Essay On My Mother In Punjabi Language To English Translation

At the babel of an airport someone vaguely familiar tapped a tremulous finger on my shoulder.

‘Don’t you recognize me?’ she said. ‘I am your mother.’

We hugged the usual way. Normally I am the one who visits her in Delhi. Perhaps that is why her arrival in Canada that summer of 2007 felt vectorially imprecise, and inaccurate.

We collected her bags and while driving home I reminisced about our phone conversation in April, barely a month before her flight. She had asked if I was eating all right. Before we hung up she was curious about my new work. Cryptically I managed a few lines about a difficult novel in progress. We had talked briefly then about my first book, a collection of short stories.

‘I read all the cuttings you mailed me. The reviews are fine. But has anyone translated the book?’

Ajai nahin,’ I said.

She paused longer than expected.

‘A friend’, I added, ‘has shown interest.’

‘In which language?’

‘Spanish. Perhaps.’

‘What do you mean perhaps? And what about translation into your own language? Have you forgotten?’

Punjabi, my mother tongue. How could I forget? Our April 2007 phone conversation didn’t take place in English or Bengali or Tamil or Urdu. Mother and I, as usual, spoke in Punjabi that day. It is a language that wobbles inside me, still.

‘Still’ is a wrong word. I would like to replace it with ‘always’. In my adult life I rarely get to read and write in Punjabi, but I speak it all right. I recall growing up with my mother’s exaggerated fears that this language of ours would soon become fossilized. Painstakingly she would teach me the alphabet and grammar at home. I didn’t understand then the real reason behind her fears. Or the fact that Punjab’s rich literary tradition took a severe blow in post-independence India.

‘Why don’t you translate my book then?’ But the moment the phone call ended I forgot all about it. I was certain she too would expunge the translation business out of her mind. My mother had never translated before.

When her jetlag relaxed, Mother opened her bags and took out a few gifts and a small package.

‘Here, a sample.’

The package was as light as air.

‘Story Number One,’ she announced. ‘Tarjama kar dita hai.

Tarjama means ‘translation’ in Punjabi.

‘Tell me what you think?’

I kept the sample and promised to read it soon.

After dinner she slept uninterrupted for fourteen or fifteen more hours. In my room I sat in front of my Mac, but found it impossible to edit old chapters or write something fresh. The ‘sample’ stared me in the face. Unable to delay any further I opened the small and slim package.

Her handwriting had not changed. Like slices of lost space and time those eight or nine sheets drew me in hypnotically, I recall. They felt like brittle old yellowing photos. At school we never had Punjabi as a subject, so she taught me how to read and write at home, and this was always a major problem. Punjabi lessons reduced the time I spent playing cricket.

I placed the sample on my desk. Then almost involuntarily tried to write a word or two in Punjabi. On the title page my right hand made an attempt, which resulted in a shock of a disaster – an absurd mixing of Punjabi Gurumukhi script and Devnagri. I couldn’t even write my own name properly.

Embarrassed, I remember thinking about Mother’s near perfect relationship with Punjabi. And her strange relationship with the English language. She is unable to speak fluently in English, and yet faces no problems reading or writing. In fact she reads twice or thrice faster than all of us in the family, and her comprehension is quite good. Back then, when I was growing up, she would often read a book in English and summarize it in Punjabi for our benefit.

Such was the state of my mind when I gazed at the opening line of the translated story. I started slowly, but to my surprise picked up speed, and read properly till the very end. It was a faithful translation. What struck me was that she got the emotional impact right.

Next day during lunch Mother asked again if I had already read the sample. I said it was very good.

‘How did you do it?’

She emphasized the usefulness of a dictionary. She recalled discussing a few translation challenges with my father.

‘But what you have here is more than a dictionary or discussions. You have preserved the emotional impact. How did you do it?’

She didn’t respond. Within minutes she transformed the kitchen table and started work. My mother translated the remaining stories in the collection during her visit. She would ask me a few pointed questions, and spend her days walking or translating. She used no laptop or desktop, not even a typewriter. In six weeks she had the first handwritten draft ready. There are fourteen stories in the book (Seventeen Tomatoes), and she translated thirteen of them. What about the fourteenth one? When I brought this up, she said, Why not publish thirteen stories instead? The fourteenth story was really the ninth story in the collection. She had more or less followed a linear order. But something had made her skip story number nine.

