Languages of Pakistan

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Languages of Pakistan
Mother Tongue by Pakistani District - 2017 Census.svg
OfficialEnglish, Urdu
MainPunjabi (38.78%); Pashto (18.24%); Sindhi (14.57%); Saraiki (12.19%); Urdu (7.08%);[a] Balochi (3.02%); Hindko (2.24%); Pahari-Pothwari; Brahui
ForeignArabic, Bengali, English, Persian
SignedPakistani Sign Language
Keyboard layout
QWERTY/Urdu keyboard
Urdu keyboard win.png

Pakistan is a multilingual country with dozens of languages spoken as first languages.[2][3] The majority of Pakistan's languages belong to the Indo-Iranian group of the Indo-European language family.[4][5]

Urdu is the national language and the lingua franca of Pakistan, and while sharing official status with English, it is the preferred and dominant language used for inter-communication between different ethnic groups.[2][3] Numerous regional languages are spoken as first languages by Pakistan's various ethnolinguistic groups. Languages with more than a million speakers each include Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki, Urdu, Balochi, Hindko, Pahari-Pothwari[b] and Brahui.[6] There are approximately 60 local languages with less than a million speakers.[7]

List of languages[edit]

The 2022 edition of Ethnologue lists 77 established languages in Pakistan. Of these, 68 are indigenous and 9 are non-indigenous. In terms of their vitality, 4 are classified as 'institutional', 24 are 'developing', 30 are 'vigorous', 15 are 'in trouble', and 4 are 'dying'.[7]

Established languages[7]
Language Province [c] Language group
Aer Sindh Indo-Aryan
Badeshi Khyber Pakhtunkwa Iranian
Bagri Punjab, Sindh Indo-Aryan
Balochi, Eastern Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh Iranian
Balochi, Southern Balochistan, Sindh Iranian
Balochi, Western Balochistan, Sindh Iranian
Balti Gilgit Baltistan Sino-Tibetan
Bateri Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Bhaya Sindh Indo-Aryan
Brahui Balochistan, Sindh Dravidian
Burushaski Gilgit Baltistan Isolate
Chilisso Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Dameli Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Dari Khyber Pakhtunkwa Iranian
Dehwari Balochistan Iranian
Dhatki Sindh Indo-Aryan
Domaaki Gilgit Baltistan Indo-Aryan
English Throughout Germanic
Gawar-Bati Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Gawri Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Ghera Sindh Indo-Aryan
Goaria Sindh Indo-Aryan
Gowro Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Gujarati Punjab, Sindh Indo-Aryan
Gujari Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan,
Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Punjab
Gurgula Sindh Indo-Aryan
Hazaragi Balochistan Iranian
Hindko, Northern Azad Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Hindko, Southern Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Punjab Indo-Aryan
Jadgali Balochistan, Sindh Indo-Aryan
Jandavra Sindh Indo-Aryan
Jogi Sindh Indo-Aryan
Kabutra Sindh Indo-Aryan
Kacchi Sindh Indo-Aryan
Kalasha Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Kalkoti Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Kamviri Khyber Pakhtunkwa Iranian
Kashmiri Azad Kashmir Indo-Aryan
Kati Khyber Pakhtunkwa Iranian
Khetrani Balochistan Indo-Aryan
Khowar Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Kohistani, Indus Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Koli, Kachi Sindh Indo-Aryan
Koli, Parkari Sindh Indo-Aryan
Koli, Wadiyari Sindh Indo-Aryan
Kundal Shahi Azad Kashmir Indo-Aryan
Lasi Balochistan Indo-Aryan
Loarki Sindh Indo-Aryan
Mankiyali Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Marwari Punjab, Sindh Indo-Aryan
Memoni Sindh Indo-Aryan
Oadki Punjab, Sindh Indo-Aryan
Ormuri Khyber Pakhtunkwa Iranian
Pahari-Potwari Azad Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Punjab Indo-Aryan
Pakistan Sign Language Throughout Sign language
Palula Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Pashto, Central Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Punjab Iranian
Pashto, Northern Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Punjab Iranian
Pashto, Southern Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Punjab Iranian
Punjabi, Eastern Punjab Indo-Aryan
Punjabi, Western Punjab Indo-Aryan
Sansi Sindh Indo-Aryan
Saraiki Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa, Punjab, Sindh Indo-Aryan
Sarikoli Khyber Pakhtunkwa Iranian
Savi Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Shina Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Shina, Kohistani Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Sindhi Balochistan, Sindh Indo-Aryan
Sindhi Bhil Sindh Indo-Aryan
Tamil Sindh Dravidian
Torwali Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Urdu Throughout Indo-Aryan
Ushojo Khyber Pakhtunkwa Indo-Aryan
Vaghri Sindh Indo-Aryan
Wakhi Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa Iranian
Waneci Balochistan Iranian
Yadgha Khyber Pakhtunkwa Iranian


