|16th century CE-present|
|The Brahmic script and its descendants|
Gurmukhī (IPA: ['ɡʊɾmʊkʰiː]; Gurmukhī: ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ) is a Sikh script modified, standardized and used by the second Sikh Guru, Guru Angad (1504–1552). Gurmukhi is used by Sikhs and Punjabi Hindus to write the Punjabi language, a language that is also written in Perso-Arabic Shahmukhi script by Punjabi Muslims.
Modern Gurmukhī has thirty-five original consonants plus six additional consonants (akkhar), 10 vowel diacritics (lagā mātarā), two diacritics for nasal sounds (bindī and ṭippī), one diacritic that geminates consonants (addhak), and four conjunct characters.
- 1 Origins
- 2 The term Gurmukhī
- 3 Alphabet
- 4 Unicode
- 5 Digitisation of Gurmukhī manuscripts
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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The Gurmukhī script has roots in the Brahmi script like most Indian, Tibetan, and Southeast Asian languages. In a cursory look, the Gurmukhi script appears different from other Indic scripts such as Bengali, Oriya, Tibetan or Devanagari, but a closer examination reveals they are similar except for angles and structural emphasis.
- It is an abugida in which all consonants have an inherent vowel. Diacritics, which can appear above, below, before or after the consonant they belong to, are used to change the inherent vowel.
- When they appear at the beginning of a syllable, vowels are written as independent letters.
- When certain consonants occur together, special conjunct symbols are used which combine the essential parts of each letter.
- Punjabi is a tonal language with three tones. These are indicated in writing using the voiced aspirated consonants (gh, dh, bh, etc.) and the intervocalic h.
There are two major theories on how the Proto-Gurmukhī script emerged in the 15th century. G.B. Singh (1950), while quoting al-Biruni's Ta'rikh al-Hind (1030 CE), says that the script evolved from Ardhanagari. Al-Biruni writes that the Ardhanagari script was used in Bathinda and western parts of the Punjab in the 10th century. For some time, Bathinda remained the capital of the kingdom of Bhati Rajputs of the Pal clan, who ruled North India before the Muslims occupied the country. According to al-Biruni, Ardhanagari was a mixture of Devanagari used in Ujjain and Malwa and Siddha Matrika or the last stage of Siddhaṃ script, a variant of the Śāradā script used in Kashmir. This theory is confusing as Gurmukhī characters have a very close resemblance to "Siddh Matrika" inscriptions found at several sacred wells in Punjab as Singh notes, one being the Hathur inscription dating to just before the birth of Guru Nanak. Siddh Matrika seems to have been the prevalent script for devotional writings in Punjab right up to the founding of Sikhism, after which its successor Gurmukhī appears.
Pritam Singh (1992) has also traced the origins of Gurmukhī to the Siddha Matrika. "Siddha Matrika" along with its sister Takri alphabet has its origins in the Śāradā script of Kashmir.
Tarlochan Singh Bedi (1999) writes that the Gurmukhī script developed in the 10-14th centuries from the Devasesha stage of the Śāradā script, the intermediate phase being Siddha Matrika, before the final evolution into Gurmukhī. His argument is that from the 10th century, regional differences started to appear between the Śāradā script used in Punjab, the Hill States (partly Himachal Pradesh) and Kashmir. The regional Śāradā script evolved from this stage until the 14th century, when it starts to appear in the form of Gurmukhī. Indian epigraphists call this stage Devasesha, while Bedi prefers the name Pritham Gurmukhī or Proto-Gurmukhī.
The Sikh gurus adopted proto-Gurmukhī to write the Guru Granth Sahib, the religious scriptures of the Sikhs. Other contemporary scripts used in the Punjab were Takri and the Laṇḍā scripts. The Takri alphabet developed through the Devasesha stage of the Śāradā script and is found mainly in the Hill States such as Chamba, Himachal Pradesh, where it is called Chambyali, and in Jammu Division, where it is known as Dogri. The local Takri variants got the status of official scripts in some of the Punjab Hill States, and were used for both administrative and literary purposes until the 19th century. After 1948, when Himachal Pradesh was established as an administrative unit, the local Takri variants were replaced by Devanagari.