It didn’t take me long to figure out the exact reason. This was the same story that had offended her when she first read my book in English in 2004. The story, set in India in the year 1984, involves a Sikh teenager, a chemistry student, on a train to Delhi . . . He has long hair and wears a turban. His interior monologue involves a deep repressed desire to cut his hair short and remove his turban.

She promised me she would translate the fourteenth story back in Delhi. When I dropped her at the airport (23 August, 2007), we discussed at length a long list of the challenges she faced translating from the ‘source’ to the ‘target’ language. Punjabi is a gendered language; English lacks gender. We discussed pronouns, echo words, reduplications. Baroqueness, density, concision. We talked about the complexities of Punjabi and the defects of English especially when it comes to setting a story in India.

Her bags were heavier now, filled with notes, dictionaries and the translation.

I resumed work on my novel and once again forgot about the translation project. In December I submitted the finished version of the novel (Chef) to my Canadian publisher. That winter when I visited my mother in Delhi I spent time looking at the proofs, and after the proofs were done I felt human again and asked her about the fourteenth story. ‘Did you translate?’ She nodded.

‘Yes. But.’

I didn’t say a word.

‘You read it,’ she said. ‘And tell me if it works?’

She handed me the handwritten fourteenth story or rather the ninth. I read it right away. But something was imprecise and inaccurate with the Punjabi version. My mother translated the story I never wrote.

I reread. Once again I experienced a rising wave of astonishment, and anger. Part of me felt betrayed as an author. Perturbed, I stepped out of the apartment and spent the next three or four hours in a cafe.

She had even changed the first line of the story:

Arjun is merely fifteen years old. His hair, a knot, on top of his head, is hidden gracefully under the navy-blue muslin turban. But right now he is unaware of the significance of long, unshorn hair or his turban.

The original line was:

Arjun raises his hands and feels his turban. He lifts the navy-blue muslin turban by about half an inch, allows his head to breathe. The thing slips back. He rotates it to cover his ears and the nape of his neck and the line that deepens his forehead.

Why can’t I do things to my own body? He is talking to himself.

My mobile phone rang an hour later. She asked me to return.

‘Let us just keep thirteen stories.’

‘Let us not keep anything at all.’

Unable to express my anger properly I stepped out of the cafe and walked an aimless walk. Delhi was a changed city now. So many years had passed. So many moments lost to time. We had first moved to the capital city from Srinagar in the summer of 1983. I was fourteen years old then, a proper Sikh boy with long hair . . . This was a few years before my mother said to me: I don’t know you. In 1983 I was the one who would often feel that I didn’t know her. And I would ask questions and sometimes she would respond. She always wanted to become a writer but didn’t know how to go about it. When in college she wrote a story for her college magazine. She kept diaries. Sometimes she would burn the diaries. She always wanted to study literature. Her well-meaning father asked her to study medicine instead, but she fainted at the sight of a corpse. She stood again in front of her father. Now do I have your permission to study Punjabi literature? But how will you support yourself? he asked. You are good in maths. You will study economics, he said. So she got a master’s degree in economics, and taught at a college until she married my father arranged and moved to an army camp in Shillong in the Indian north-east . . . As a child I would see her reading and writing in Punjabi. Her bookshelves were filled with Bhai Vir Singh’s Punjabi Renaissance novels. I would see her ears glued to a shortwave transistor listening to radio dramas. Often she would tell me the partition stories. Stuff she has heard from her father and others.

I read the translation again, and again felt that by ‘translating’ the fourteenth story my mother, too, had become a writer.

Fiction had allowed us to talk to each other. She had finally found a powerful way to deal with her own demons. Through that fuzzy mix of fiction/non-fiction she had told me the problematic stuff we avoid going near when we get together.

She did approve of certain passages in my story and kept them without any ‘corrections’.

But this new fourteenth story was my mother’s story and not mine. No translator, no one has a right to change my story, I thought. Not even my mother.

She creates me, and I create a story and she recreates the story.

I returned home with these thoughts all jumbled up.

‘If you feel like we will not include that story in the collection.’

