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Punjabi language, Punjabi also spelled Panjabi, member of the Indo-Aryan subdivision of the Indo-European language family. Punjabi is spoken in Punjab state in India and Punjab province in Pakistan. Punjabi is officially recognized, or “scheduled,” in the constitution of India. Smaller speech communities exist in Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere.


In India Punjabi is written with the Gurmukhi (ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ) alphabet, while in Pakistan it is written with a version of the Urdu alphabet known as Shahmukhi (شاہ مکھی). The written standard for Punjabi in both India and Pakistan is known as Majhi (ਮਾਝੀ/ ماجھ), which is named after the Majha region of Punjab.

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It is uncertain as to which point in history the Punjabi language or ethnic group came into being. The Punjabi heritage can be traced back at least to 2500 B.C., when the group inhabited the ancient Indus Valley centered at Harappa. Over the centuries, Indo-Aryan, Persian, Greek, Arab, Afghan, and British invaders all influenced the cultural and linguistic landscape of the region inhabited by the early Punjabis. Around the period of 2000-1250 B.C., the Indo-Aryans exerted great influence over the region, largely shaping the language by means of Sanskrit, the linguistic driving force behind the Indo-Aryan Vedic civilization. Over time, a number of Eurasian invasions resulted in the fragmentation of the Punjabi homeland. The western portion of this region (now modern-day Pakistan) was especially war-torn and linguistically fragmented as a result of the invasions. Although an ancient language, Punjabi’s literary tradition is relatively young. It was only with the creation of the Gurmukhi script toward the end of the sixteenth century that Punjabi came to develop a literary tradition. The first Punjabi writings, however, can be traced as far back as the twelfth century to the writings of the poet Farid-udin Masood.



In India, the key dialects of Punjabi are: Majhi, Doabi, Malwai, and Powadhi. In Pakistan, the key dialects are Pothohari, Lahndi, and Multani. Following the work presented in Grierson’s (1905) Linguistic Survey of India, a number of Indic scholars have further divided Punjabi into two principal dialects – Western Punjabi or Lahndi and Eastern Punjabi. This decision, however, is controversial and by no means reflects the majority view in Indic linguistics. The standard Punjabi dialect is Majhi and standard written Punjabi is based on this dialect.


Official status

1. India (Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, second language in the state of Haryana, Delhi and West Bengal)    

2. Pakistan (provincial language of Pakistan).


Number of speakers

Punjabi has about 104 million speakers in the world.




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