Meanwhile, the mercantile scripts of Punjab known as the Laṇḍā scripts were normally not used for literary purposes. Landa means alphabet "without tail", implying that the script did not have vowel symbols. In Punjab, there were at least ten different scripts classified as Laṇḍā, Mahajani being the most popular. The Laṇḍā scripts were used for household and trade purposes. Compared to the Laṇḍā, Sikh Gurus favoured the use of Proto-Gurmukhī, because of the difficulties involved in pronouncing words without vowel signs.
The usage of Gurmukhī letters in Guru Granth Sahib meant that the script developed its own orthographical rules. In the following epochs, Gurmukhī became the prime script applied for literary writings of the Sikhs. Later in the 20th century, the script was given the authority as the official script of the Punjab, India.
The term Gurmukhī
The prevalent view among Punjabi linguists is that as in the early stages the Gurmukhī letters were primarily used by the Guru's followers, Gurmukhs (literally, those who face, or follow, the Guru, as opposed to a Manmukh); the script thus came to be known as Gurmukhī, "the script of those guided by the Guru." Guru Angad is credited in the Sikh tradition with the creation and standardization of Gurmukhi script from earlier Śāradā-descended scripts native to the region. It is now the standard writing script for the Punjabi language in India, in contrast to the Punjabi language in Pakistan where now Shahmukhi, a Perso-Arabic script in the Nastaliq style, is the standard. The original Sikh scriptures and most of the historic Sikh literature have been written in the Gurmukhi script.
Although the word Gurmukhī has been commonly translated as "from the Mouth of the Guru," the term used for the Punjabi script has somewhat different connotations. The opinion traditional scholars for this is that as the Sikh holy writings, before they were written down, were uttered by the Gurus, they came to be known as Gurmukhī or the "Utterance of the Guru". Consequently, the script that was used for scribing the utterance was also given the same name. The term that would mean "by the Guru's mouth" would be "Gurmū̃hī̃," which sounds considerably different but looks similar in Latin script.
The Gurmukhī alphabet contains thirty-five letters (akkhar, plural akkharā̃). The first three are distinct because they form the basis for vowels and are not consonants, and except for the second letter ɛṛa are never used on their own. See the section on vowels for further details.
ਙ |ŋɑŋːɑ̃ | and ਞ |ɲəɲːɑ̃ | are rarely used. They cannot begin a syllable or be placed between two consonants, and occur most often as an allophone of n before specific consonant phonemes.
The pronunciation of ਵ will vary between v and w depending on the word.
- à – grave accent = tonal consonant.
- To differentiate between consonants, the Punjabi tonal consonants kà, chà, ṭà, tà, and pà are often transliterated in the way of the Hindi voiced aspirate consonants gha, jha, ḍha, dha, and bha respectively, although Punjabi does not have these sounds.
- Tones in Punjabi can be either rising or falling; in the pronunciation of Gurmukhī letters they are falling, hence the grave accent as opposed to the acute.
In addition to these, there are six consonants created by placing a dot (bindi) at the foot (pair) of the consonant (these are not present in Sri Guru Granth Sahib). These are used most often for loanwords, though not exclusively:
|ਸ਼||səsːɑ pɛ:ɾ bɪnd̪i:||ʃə|
|ਖ਼||kʰəkʰːɑ pɛ:ɾ bɪnd̪i:||xə|
|ਗ਼||gəgːɑ pɛ:ɾ bɪnd̪i:||ɣə|
|ਜ਼||d͡ʒəd͡ʒːɑ pɛ:ɾ bɪnd̪i:||zə|
|ਫ਼||pʰəpʰːɑ pɛ:ɾ bɪnd̪i:||fə|
|ਲ਼||ləlːɑ pɛ:ɾ bɪnd̪i:||ɭə|
|ləlːɑ pɛɾ bɪnd̪i:| was only recently added to the Gurmukhī alphabet. It was not a part of the traditional orthography, the phonological difference between 'l' and 'ɭ' was not reflected in the script. Some sources do not consider it a separate letter.