‘But that will ruin the book.’

‘What do you mean ruin the book?’ she said. ‘We must make some changes anyways.’

Satara Tamater makes an unappealing title in Punjabi. Casually, she told me it was not a good idea to transliterate the English title Seventeen Tomatoes.

‘I will call your book Halka Dard. Small Pain.

‘One more thing,’ she continued. ‘If you insist on keeping the fourteenth story I will preface it with a little note.’

‘You are a writer, Mother. And you must write your own book.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Forget the translation, and write your memoirs.’

‘So you don’t like the translation?’

‘It is not a translation. But your own story.’

She wanted to say something, but changed her mind.

‘Promise me you will write the memoir.’

She looked sad, as if her most creative act would never see the light of the day.

‘Okay, you keep the fourteenth story. You write a short translator’s note about the alteration. But start working on the memoirs. Please.’

That is how it happened.

I don’t know why. I don’t think I will repeat the thing now. But I said it then for a strange reason as if all the boundaries between the author and the translator had been abolished.

You get to do that. But promise me you will write your memoirs.

My mother was born in British-occupied India in 1944. When in the right mood she tells the most hypnotic stories about partition. Part of me has always felt the need to urgently record all her memories. There are very few accounts by women of her generation about 1947. How life was lived in post-independence Punjab. The 1965 war with Pakistan. And that horrific year: Nineteen hundred and eighty four.

My mother, too, had become a writer.

She promised all those stories, but found it difficult to start. The Punjabi edition of my book was published as Halka Dard (Small Pain) in 2009. She saw her ‘first story’ in print, and started writing then. The glow of the printed words most likely provided the right kind of inertia to begin her memoirs.

That is when I began worrying. Will she be able to pull it off? She had never formally learned ‘creative writing’, I thought. Never attended a single writing workshop. So I created a long reading list. Left a pile of books in her room. To my surprise she left everything unread. On her side-table I planted Vikram Seth’s mother’s memoir as a model. I don’t need someone else’s mother’s writing as a model, she said. I am my own model.

Every winter during my travels to Delhi she would hand me work-in-progress. Spiral bound photocopies of her handwritten chapters. For some reason I kept delaying reading those pages. But wherever I travelled I took the slim spiral notebooks along. They accompanied me in a black suitcase all the way to Brisbane, Florence, London and New York.

Last summer in Banff in the Rockies while working on my second novel – a heavy book set in Delhi in 1984 – I found myself slipping into a depression, when I was advised to take a break. It was in Banff I finally read my mother’s work. Struck by her compelling voice, I immediately started translating the spiral notebooks. She had called her work-in-progress: Physiology dé practical (in Punjabi). I titled it The Anatomy Experiment (in English). Other than that, I followed the Benjaminian advice – fidelity and freedom. Translation as a tangent line to the circle called the original. While working I could not help but think that I, too, am largely a product of translation. I, too, have read (and continue to read) the whole world in translation (in the English language). But so far I had not thought of ‘translation’ as ‘healing’. In Banff in the mountains I was healed by the mere act of translation.

She read my ‘sample’ a few months later very slowly, savouring each word. She was quiet for a while and then without reservation approved my Punjabi-to-English translation. The most difficult stories in her work-in-progress are the ones about our family’s forced migration, and the Indian Partition, which left two million dead and twelve million displaced. My mother’s book is filled with the trauma of that event, her pages haunted by convergences of memory, cities, post-memory and unfinished histories. This June I will try to finish translating the first half.


Image courtesy of Jaspreet Singh


'Punjabi' written in Shahmukhi (top) and Gurmukhi (bottom) scripts

Native toPunjab region

Native speakers

122 million, including Eastern and Western Punjabi variants.[1][2] (2015 71 18 11)[3]

Language family

Standard forms



Writing system

Punjabi Braille
Laṇḍā (historical)
Official status

Official language in

 Pakistan (Punjab)[4]
 India (Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi )
Language codes
ISO 639-1
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3Either:
 – Eastern Punjabi
 – Western Punjabi
Glottolog  Punjabi[5]
Countries of the world where Punjabi is spoken