Languages of Pakistan (2017)[8]

  Punjabi (38.78%)
  Pashto (18.24%)
  Sindhi (14.57%)
  Saraiki (12.19%)
  Urdu (7.08%)
  Balochi (3.02%)
  Hindko (2.44%)
  Brahui (1.24%)
  Kashmiri (0.17%)
  Others (2.26%)
Census history of major languages
Rank Language 2017 census 1998 census 1981 census 1961 census 1951 census
1 Punjabi* 38.78% 44.15% 48.17% 56.39% 57.08%
2 Pashto 18.24% 15.42% 13.35% 8.47% 8.16%
3 Sindhi 14.57% 14.1% 12.7% 12.59% 12.85%
4 Saraiki* 12.19% 10.53% 9.54%
5 Urdu 7.08% 7.57% 7.60% 7.57% 7.05%
6 Balochi 3.02% 3.57% 3.02% 2.49% 3.04%
7 Others 6.12% 4.66% 5.62% 12.49% 11.82%

* Saraiki was included with Punjabi in the 1951 and 1961 censuses.

Official languages[edit]

Urdu (National language)[edit]

The proportion of people with Urdu as their mother tongue in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

Urdu (اردو) is the national language (قومی زبان) and lingua franca of Pakistan.[9] Although only about 7% of Pakistanis speak it as their first language, it is widely spoken and understood as a second language by the vast majority of Pakistanis.[10][11]

No region in Pakistan uses Urdu as its mother tongue, though it is spoken as the first language of Muslim migrants (known as Muhajirs) in Pakistan who left India after independence in 1947.[12] Urdu was chosen as a symbol of unity for the new state of Pakistan in 1947, because it had already served as a lingua franca among Muslims in north and northwest British India.[13] It is written, spoken and used in all provinces/territories of Pakistan, and together with English as the main languages of instruction,[14] although the people from differing provinces may have different native languages.[15]

Urdu is taught as a compulsory subject up to higher secondary school in both English and Urdu medium school systems, which has produced millions of second-language Urdu speakers among people whose native language is one of the other languages of Pakistan – which in turn has led to the absorption of vocabulary from various regional Pakistani languages,[16] while some Urdu vocabularies has also been assimilated by Pakistan's regional languages.[17][18]

English (Co-official language)[edit]

English is a co-official language of Pakistan and is widely used in the executive, legislative and judicial branches as well as to some extent in the officer ranks of Pakistan's armed forces. Pakistan's Constitution and laws were written in English and are now being re-written in the local languages. It is also widely used in schools, colleges and universities as a medium of instruction. English is seen as the language of upward mobility, and its use is becoming more prevalent in upper social circles, where it is often spoken alongside native Pakistani languages. In 2015, it was announced that there were plans to promote Urdu in official business, but Pakistan's Minister of Planning Ahsan Iqbal stated, "Urdu will be a second medium of language and all official business will be bilingual." He also went on to say that English would be taught alongside Urdu in schools.[19]

Regional languages[edit]


The proportion of people with Punjabi as their mother tongue in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

Punjabi (پنجابی) is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken in the Punjab province of Pakistan, with the prominent dialect being the Majha dialect, written in the Shahmukhi script. Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan. It is spoken as a first language by almost 39% of Pakistanis.[20] It is the 11th most widely spoken language in India, and the third most-spoken native language in the Indian Subcontinent. The language is spoken among a significant overseas diaspora, particularly in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Punjabi is unusual among the Indo-Aryan languages and the broader Indo-European language family in its usage of lexical tone.[21]


The proportion of people with Pashto as their mother tongue in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

Pashto (پښتو) is an Iranian language spoken as a first language by more than 18% of Pakistanis, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in northern Balochistan as well as in ethnic Pashtun communities in the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, and most notably Karachi,[22][23][24][25] which may have the largest Pashtun population of any city in the world.[26] There are three major dialect patterns within which the various individual dialects may be classified; these are Pakhto, which is the Northern (Peshawar) variety, and the softer Pashto spoken in the southern areas such as in Quetta.