Three "subscript" letters, called pairī̃ akkhar, or "letters at the foot" are utilised in Gurmukhī: forms of ਹ(h), ਰ(r), and ਵ(v).
The subscript ਰ(r) and ਵ(v) are used to make consonant clusters and behave similarly; subjoined ਹ(h) raises tone.
|Subscript letter||Original form||Usage|
|੍ਰ||Subjoined /ɾ/ ਰ→੍ਰ||For example, the letter ਪ(p) with a regular ਰ(r) following it would yield the word ਪਰ /pəɾᵊ/ ("but"), but with a subjoined ਰ would appear as ਪ੍ਰ- (/prə-/), resulting in a consonant cluster, as in the word ਪ੍ਰਬੰਧਕ (/pɾəbə́nd̪əkᵊ/, "managerial, administrative"), as opposed to ਪਰਬੰਧਕ /pəɾᵊbə́nd̪əkᵊ/, the Punjabi form of the word used in natural speech in less formal settings (the Punjabi reflex for Sanskrit /pɾə-/ is /pəɾ-/) . This subscript letter is commonly used in Punjabi, not just for Sanskritized words, but also for personal names, loanwords from other languages like English, etc.|
|੍ਵ||Subjoined /ʋ/ ਵ→੍ਵ||Used occasionally in Gurbani (Sikh religious scriptures) but rare in modern usage, it is used exclusively to Sanscritize existing Punjabi words in certain formal contexts. Largely confined to creating the cluster /sʋə-/ in tatsama words (words borrowed from Sanskrit), the reflex of which in Punjabi is /sʊ-/,
e.g. Sanskrit ਸ੍ਵਪ੍ ਨ /s̪ʋɐ́p.n̪ɐ/→Punjabi ਸੁਪਨਾ /'sʊpᵊna:/, "dream," cf. Hindi-Urdu /səpna:/
For example, ਸ with a subjoined ਵ would produce ਸ੍ਵ (sʋə-) as in the tatsama word ਸ੍ਵਰਗ (/svəɾəgə/, "heaven"), but followed by a regular ਵ would yield ਸਵ- (səv-) as in the common ardhatatsam (words borrowed earlier from Sanskrit but subsequently changed) form of the word, ਸਵਰਗ (/səʋəɾəgᵊ/, "heaven"). The natural Punjabi reflex, or tadbhav, ਸੁਰਗ /sʊɾəgᵊ/, is also used in everyday speech.
|੍ਹ||Subjoined /ɦ/ ਹ→੍ਹ||This character does not create consonant clusters, but serves as part of Punjabi's characteristic tone system, indicating a raised tone. It behaves the same way in its use as the regular ਹ(h) does in non-word-initial positions. The regular ਹ(h) is pronounced at the beginning of words but not in other positions, where it instead raises the tone. The difference in usage is that the regular ਹ is used after vowels and the subscript version when there is no vowel, and is attached to consonants.
For example, the regular ਹ is used after vowels as in ਮੀਹ (transliterated as mih, to show tonality, mī́, "rain"). The subjoined ਹ(h) acts the same way but instead is used under consonants: ਚ(ch) followed by ੜ(ṛ) yields ਚੜ (chəṛ), but not until the rising tone is introduced via a subscript ਹ(h) does it properly spell the word ਚੜ੍ਹ (chə́ṛ, "climb").
In addition to the three subjoined letters, there is a half-form of the letter Yayya, /j/ ਯ→੍ਯ, also used exclusively for Sanskrit borrowings, and even then rarely. Use of the subjoined /ʋ/ and conjunct /j/, already rare, is increasingly scarce in modern contexts.