  50,000,000 - 80,000,000

  1,000,000 - 50,000,000

  500,000 - 1,000,000

  200,000 - 500,000

  100,000 - 200,000

  50,000 - 100,000

  1,000 - 50,000

This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Punjabi (;[6]Gurmukhi: ਪੰਜਾਬੀpañjābī; Shahmukhi: پنجابی‬paṉjābī)[7] is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by over 100 million native speakers worldwide, ranking as the 10th most widely spoken language (2015)[8][9] in the world. It is the native language of the Punjabi people, who associate with the historical Punjab region of India and Pakistan. Among Indo-European languages, it is unusual due to the use of lexical tone.[10][11][12]

Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan,[13] the 11th most widely spoken in India, and the third most-spoken native language in the Indian Subcontinent. Punjabi is the fifth most-spoken native language (after English, French, Mandarin and Cantonese) in Canada. It also has a significant presence in the United Arab Emirates, United States, United Kingdom and Australia. The Punjab is one of the relatively few regions in the world with a situation of digraphia; Punjabi is written in both the Shahmukhi and the Gurmukhi scripts; the former mainly by Muslims, the latter mainly by Sikhs and Hindus.


Main article: History of the Punjabi language


The word Punjabi has been derived from the word Panj-āb, Persian for "Five Waters", referring to the five major eastern tributaries of the Indus River. The name of the region was introduced by the Turko-Persian conquerors[14] of South Asia. Panj is cognate with Sanskritपञ्च (pañca) and Greekπέντε (pénte) "five", and "āb" is cognate with Sanskrit अप् (áp) and with the Av- of Avon. The historical Punjab region, now divided between India and Pakistan, is defined physiographically by the Indus River and these five tributaries. One of the five, the Beas River, is a tributary of another, the Sutlej.


Punjabi developed from Sanskrit through Prakrit languages and later Apabhraṃśa (Sanskrit: अपभ्रंश; corruption or corrupted speech)[15] From 600 BC Sanskrit gave birth to many regional languages in different parts of India. All these languages are called Prakrit (Sanskrit: प्राकृत prākṛta) collectively. Shauraseni Prakrit was one of these Prakrit languages, which was spoken in north and north-western India and Punjabi and western dialects of Hindi developed from this Prakrit. Later in northern India Shauraseni Prakrit gave rise to Shauraseni Aparbhsha, a descendent of Prakrit. Punjabi emerged as an Apabhramsha, a degenerated form of Prakrit, in the 7th century A.D. and became stable by the 10th century. By the 10th century, many Nath poets were associated with earlier Punjabi works.[16][17][17][18][18]

Arabic and Persian influence on Punjabi[edit]

Arabic and Persian influence in the historical Punjab region began with the late first millennium Muslim conquests on the Indian subcontinent.[19] The Persian language was introduced in the subcontinent a few centuries later by various Persianized Central Asian Turkic and Afghan dynasties including that of Mahmud of Ghazni. Many Persian and Arabic words were incorporated in Punjabi.[20] Punjabi has more Persian and Arabic vocabulary than Bengali, Marathi, and Gujarati due to the proximity of the Punjab with western Asia.[21] It is noteworthy that the Hindustani language divided into Hindi, with more Sanskritisation, and Urdu, with more Persianisation, but in Punjabi both Sanskrit and Persian words are used with a liberal approach to language. Later, it was influenced by Portuguese and English, though these influences have been minor in comparison to Persian and Arabic. However, in India, English words in the official language are more widespread than Hindi.[22]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan, the eleventh -most widely spoken in India and spoken Punjabi diaspora in various countries.


Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan. Punjabi is the provincial language in the Punjab Province of Pakistan. Punjabi is spoken as a native language by over 44.15% of Pakistanis. About 70.0% of the people of Pakistan speak Punjabi as either their first or second language, and for some as their third language.[citation needed]Lahore, the capital of the Punjab Province of Pakistan, is the largest Punjabi-speaking city in the world. Moreover, Punjabi first-language (native) speakers constitute 86%, 72%, and 98% of the population in Lahore, Islamabad, and Faisalabad.[citation needed], and there are large numbers of Punjabi speakers in Karachi.

YearPopulation of PakistanPercentagePunjabi speakers

Beginning with the 1981 census, speakers of Saraiki and Hindko were no longer included in the total numbers for Punjabi, which could explain the apparent decrease.