The proportion of people with Sindhi as their mother tongue in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

Sindhi (سنڌي) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken as a first language by almost 15% of Pakistanis, mostly in the Sindh province of Pakistan. The name "Sindhi" is derived from Sindhu, the original name of the Indus River.[27]

Like other languages of this family, Sindhi has passed through Old Indo-Aryan (Sanskrit) and Middle Indo-Aryan (Pali, secondary Prakrits, and Apabhramsha) stages of growth. 20th century Western scholars such as George Abraham Grierson believed that Sindhi descended specifically from the Vrācaḍa dialect of Apabhramsha (described by Markandeya as being spoken in Sindhu-deśa) but later work has shown this to be unlikely.[28] It entered the New Indo-Aryan stage around the 10th century CE.[29][30]


The proportion of people with Saraiki as their mother tongue in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

Saraiki (سرائیکی) is an Indo-Aryan language of the Lahnda group, spoken in central and southeastern Pakistan, primarily in the southern part of the province of Punjab. Saraiki is to a high degree mutually intelligible with Standard Punjabi[31] and shares with it a large portion of its vocabulary and morphology. At the same time in its phonology it is radically different[32] (particularly in the lack of tones, the preservation of the voiced aspirates and the development of implosive consonants), and has important grammatical features in common with the Sindhi language spoken to the south.[33]

Saraiki is the language of about 26 million people in Pakistan, ranging across southern Punjab, southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and border regions of northern Sindh and eastern Balochistan.[34]


The proportion of people with Balochi as their mother tongue in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

Balochi (بلوچی) is an Iranian language spoken as a first language by about 3% of Pakistanis, mostly in the Balochistan province. Rakshani is the major dialect group in terms of numbers. Sarhaddi is a sub-dialect of Rakshani. Other sub-dialects are Kalati (Qalati), Chagai-Kharani and Panjguri. Eastern Hill Balochi or Northern Balochi is very different from the rest.

Hindko and Pahari-Pothwari[edit]

The proportion of people with Hindko as their mother tongue in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

Hindko (ہندکو) is a cover term for a diverse group of Lahnda dialects spoken in several discontinuous areas in northwestern Pakistan, primarily in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Hindko is mutually intelligible with Punjabi and Saraiki,[35] and has more affinities with the latter than with the former.[36] Differences with other Punjabi varieties are more pronounced in the morphology and phonology than in the syntax.[37] The word Hindko, commonly used to refer to a number of Indo-Aryan dialects spoken in the neighbourhood of Pashto, likely originally meant "the Indian language" (in contrast to Pashto).[38] An alternative local name for this language group is Hindki.[39][d]


The proportion of people with Brahui as their mother tongue in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

Brahui (براہوئی) is a Dravidian language spoken in the central part of Balochistan province. Brahui is spoken in the central part of Pakistani Balochistan, mainly in Kalat, Khuzdar and Mastung districts, but also in smaller numbers in neighboring districts, as well as in Afghanistan which borders Pakistani Balochistan; however, many members of the ethnic group no longer speak Brahui.[40]

Other languages[edit]

Arabic (historical official language, religious and minor literary language)[edit]

Arabic was the official language when the territory of the modern state Islamic Republic of Pakistan was a part of the Umayyad Caliphate between 651 and 750.

Arabic is mentioned in the constitution of Pakistan. It declares in article 31 No. 2 that "The State shall endeavour, as respects the Muslims of Pakistan (a) to make the teaching of the Holy Quran and Islamiat compulsory, to encourage and facilitate the learning of Arabic language ..."[41]

Arabic is the religious language of Muslims. The Quran, Sunnah, Hadith and Muslim theology is taught in Arabic with Urdu translation. The Pakistani diaspora living in the Middle East has further increased the number of people who can speak Arabic in Pakistan. Arabic is taught as a religious language in mosques, schools, colleges, universities and madrassahs. A majority of Pakistan's Muslim population has had some form of formal or informal education in the reading, writing and pronunciation of Arabic as part of their religious education.