To express vowels, Gurmukhī, as an abugida, makes use of obligatory diacritics called lagā mātarā (plural lagē matarē). Gurmukhī is similar to Brahmi scripts in that all consonants are followed by an inherent 'a' sound (unless at the end of a word when the 'a' is usually dropped). This inherent vowel sound can be changed by using dependent vowel signs which attach to a bearing consonant. In some cases, dependent vowel signs cannot be used – at the beginning of a word or syllable for instance – and so an independent vowel character is used instead.
Independent vowels are constructed using three bearer characters: Ura (ੳ), Aira (ਅ) and Iri (ੲ). With the exception of Aira (which represents the vowel 'a') they are never used without additional vowel signs.
|Vowel||Transcription||IPA||Closest English equivalent|
|ਅ||(none)||ਕ||Muktā||a||[ə]||like a in about|
|ਆ||ਾ||ਕਾ||Kannā||ā||[aː] , [äː]||like a in car|
|ਇ||ਿ||ਕਿ||Sihārī||i||[ɪ]||like i in it|
|ਈ||ੀ||ਕੀ||Bihārī||ī||[iː]||like i in litre|
|ਉ||ੁ||ਕੁ||Onkaṛ||u||[ʊ]||like u in put|
|ਊ||ੂ||ਕੂ||Dulenkaṛ||ū||[uː]||like oo as in food|
|ਏ||ੇ||ਕੇ||Lāvā̃||ē||[eː]||like e in Chile|
|ਐ||ੈ||ਕੈ||Dulāvā̃||e||[ɛː]||like e in sell|
|ਓ||ੋ||ਕੋ||Hōṛā||ō||[oː]||like o in Spanish amor|
|ਔ||ੌ||ਕੌ||Kanoṛā||o||[ɔː]||like o in off|
Dotted circles represent the bearer consonant. Vowels are always pronounced after the consonant they are attached to. Thus, Sihari is always written to the left, but pronounced after the character on the right.
Ṭippī ( ੰ ) and bindī ( ਂ ) are used for producing a nasal phoneme depending on the following obstruent or a nasal vowel at the end of a word. All short vowels are nasalized using ṭippī and all long vowels are nasalized using bindī except for Dulankar ( ੂ ), which uses ṭippi instead.
|Diacritic usage||Result||Examples (IPA)|
|Ṭippī on short vowel (/ə/, /ɪ/, /ʊ/), or long vowel /u:/, before non-nasal consonant||Adds nasal consonant at same place of articulation as following consonant
(/ns/, /n̪t̪/, /ɳɖ/, /mb/, /ŋg/, /ɲt͡ʃ/ etc.)
|ਹੰਸ /ɦənsᵊ/ "goose"|
ਅੰਤ /ən̪t̪ᵊ/ "end"
ਗੰਢ /gə́ɳɖᵊ/ "knot"
ਅੰਬ /əmbᵊ/ "mango"
ਸਿੰਗ /sɪŋgᵊ/ "horn/antler"
ਕੁੰਜੀ / kʊɲd͡ʒiː/ "key"
ਗੂੰਜ /guːɲd͡ʒᵊ/ "roar"
ਲੂੰਬੜੀ /luːmbᵊɽiː/ "fox"
|Bindī over long vowel (/a:/, /e:/, /i:/, /o:/, /u:/, /ɛ:/, /ɔː/)
before non-nasal consonant not including /h/
|Adds nasal consonant at same place of articulation as following consonant (/ns/, /n̪t̪/, /ɳɖ/, /mb/, /ŋg/, /ɲt͡ʃ/ etc.).