See also: States of India by Punjabi speakers

Punjabi is spoken as a native language, second language, or third language by about 30 million people in India. Punjabi is the official language of the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. Some of its major urban centres in northern India are Ambala, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, and Delhi.

YearPopulation of IndiaPunjabi speakers in IndiaPercentage

Punjabi diaspora[edit]

Main article: Punjabi diaspora

Punjabi is also spoken as a minority language in several other countries where Punjabi people have emigrated in large numbers, such as the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada, where it is the fourth-most-commonly used language.[25] There were 76 million Punjabi speakers in Pakistan in 2008,[26] 33 million in India in 2011,[27] 368,000 in Canada in 2006,[28] and smaller numbers in other countries.

Official status[edit]

Despite Punjabi's rich literary history, it was not until 1947 that it would be recognized as an official language. Previous governments in the area of the Punjab had favoured Persian, Hindustani, or even earlier standardised versions of local registers as the language of the court or government. After the annexation of the Sikh Empire by the British East India Company following the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849, the British policy of establishing a uniform language for administration was expanded into the Punjab. The British Empire employed Hindi and Urdu in its administration of North-Central and North-West India, while in the North-East of India, Bengali was used as the language of administration. Despite its lack of official sanction, the Punjabi language continued to flourish as an instrument of cultural production, with rich literary traditions continuing until modern times. The Sikh religion, with its Gurmukhi script, played a special role in standardising and providing education in the language via Gudwaras, while writers of all religions continued to produce poetry, prose, and literature in the language.

In India, Punjabi is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India. It is the first official language of the Indian State of Punjab. Punjabi also has second language official status in Delhi along with Urdu, and in Haryana. In Pakistan, no regional ethnic language has been granted official status at the national level, and as such Punjabi is not an official language at the national level, even though it is the most spoken language in Pakistan after Urdu. It is, however, the official provincial language of Punjab, Pakistan, the second largest and the most populous province of Pakistan as well as in Islamabad Capital Territory. The only two official national languages in Pakistan are Urdu and English, which are considered the lingua francas of Pakistan.

Modern Punjabi[edit]

Standard Punjabi[edit]

  • Punjabi is spoken in many dialects in an area from Islamabad to Delhi. The Majhi dialect has been adopted as standard Punjabi in Pakistan and India for education, media etc. The Majhi (in Shahmukhi ماجھی، in Gurumukhi ਮਾਝੀ) dialect originated in the Majha region of the Punjab. The Majha region consists central districts of Pakistani Punjab and in India around Amritsar and Gurdaspur regions, known. The two most important cities in this area are Lahore and Amritsar.
  • In India technical words in Standard Punjabi are loaned from Sanskrit similarly to other major Indian languages, but it generously uses Arabic, Persian, and English words also in the official language. In India, Punjabi is written in the Gurumukhī script in offices, schools, and media. Gurumukhi is considered the standard script for Punjabi, though it is often unofficially written in the Devanagari or Latin scripts due to influence from Hindi and English, India's two primary official languages at the Union-level.
  • In Pakistan, Punjabi is generally written using the Shahmukhī script, created from a modification of the Persian Nastaʿlīq script. In Pakistan, Punjabi loans technical words from Persian and Arabic languages, just like Urdu does.

Major dialects[edit]

Majhi (Standard Punjabi)[edit]

Majhi is Punjabi's prestige dialect because it is standard of written Punjabi. It is spoken in the heart of Punjab which include Lahore, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Wazirabad, Sialkot, Narowal, Gujrat, Okara, Nankana Sahib, Faisalabad, Wazirabad, Sialkot, Narowal, Gujrat, Jhelum, Pakpattan, Vehari, Khanewal, Sahiwal, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin and Chiniot districts of Pakistan's Punjab Province along with some major cities.

In India Amritsar, Tarn Taran Sahib, and Gurdaspur Districts of the State of Punjab and sizable population also in major cities of the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Mumbai India.

In Pakistan Standard Punjabi dialect is not called Majhi which is Indian terminology, in Pakistan it is simply called Standard Punjabi. This dialect is used for both Punjabi Films, TV and Theater industry to make Punjabi language content in Lahore.


