas based on an episode from the Ramayana. Another poet, Guru Das wrote 40 stories in poetic form, called "Vras", as an offering to Guru Granth with the intention of conveying moral instructions.


Punjabi is written in the Gurmukhi script, a word that literally means "from the mouth of the Guru". This script was standardized by Guru Angad Dev in the 16th century and is descended from the "devashesha" stage of the later Sharada script, a member of the Brahmic script family which predates the Devanagari script to the 8th century AD and the Gupta script a system that flourished between the 4th and 8th century AD.

Important Writers or Works

Guru Nanak Dev, Amrita Pritam, Dr. Kuljeet Kaur, Ram Sarup Ankhi, Kartar Singh Balaggan, Bawa Balwant, Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Sultan Bahu, Sarabjit Bedi, Jagjit Brar, Sanawar Chadhar, Ahmed Khan Chadhar, Amarjit Chandan, Paash, Kartar Singh Duggal.

Other details

Punjabi can also be written in a system known as the Perso-Arabic script, which is used to write Urdu. This system is referred to as "Shahmukhi". Many people also employ the Hindi script to write in Punjabi

Source: www.wikipedia.com, www.bhashaindia.com

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