The National Education Policy 2017 declares in article 3.7.4 that: "Arabic as compulsory part will be integrated in Islamiyat from Middle to Higher Secondary level to enable the students to understand the Holy Quran." Furthermore, it specifies in article 3.7.6: "Arabic as elective subject shall be offered properly at Secondary and Higher Secondary level with Arabic literature and grammar in its course to enable the learners to have command in the language." This law is also valid for private schools as it defines in article 3.7.12: "The curriculum in Islamiyat, Arabic and Moral Education of public sector will be adopted by the private institutions to make uniformity in the society."[42]

Persian (historical official and literary language)[edit]

Persian was the official and cultural language of the Mughal Empire, a continuation since the introduction of the language by Central Asian Turkic invaders who migrated into the Indian Subcontinent,[43] and the patronisation of it by the earlier Turko-Persian Delhi Sultanate. Persian was officially abolished with the arrival of the British: in Sindh in 1843 and in Punjab in 1849. It is today spoken primarily by the Dari speaking refugees from Afghanistan and a small number of local Balochistani Hazara community, whereas most Pakistani Hazaras speak Hazaragi, which is considered a separate language by some expert and a variety of Farsi language by others.[44]

Bengali (previous regional and immigrant language)[edit]

Bengali is not an official language in Pakistan, but a significant number of Pakistani citizens have migrated from East Bengal and live in West Pakistan or East Pakistan prior to 1971. Bengali was recognised as the second official language of Pakistan on 29 February 1956, and article 214(1) of the constitution of Pakistan was reworded to "The state language of Pakistan shall be Urdu and Bengali".[45] Others include illegal immigrants who migrated from Bangladesh after 1971. Most Pakistani Bengalis and Pakistani Biharis, are bilingual speaking both Urdu and Bengali, and are mainly settled in Karachi.

Turkic languages (historical and immigrant languages)[edit]

Turkic languages were used by the ruling Turco-Mongols such as the Mughals and earlier Sultans of the subcontinent. There are small pockets of Turkic speakers found throughout the country, notably in the valleys in the countries northern regions which lie adjacent to Central Asia, western Pakistani region of Waziristan principally around Kanigoram where the Burki tribe dwells and in Pakistan's urban centres of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. The autobiography of Mughal emperor Babur, Tuzk Babari was also written in Turkish. After returning from exile in Safavid Persia in 1555, Mughal emperor Humayun further introduced Persian language and culture in the court and government. The Chaghatai language, in which Babur had written his memoirs, disappeared almost entirely from the culture of the courtly elite, and Mughal emperor Akbar could not speak it. Later in life, Humayun himself is said to have spoken in Persian verse more often than not.

A number of Turkic-speaking refugees, mostly Uzbeks and Turkmens from Afghanistan and Uyghurs from China have settled in Pakistan.[citation needed]

Endangered languages[edit]

Map showing some of the minor languages in Pakistan as of 1998.

Other languages spoken by linguistic minorities include the languages listed below, with speakers ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands. A few are highly endangered languages that may soon have no speakers at all.[46] The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization defines five levels of language endangerment between "safe" (not endangered) and "extinct":[47]

  • Vulnerable - "most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home)"
  • Definitely endangered – "children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home"
  • Severely endangered – "language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves"
  • Critically endangered – "the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently"
  • Extinct – "there are no speakers left; included in the Atlas if presumably extinct since the 1950s"

The list below includes the findings from the third edition of Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger (2010; formerly the Red Book of Endangered Languages), as well as the online edition of the aforementioned publication, both published by UNESCO.[48]

Language Status Comments ISO 639-3
Balti Vulnerable[47] Also spoken in: India bft
Bashkarik Definitely endangered[47]   gwc, xka
Badeshi Critically endangered[47]   bdz
Bateri Definitely endangered[47]   btv
Bhadravahi Definitely endangered[47] Also spoken in: India bhd
Brahui Vulnerable[47] Also spoken in: Afghanistan brh
Burushaski Vulnerable[47]   bsk
Chilisso Severely endangered[47]   clh
Dameli Severely endangered[47]   dml
Domaaki Severely endangered[47]   dmk
Gawar-Bati Definitely endangered[47] Also spoken in: Afghanistan gwt
Gowro Severely endangered[47]   gwf
Jad Definitely endangered[47] Also spoken in: India jda
Kalasha language Severely endangered[47]  Not to be confused with Kalasha-ala kls
Kalkoti Severely endangered[47]    
Kati (Kamkata-viri,
Kata-vari, Kamviri)
Definitely endangered[47] Also spoken in: Afghanistan bsh, xvi
Khowar Vulnerable[47]   khw
Kundal Shahi Definitely endangered[47] Also spoken in: India  
Maiya Vulnerable[47]   mvy
Ormuri Definitely endangered[47] Also spoken in: Afghanistan oru
Phalura Definitely endangered[47]   phl
Purik Vulnerable[47] Also spoken in: India prx
Savi Definitely endangered[47] Also spoken in: Afghanistan sdg
Spiti Vulnerable[47] Also spoken in: India spt
Torwali Definitely endangered[47]   trw
Ushojo Definitely endangered[47]   ush
Wakhi Definitely endangered[47] Also spoken in: China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan wbl
Yidgha Definitely endangered[47]   ydg
Zangskari Definitely endangered[47] Also spoken in: India zau