Shahpuri dialect (also known as Sargodha dialect) is mostly spoken in Pakistani Punjab. Its name is derived from former Shahpur District (now Shahpur Tehsil, being part of Sargodha District). It is spoken throughout a widespread area, spoken in Sargodha and Khushab Districts and also spoken in neighbouring Mianwali and Bhakkar Districts. It is mainly spoken on western end of Sindh River to Chennab river crossing Jehlam river.[29]


Malwai is spoken in the eastern part of Indian Punjab and also in Bahawalnagar and Vehari districts of Pakistan. Main areas are Ludhiana, Patiala, Ambala, Bathinda, Ganganagar, Malerkotla, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Moga. Malwa is the southern and central part of present-day Indian Punjab. It also includes the Punjabi speaking northern areas of Haryana, viz. Ambala, Hissar, Sirsa, Kurukshetra etc. Not to be confused with the Malvi language, which shares its name.


Doabi is spoken in both the Indian Punjab as well as parts of Pakistan Punjab owing to post-1947 migration of Muslim populace from East Punjab. The word "Do Aabi" means "the land between two rivers" and this dialect was historically spoken between the rivers of the Beas and the Sutlej in the region called Doaba. Regions it is presently spoken includes the Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala districts in Indian Punjab, specifically in the areas known as the Dona and Manjki, as well as the Toba Tek Singh and Faisalabad districts in Pakistan Punjab where the dialect is known as Faisalabadi Punjabi.

This Dialect is also used as a standard for Indian Punjabi Films and TV shows.


Pwadhi, Powadh, Puadh or Powadha is a region of Punjab and parts of Haryana between the Satluj and Ghaggar rivers. The part lying south, south-east and east of Rupnagar adjacent to Ambala District (Haryana) is Powadhi. The Powadh extends from that part of the Rupnagar District which lies near Satluj to beyond the Ghaggar river in the east up to Kala Amb, which is at the border of the states of Himachal pradesh and Haryana. Parts of Fatehgarh Sahib district, and parts of Patiala districts like Rajpura are also part of Powadh. The language is spoken over a large area in present Punjab as well as Haryana. In Punjab, Kharar, Kurali, Ropar, Nurpurbedi, Morinda, Pail, Rajpura and Samrala are the areas where the Puadhi is spoken and the dialect area also includes Pinjore, Kalka, Ismailabad, Pehowa to Bangar area in Fatehabad district.


Jhangochi (جھنگوچی) dialect is spoken in Pakistani Punjab throughout a widespread area, starting from Khanewal and Jhang at both ends of Ravi and Chenab to Hafizabad district.


Jangli is a dialect of former nomad tribes of areas whose names are often suffixed with 'Bar' derived from jungle bar before irrigation system arrived in the start of the 20th century, for example, Sandal Bar, Kirana Bar, Neeli Bar, Ganji Bar. Former Layllpur and western half of Montgomary district used to speak this dialect.


West of Chenaab river in Jhang district of Pakistani Punjab the dialect of Jhangochi merges with Thalochi and resultant dialect is Chenavari. Name is derived from Chenaab river.


The long vowels (the vowels with [ː]) also have nasal analogues.


Punjabi has three phonemically distinct tones that developed from the lost murmured (or "voiced aspirate") series of consonants. Phonetically the tones are rising or rising-falling contours and they can span over one syllable or two, but phonemically they can be distinguished as high, mid, and low.

A historical murmured consonant (voiced aspirate consonant) in word initial position became tenuis and left a low tone on the two syllables following it: ghoṛā[kòːɽɑ̀ː] "horse". A stem-final murmured consonant became modally voiced and left a high tone on the two syllables preceding it: māgh[mɑ́ːɡ] "October". A stem-medial murmured consonant which appeared after a short vowel and before a long vowel became modally voiced and left a low tone on the two syllables following it: maghāuṇā[məɡɑ̀ːʊ̀ɳɑ̀ː] "to have something lit". Other syllables have mid tone.[31]


Main article: Punjabi grammar

The grammar of the Punjabi language concerns the word order, case marking, verb conjugation, and other morphological and syntactic structures of the Punjabi language. The main article discusses the grammar of Modern Standard Punjabi as defined by the sources cited therein.

