Thursday , 29 February 2024
Thursday , 29 February 2024

Origin of Punjabi Language

  • 29 Oct, 2022

Punjabi is one of the ancient Indo-Aryan languages which is the 9th most popular language spoken around the world. Punjabi is widely spoken by people in India, Pakistan, United States, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Australia, France, New Zealand, Italy and England. It is the first language of about 160 million people. In India it is mainly spoken in the Punjab region. It is also spoken in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and other states as well. Majority of Pakistan’s population speaks Punjabi Language but unfortunately it has not been given national language status.

At present Punjabi is written in two scripts - Gurmukhi script and the Shahmukhi script. Most parts of the Guru Granth Sahib use the Gurumukhi script, though Punjabi is not the only language used in Sikh scriptures. Gurumukhi is mostly used by the Sikhs residing in India and the Shahmukhi script is mainly used by the Punjabi Muslims in the Punjab province of Pakistan. The word Punjabi has been derived from the Persian words ‘Punj’ and ‘ab’, where ‘Punj means five and ‘ab’ means water. Therefore, the name Punjab refers to the land of five rivers.

Punjabi originated from the ancient language of Prakrit which developed simultaneously with Sanskrit. It is believed that the Punjabi language developed as an ‘Apabhramsa’ form of the Prakrit language in the 7th century and then established itself in the 10th century. Punjabi is a descendent of “Sauraseni Prakrit”, the chief language of North India during the medieval period. Punjabi language has many dialects and each dialect is similar to the other one which is easily understood by the speakers. In India, the main dialects of Punjabi are: Majhi, Doabi, Malawi and Pwadhi. In Pakistan, the main dialects are Majhi, Shahpuri and Jhangvi. Punjabi language has a lexical tone which makes it unique. It is a tonal language where you understand the meaning even with the alteration in pitch and tone of the words. Punjabi is the only tonal Indo-Aryan language. So even if a person doesn’t speak Punjabi but enjoys popular Punjabi songs can understand it.

The earliest writings in the Punjabi language belong to the Nath Yogi period dating from the 9th to 14th century AD. It was made a sacred language by the founder of Sikhism - Guru Nanak Dev ji. His successor Guru Angad Dev ji - the 5th Sikh Guru compiled the “Adi Granth” in the Gurmukhi script. The Jnamsakhis, stories on the life and legend of Guru Nanak are early examples of Punjabi literature. Sufi saints led the most important linguistic and cultural movement between the 11th and 14th centuries and popularized the Punjabi language. Punjabi has ten vowel phonemes, i.e. sounds that make a difference in word meaning. Vowels can be short or long. They can also be oral or nasal. Nasalization distinguishes word meaning and vowel length is marked by a macron. Like all Indo-Aryan languages, Punjabi has a rich system of consonants. It has three tones: High, Mid and Low. A change in the tone means a change in the meaning of the word. Stress in Punjabi can fall on any syllable of a word and can differentiate otherwise identical words. Punjabi grammar is similar to that of other Indo-Aryan languages. The basic of Punjabi vocabulary is Sanskrit but over the years it has borrowed words from other languages as well such as Hindi, English, Persian, Arabic and Urdu. 

In the early 21st century there were about 31 million Punjabi speakers in India. It is the official language of Punjab and is one of the languages recognized by the Indian constitution. It is the medium of everyday communication in the Indian state of Punjab. It is used in education, government, business and in the media. In Pakistan Western Punjabi is spoken by some 70 million speakers but the official status is granted to Urdu. Punjabi is the religious language of the Sikhs. It is also the language of the popular Bhangra folk dance and singing. Punjabi is Canada’s 4th most popularly spoken language and the 3rd most spoken language in the United Kingdom. The popularity of Punjabi language cannot be undermined from the fact that it is widely spoken by the people whether Punjabi or non-Punjabi. 






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