Foreign languages[edit]

As of 2017 some Pakistanis are learning Chinese to do business with companies from the People's Republic of China.[49]


The Indo-Iranian languages derive from a reconstructed common proto-language, called Proto-Indo-Iranian.


Most of the languages of Pakistan belong to the Indo-Iranian (more commonly known as Indo-Iranic[50]) branch of the Indo-European language family.[51][52] They are divided between two or three major groups: Indo-Aryan (the majority, including Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Hindko, and Saraiki, among others), Iranian (or Iranic[53]) (the major ones being Pashto, Balochi, and Khowar, among others) and Dardic (the major one being Kashmiri). At times Dardic is considered another branch of Indo-Iranian, but many linguists term Dardic as individual Indo-Aryan languages that do not form any subgrouping within Indo-Aryan.[54] The Nuristani language, considered another individual branch of Indo-Iranian, is spoken by the Nuristani minority in Afghanistan near the Afghan-Pakistani border, but not known to be spoken indigenously in Pakistan.


Majority of the languages spoken in eastern regions of Pakistan belong to the Indo-Aryan group. Some of the important languages in this family are dialect continuums. One of these is Lahnda,[55] and includes Western Punjabi (but not standard Punjabi), Northern Hindko, Southern Hindko, Khetrani, Saraiki, and Pahari-Potwari, plus two more languages outside of Pakistan. The other is Marwari, and includes Marwari of Pakistan and several languages of India (Dhundari, Marwari, Merwari, Mewari, and Shekhawati).[56] A third is Rajasthani, and consists of Bagri, Gujari, Loarki in Pakistan and several others in India: Gade Lohar,[57] Harauti (Hadothi), Malvi, and Wagdi.

Although Urdu is not a dialect continuum, it is a major dialect of Hindustani and somewhat differs from Hindi, another dialect of Hindustani which is not spoken in Pakistan.


Majority of the languages spoken in western regions of Pakistan belong to the Iranic group. There are several dialects continuums in this family as well: Balochi, which includes Eastern, Western and Southern Balochi;[58] and Pashto, and includes Northern, Central, and Southern Pashto.[59]


The following three languages of Pakistan are not part of the Indo-European language family:

  • Brahui (spoken in central Balochistan province) is a Dravidian language. Its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by Balochi. It is an individual language in the Dravidian language family and does not belong to any subgrouping in that language family.
  • The Balti dialect of Ladakhi (spoken in an area of southern Gilgit–Baltistan) is a Tibetan language of the Tibeto-Burman language family.[60]
  • Burushaski (spoken in Hunza, Nagar, Yasin, and Ishkoman valleys in Gilgit–Baltistan) is a language isolate with no indigenous written script and instead currently uses Urdu script, based on the Perso-Arabic script.

Writing systems[edit]

An English-Urdu bilingual sign at the archaeological site of Sirkap, near Taxila. The Urdu says: (right to left) دو سروں والے عقاب کی شبيہ والا مندر, dō sarōñ wālé u'qāb kī shabīh wāla mandir. "The temple with the image of the eagle with two heads."

Most languages of Pakistan are written in the Perso-Arabic script. The Mughal Empire adopted Persian as the court language during their rule over South Asia as did their predecessors, such as the Ghaznavids. During this time, the Nastaʿlīq style of the Perso-Arabic script came into widespread use in South Asia, and the influence remains to this day. In Pakistan, almost everything in Urdu is written in the script, concentrating the greater part of Nastaʿlīq usage in the world.