Writing systems[edit]

Main articles: Shahmukhī alphabet, Gurmukhī alphabet, and Punjabi braille

Punjabi has two major writing systems in use: Gurmukhi, which is a Brahmic script derived from the Laṇḍā script,[32] and Shahmukhi, which is an Arabic script. The word Gurmukhi means "from the Guru's mouth",[33] and Shahmukhi means "from the King's mouth".[34]

In the Punjab province of Pakistan, the script used is Shahmukhi and differs from the Urdu alphabet in having four additional letters.[35] In the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi and other parts of India, the Gurmukhī script is generally used for writing Punjabi.[35] Historically, various local Brahmic scripts including Laṇḍā were also in use.[36]

Sample text[edit]

This sample text was taken from the Punjabi Wikipedia article on Lahore.


ਲਹੌਰ ਪਾਕਿਸਤਾਨੀ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੀ ਰਾਜਧਾਨੀ ਹੈ । ਲੋਕ ਗਿਣਤੀ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ ਕਰਾਚੀ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਅਦ ਲਹੌਰ ਦੂਜਾ ਸਭ ਤੋਂ ਵੱਡਾ ਸ਼ਹਿਰ ਹੈ । ਲਹੌਰ ਪਾਕਿਸਤਾਨ ਦਾ ਸਿਆਸੀ, ਰਹਤਲੀ ਤੇ ਪੜ੍ਹਾਈ ਦਾ ਗੜ੍ਹ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਇਸ ਲਈ ਇਹਨੂੰ ਪਾਕਿਸਤਾਨ ਦਾ ਦਿਲ ਵੀ ਕਿਹਾ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ । ਲਹੌਰ ਦਰਿਆ-ਏ-ਰਾਵੀ ਦੇ ਕੰਢੇ ਤੇ ਵਸਦਾ ਹੈ । ਤੇ ਇਸਦੀ ਲੋਕ ਗਿਣਤੀ ਇੱਕ ਕਰੋੜ ਦੇ ਨੇੜੇ ਹੈ ।


لہور پاکستانی پنجاب دا دارالحکومت اے۔ لوک گنتی دے نال کراچی توں بعد لاهور دوجا سبھ توں وڈا شہر اے۔ لاهور پاکستان دا سیاسی، رہتلی تے پڑھائی دا گڑھ اے تے اس لئی ایھنوں پاکستان دا دل وی کیھا جاندا اے۔ لاهور دریاۓ راوی دے کنڈھے تے وسدا ۔ اے اسدی لوک گنتی اک کروڑ دے نیڑے اے ۔‬

Transliteration: lahaur pākistānī panjāb dī rājdā̀ni ài. lok giṇtī de nāḷ karācī tõ bāad lahaur dūjā sáb tõ vaḍḍā šáir ài. lahor pākistān dā siāsī, rátalī te paṛā̀ī dā gáṛ ài te is laī ínū̃ pākistān dā dil vī kihā jāndā ài. lahaur dariāe rāvī de kaṇḍè te vasdā ài. te isdī lok giṇtī ikk karoṛ de neṛe ài.

Translation: Lahore is the capital city of the Pakistani Punjab. After a number of people from Karachi, Lahore is the second largest city. Lahore is Pakistan's political stronghold and education capital and so it is also the heart of Pakistan. Lahore lies on the bank of the Ravi River. And, its population is close to ten million people.