May also secondarily nasalize the vowel
|ਕਾਂਸੀ /kaːnsiː/ "bronze"|
ਕੇਂਦਰ /keːn̯d̯əɾᵊ/ "center, core, headquarters"
ਗੁਆਂਢੀ /gʊáːɳɖiː/ "neighbor"
ਚੌਂਕ /t͡ʃɔːŋkᵊ/ "crossroads, plaza"
ਜਾਂਚ /d͡ʒaːɲt͡ʃᵊ/ "trial/examination"
|Ṭippī over consonants followed by long vowel /u:/ (not stand-alone vowel ਊ),
at open syllable at end of word, or ending in /ɦ/
|Vowel nasalization||ਤੂੰ /t̪ũː/ "you"|
ਸਾਨੂੰ /saːnũː/ "to us"
ਮੂੰਹ /mũːɦ/ "mouth"
|Ṭippī on short vowel before nasal consonant (/n̪/ or /m/)||Gemination of nasal consonant.
Ṭippī is used to geminate nasal consonants instead of addhak
|ਇੰਨਾ /ɪn̪:a:/ "this much"|
ਕੰਮ /kəm:ᵊ/ "work"
|Bindī over long vowel (/a:/, /e:/, /i:/, /o:/, /u:/, /ɛ:/, /ɔː/),
at open syllable at end of word, or ending in /ɦ/
|Vowel nasalization||ਬਾਂਹ /bã́h/ "arm"|
ਮੈਂ /mɛ̃ː/ "I/me"
ਅਸੀਂ /əsĩː/ "we/us"
ਤੋਂ /t̪õː/ "from"
ਸਿਊਂ /sɪ.uː̃/ "sew"
Older texts may follow other conventions.
The use of addhak ( ੱ ) (IPA: ['ə́d̪:əkə]) indicates that the following consonant is geminate. This means that the subsequent consonant is doubled or reinforced. Consonant length is distinctive in the Punjabi language and the use of this diacritic can change the meaning of a word, for example:
|Without addhak||Transliteration||Meaning||With addhak||Transliteration||Meaning|
|ਪਤਾ||patā||'aware' (of something)||ਪੱਤਾ||pattā||'leaf'|
The halant ( ੍ ) character is not used when writing Punjabi in Gurmukhī. However, it may occasionally be used in Sanskritised text or in dictionaries for extra phonetic information. When it is used, it represents the suppression of the inherent vowel.
The effect of this is shown below:
- ਕ – kə
- ਕ੍ – k
The visarg symbol (ਃ U+0A03) is used very occasionally in Gurmukhī. It can either represent an abbreviation (like period is used in English) or it can act like a Sanskrit Visarga where a voiceless 'h' sound is pronounced after the vowel.
The udāt symbol (ੑ U+0A51) occurs in older texts and indicates a high tone.
|Hindu–Arabic numeral system|
|Positional systems by base|
|Non-standard positional numeral systems|
|List of numeral systems|
Gurmukhī has its own set of digits, used exactly as in other versions of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. These are used extensively in older texts. In modern contexts, they are sometimes replaced by standard Western Arabic numerals.
|Numeral||Name, IPA||Simple Transliteration||Number|
The Unicode block for Gurmukhī is U+0A00–U+0A7F:
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
Digitisation of Gurmukhī manuscripts
Panjab Digital Library has taken up digitisation of all available manuscripts of Gurmukhī Script. The script is just 500 years old, hence a lot of literature written in all these years is still traceable. Panjab Digital Library has digitised over 5 million pages from different manuscripts and most of them are available online.
- Following books/articles have been written on the origins of the Gurmukhī script (all in the Punjabi language):
- Gurbaksh (G.B.) Singh. Gurmukhi Lipi da Janam te Vikas. Chandigarh: Punjab University, 1950.
- Ishar Singh Tãgh, Dr. Gurmukhi Lipi da Vigyamulak Adhiyan. Patiala: Jodh Singh Karamjit Singh.
- Kala Singh Bedi, Dr. Lipi da Vikas. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1995.
- Kartar Singh Dakha. Gurmukhi te Hindi da Takra. 1948.