The phrase zubān-e-Urdū-e-muʿallā ("the language of the exalted camp") written in Nastaʿlīq script[61]
Lashkari Zabān title in Naskh script

The Urdu alphabet is a right-to-left alphabet. It is a modification of the Persian alphabet, which is itself a derivative of the Arabic alphabet. With 38 letters, the Urdu alphabet is typically written in the calligraphic Nasta'liq script.

Sindhi adopted a variant of the Persian alphabet as well, in the 19th century. The script is used in Pakistan today, albeit unlike most other native languages of Pakistan, the Naskh style is more common for Sindhi writing than the Nasta'liq style. It has a total of 52 letters, augmenting the Urdu with digraphs and eighteen new letters (ڄ ٺ ٽ ٿ ڀ ٻ ڙ ڍ ڊ ڏ ڌ ڇ ڃ ڦ ڻ ڱ ڳ ڪ) for sounds particular to Sindhi and other Indo-Aryan languages. Some letters that are distinguished in Arabic or Persian are homophones in Sindhi.

Balochi and Pashto are written in Perso-Arabic script. The Shahmukhī script, a variant of the Urdu alphabet, is used to write the Punjabi language in Pakistan.

Usually, bare transliterations of Urdu into Roman letters, Roman Urdu, omit many phonemic elements that have no equivalent in English or other languages commonly written in the Latin script.[citation needed] The National Language Authority of Pakistan has developed a number of systems with specific notations to signify non-English sounds, but these can only be properly read by someone already familiar with Urdu.


This is a series of maps which shows the distribution of different languages in Pakistan as of the 2017 Pakistan Census. These all refer to the mother tongues of individuals only.

Dominant Mother Tongue in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

See also[edit]


  1. ^ About eight percent speak it as a first language or only language. The total number of speakers make the majority percentage of the population
  2. ^ Lack of exact numbers of speakers of the language due to not being represented in the previous censuses. Upcoming 2022 Census of Pakistan will include Pahari-Pothwari as an option. Baart (2003, p. 10) provides an estimate of 3.8 million, presumably for the population in Pakistan alone. Lothers & Lothers (2010, p. 9) estimate the Pakistani population at well over 2.5 million and the UK diaspora at over 0.5 million. The population in India is reported in Ethnologue (2017) to be about 1 million as of 2000.
  3. ^ Excluding large urban centres
  4. ^ The term Hindki normally refers to a Hindko speaker and Shackle (1980, p. 482) reports that in Pashto the term has slightly pejorative connotations, which are avoided with the recently introduced term Hindkūn.


  1. ^ "Article: 251 National language". Retrieved 23 July 2018. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
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  3. ^ a b Ashraf, Muhammad Azeem; Turner, David A.; Laar, Rizwan Ahmed (January 2021). "Multilingual Language Practices in Education in Pakistan: The Conflict Between Policy and Practice". SAGE Open. 11 (1): 215824402110041. doi:10.1177/21582440211004140. ISSN 2158-2440. S2CID 232484396.
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  7. ^ a b c Ethnologue 2022.
  8. ^ "Final Results of Census-2017". Retrieved 7 August 2021.
  9. ^ Muzaffar, Sharmin; Behera, Pitambar (2014). "Error analysis of the Urdu verb markers: a comparative study on Google and Bing machine translation platforms". Aligarh Journal of Linguistics. 4 (1–2): 1. Modern Standard Urdu, a register of the Hindustani language, is the national language, lingua-franca and is one of the two official languages along with English in Pakistan and is spoken in all over the world. It is also one of the 22 scheduled languages and officially recognized languages in the Constitution of India and has been conferred the status of the official language in many Indian states of Bihar, Telangana, Jammu, and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and New Delhi. Urdu is one of the members of the new or modern Indo-Aryan language group within the Indo-European family of languages.
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  14. ^ "EDUCATION SYSTEM PROFILES Education in Pakistan". World Education Services. 25 February 2020. English has been the main language of instruction at the elementary and secondary levels since colonial times. It remains the predominant language of instruction in private schools but has been increasingly replaced with Urdu in public schools. Punjab province, for example, recently announced that it will begin to use Urdu as the exclusive medium of instruction in schools beginning in 2020. Depending on the location and predominantly in rural areas, regional languages are used as well, particularly in elementary education. The language of instruction in higher education is mostly English, but some programs and institutions teach in Urdu.
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