IPA:[lə̄ɦɔ̄ːɾ pāːkɪ̄st̪āːnīː pə̄̃d͡ʒāːb d̪īː ɾāːd͡ʒt̪àːnɪ̄ ɦɛ̀ː ‖ lōk ɡɪ̄ɳt̪īː d̪ē nāːl kə̄ɾāːt͡ʃīː t̪ō̃ bāːə̄d̪ lə̄ɦɔ̄ːɾ d̪ūːd͡ʒāː sə́p t̪ō̃ ʋːə̄ɖāː ʃə̄ɦɪ̄ɾ ɦɛ̀ː ‖ lə̄ɦɔ̄ːɾ pāːkɪ̄st̪āːn d̪āː sɪ̄āːsīː | ɾə́ɦt̪ə̄līː t̪ē pə̄ɽɦàːīː d̪āː ɡə́ɽɦ ɦɛ̀ː t̪ē ɪ̄s lə̄īː ɪ́ɦnū̃ pāːkɪ̄st̪āːn d̪āː d̪ɪ̄l ʋīː kɪ̄ɦāː d͡ʒā̃ːd̪āː ɦɛ̀ː ‖ lə̄ɦɔ̄ːɾ d̪ə̄ɾɪ̄āːē ɾāːʋīː d̪ē kə̄̃ʈè t̪ē ʋə̄̃sd̪īː ɦɛ̀ː ‖ t̪ē īsd̪īː lōk ɡɪ̄ɳt̪īː ɪ̄kː kə̄ɾōɽ d̪ē nēɽē ɦɛ̀ː ‖]

Literature development[edit]

Main article: Punjabi literature

Medieval era, Mughal and Sikh period[edit]

  • The Sikh religion originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region and Punjabi is the predominant language spoken by Sikhs.[38] Most portions of the Guru Granth Sahib use the Punjabi language written in Gurmukhi, though Punjabi is not the only language used in Sikh scriptures.

The Janamsakhis (ਜਨਮਸਾਖੀ, جنم ساکھی‬), stories on the life and legend of Guru Nanak (1469–1539), are early examples of Punjabi prose literature.

  • The Punjabi language is famous for its rich literature of qisse (ਕਿੱਸੇ, قصّے‬), most of the which are about love, passion, betrayal, sacrifice, social values and a common man's revolt against a larger system. The qissa of Heer Ranjha by Waris Shah (1706–1798) is among the most popular of Punjabi qissas. Other popular stories include Sohni Mahiwal by Fazal Shah, Mirza Sahiban by Hafiz Barkhudar (1658–1707), Sassui Punnhun by Hashim Shah (c. 1735–c. 1843), and Qissa Puran Bhagat by Qadaryar (1802–1892).[citation needed]
  • Heroic ballads known as Vaar(ਵਾਰ, وار‬) enjoy a rich oral tradition in Punjabi. Famous Vaars areChandi di Var (1666–1708), Nadir Shah Di Vaar by Najabat,Jangnama of Shah Mohammad (1780–1862).[39]

British Raj era and post-independence period[edit]

The Victorian novel, Elizabethan drama, free verse and Modernism entered Punjabi literature through the introduction of British education during the Raj. Nanak Singh (1897–1971), Vir Singh, Ishwar Nanda, Amrita Pritam (1919–2005), Puran Singh (1881–1931), Dhani Ram Chatrik (1876–1957), Diwan Singh (1897–1944) and Ustad Daman (1911–1984), Mohan Singh (1905–78) and Shareef Kunjahi are some legendary Punjabi writers of this period. After independence of Pakistan and India Najm Hossein Syed, Fakhar Zaman and Afzal Ahsan Randhawa, Shafqat Tanvir Mirza, Ahmad Salim, and Najm Hosain Syed, Munir Niazi, Pir Hadi abdul Mannan enriched Punjabi literature in Pakistan, whereas Amrita Pritam (1919–2005), Jaswant Singh Rahi (1930–1996), Shiv Kumar Batalvi (1936–1973), Surjit Patar (1944–) and Pash (1950–1988) are some of the more prominent poets and writers from India.

In Pakistan[edit]

When Pakistan was created in 1947, although Punjabi was the majority language in West Pakistan and Bengali the majority in East Pakistan and Pakistan as whole, English and Urdu were chosen as the national languages. The selection of Urdu was due to its association with South Asian Muslim nationalism and because the leaders of the new nation wanted a unifying national language instead of promoting one ethnic group's language over another. Broadcasting in Punjabi language by Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation decreased on TV and radio after 1947. Article 251 of the Constitution of Pakistan

Map showing the geographical distribution of Punjabis in Pakistan in parrot green colour.
A book cover from Pakistan, written in Shahmukhi script, which is used in Pakistan.
Areas of the Indian subcontinent where Punjabi is spoken.
Some Punjabi distinct tones for gh, jh, dh, dh, bh
Sufi poets have enriched Punjabi literature

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