- Piara Singh Padam, Prof. Gurmukhi Lipi da Itihas. Patiala: Kalgidhar Kalam Foundation Kalam Mandir, 1953.
- Prem Parkash Singh, Dr. "Gurmukhi di Utpati." Khoj Patrika, Patiala: Punjabi University.
- Pritam Singh, Prof. "Gurmukhi Lipi." Khoj Patrika. p. 110, vol.36, 1992. Patiala: Punjabi University.
- Sohan Singh Galautra. Punjab dian Lipiã.
- Tarlochan Singh Bedi, Dr. Gurmukhi Lipi da Janam te Vikas. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1999.
- Mandair, Arvind-Pal S.; Shackle, Christopher; Singh, Gurharpal (December 16, 2013). Sikh Religion, Culture and Ethnicity. Routledge. p. 13, Quote: "creation of a pothi in distinct Sikh script (Gurmukhi) seem to relate to the immediate religio–political context ...". ISBN 9781136846342. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
Mann, Gurinder Singh; Numrich, Paul; Williams, Raymond (2007). Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs in America. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 100, Quote: "He modified the existing writing systems of his time to create Gurmukhi, the script of the Sikhs; then ...". ISBN 9780198044246. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
Shani, Giorgio (March 2002). "The Territorialization of Identity: Sikh Nationalism in the Diaspora". Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism. 2: 11. doi:10.1111/j.1754-9469.2002.tb00014.x.
Harjeet Singh Gill (1996). Peter T. Daniels; William Bright, eds. The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press. p. 395. ISBN 978-0-19-507993-7.
- Peter T. Daniels; William Bright (1996). The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press. p. 395. ISBN 978-0-19-507993-7.
- Danesh Jain; George Cardona (2007). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. p. 53. ISBN 978-1-135-79711-9.
- Harnik Deol, Religion and Nationalism in India. Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-415-20108-X, 9780415201087. Page 22. "(...) the compositions in the Sikh holy book, Adi Granth, are a melange of various dialects, often coalesced under the generic title of Sant Bhasha."
The making of Sikh scripture by Gurinder Singh Mann. Published by Oxford University Press US, 2001. ISBN 0-19-513024-3, ISBN 978-0-19-513024-9 Page 5. "The language of the hymns recorded in the Adi Granth has been called Sant Bhasha, a kind of lingua franca used by the medieval saint-poets of northern India. But the broad range of contributors to the text produced a complex mix of regional dialects."
Surindar Singh Kohli, History of Punjabi Literature. Page 48. National Book, 1993. ISBN 81-7116-141-3, ISBN 978-81-7116-141-6. "When we go through the hymns and compositions of the Guru written in Sant Bhasha (saint-language), it appears that some Indian saint of 16th century...."
Nirmal Dass, Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth. SUNY Press, 2000. ISBN 0-7914-4683-2, ISBN 978-0-7914-4683-6. Page 13. "Any attempt at translating songs from the Adi Granth certainly involves working not with one language, but several, along with dialectical differences. The languages used by the saints range from Sanskrit; regional Prakrits; western, eastern and southern Apabhramsa; and Sahiskriti. More particularly, we find sant bhasha, Marathi, Old Hindi, central and Lehndi Panjabi, Sgettland Persian. There are also many dialects deployed, such as Purbi Marwari, Bangru, Dakhni, Malwai, and Awadhi."
- Danesh Jain; George Cardona (2007). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. pp. 94–99, 72–73. ISBN 978-1-135-79711-9.
- George Cardona and Danesh Jain (2003), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415772945, pages 72-74
- George Cardona and Danesh Jain (2003), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415772945, page 594
- Shackle, Christopher; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2005). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. United Kingdom: Routledge. pp. xvii–xviii. ISBN 978-0-415-26604-8.
- George Cardona and Danesh Jain (2003), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415772945, page 596
- Panjab Digital Library
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