Punjabi dialects and languages

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Punjabi languages
Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Early form

The Punjabi dialects and languages or Greater Panjabic are a series of dialects and languages spoken around the Punjab region of Pakistan and India with varying degrees of official recognition.[7] They have sometimes been referred to as the Greater Punjabi macrolanguage.[8] Punjabi may also be considered as a pluricentric language with more than one standard variety.[9]

Punjabi is a language spoken primarily in the Punjab region, which is divided between India and Pakistan. It is also spoken by Punjabi diaspora communities around the world. Punjabi itself has several dialects that can vary based on geographical, cultural, and historical factors.

The varieties of "Greater Punjabi" have a number of characteristics in common, for example the preservation of the Prakrit double consonants in stressed syllables.[10] Nevertheless, there is disagreement on whether they form part of a single language group, with some proposed classifications placing them all within the Northwestern zone of Indo-Aryan, while others reserving this only for the western varieties, and assigning the eastern ones to the Central zone alongside Hindi.[11]

Geographic distribution[edit]

The literary languages that have developed on the basis of dialects of this area are Standard Punjabi in eastern and central Punjab, Saraiki in the southwest Pahari-Pothwari in the northwest.[12] A distinction is usually made between Punjabi in the east and the diverse group of "Lahnda" in the west. "Lahnda" typically subsumes the Saraiki and Hindko varieties, with Jhangvi and Shahpuri intermediate between the two groups. Pothwari shares features with both Lahnda and Punjabi.[13]

Commonly recognised Eastern Punjabi dialects include Majhi (the standard), Doabi, Malwai, and Puadhi. The "Lahnda" variety of Khetrani in the far west may be intermediate between Saraiki and Sindhi.[14]


Punjabi, Hindko and Saraiki are listed separately in the census enumerations of Pakistan.[15] According to the 2017 Census of Pakistan, there are 80,536,390 Punjabi speakers; 25,324,637 Saraiki speakers and 5,065,879 Hindko speakers.[16] Saraiki was added to the census in 1981, and Hindko was added in 2017, prior to which both were represented by Lahnda language. In areas such as Gujar Khan and Rawalpindi where Pothwari is a spoken language,[17] speakers significantly selected 'Punjabi" instead of "Other" in all previous census enumeration.[18]

Azad Kashmir[edit]

In a statistical survey carried about by a proxy of the Government of Azad Kashmir, most speakers of Azad Kashmir spoke a variety of Pothwari, while Punjabi attained a plurality in the Bhimber district.[19] Some Pothwari speakers in Azad Kashmir and the Pothohar refer to their mother tongue as Punjabi, hence those choosing 'Punjabi' may be referring to 'Pothwari'.[20]


In India, Punjabi is listed as a constitutional language and is counted in the census returns. According to the 2011 Census of India, there are 33,124,726 Punjabi speakers which includes the varieties of Bagri (1,656,588 speakers) Bilaspuri (295,805 speakers) and Bhateali (23,970 speakers).[21] Bagri is spoken in parts of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Bilaspuri and Bhateali are spoken in Himachal Pradesh. The status of Bagri is split between Punjabi and Rajasthani in the census returns with options available under Punjabi and Rajasthani.[22] Gusain (1991) places Bagri as a Rajasthani dialect.[23] Similarly, the identities of Bilaspuri and Bhateali are also split, in their case, between Punjabi and Dogri.[24][25]

Lahnda languages are only enumerated in the census returns in India with 108,791 speakers listed in the 2011 census. The varieties listed under Lahnda are Bahawalpuri (29,253 speakers); Multani which is described as Hindi Multani (61,722 speakers) and unclassified (17,816 speakers). [26] Punchi is spoken in Jammu. The language variety is listed under Lahnda as it, together with Bahwalpuri and Multani satisfies the "criterion of 10,000 or more speakers at the all India level".[27]

Historically, Dogri was considered to be a dialect of Punjabi spoken primarily in Jammu.[28] In the 1941 Census, Dogri was listed under Punjabi.[29] Since 2003, Dogri is listed as an independent language in the constitution of India.[30] According to the 2011 Census - India, there are 2,596,767 Dogri speakers. Similar to Dogri, the Kangri language spoken in Himachal Pradesh was regarded as a Punjabi dialect but since 1971, it has been reclassified under Hindi.[31] There were 1,117,342 Kangri speakers listed in the 2011 Census- India. Despite the independent status of Dogri and reclassification of Kangri, both languages are claimed to fall within Punjabi by some writers.[32][33] Others place Dogri and Kangri within the Western Pahari group.[34] Eberle et al (2020) believe Dogri and Kangri are related to Eastern Punjabi and place these languages in a group of related languages descended from an intermediate division of Indo-Aryan languages.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Haldar, Gopal (2000). Languages of India. New Delhi: National Book Trust, India. p. 149. ISBN 9788123729367. The age of Old Punjabi: up to 1600 A.D. […] It is said that evidence of Old Punjabi can be found in the Granth Sahib.
  2. ^ Bhatia, Tej K. (2013). Punjabi: A Cognitive-Descriptive Grammar (Reprint ed.). London: Routledge. p. XXV. ISBN 9781136894602. As an independent language Punjabi has gone through the following three stages of development: Old Punjabi (10th to 16th century). Medieval Punjabi (16th to 19th century), and Modern Punjabi (19th century to Present).
  3. ^ Christopher Shackle; Arvind Mandair (2013). "0.2.1 – Form". Teachings of the Sikh Gurus : selections from the Scriptures (First ed.). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 9781136451089. Surpassing them all in the frequent subtlety of his linguistic choices, including the use of dialect forms as well as of frequent loanwords from Sanskrit and Persian, Guru Nanak combined this poetic language of the Sants with his native Old Punjabi. It is this mixture of Old Punjabi and old Hindi which constitutes the core idiom of all the earlier Gurus.
  4. ^ Frawley, William (2003). International encyclopedia of linguistics (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 423. ISBN 9780195139778.
  5. ^ Austin, Peter (2008). One thousand languages : living, endangered, and lost. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 115. ISBN 9780520255609.
  6. ^ Braj B. Kachru; Yamuna Kachru; S. N. Sridhar (2008). Language in South Asia. Cambridge University Press. p. 411. ISBN 9781139465502.
  7. ^ "Glottolog 4.8 - Greater Panjabic". glottolog.org. Retrieved 2023-07-13.
  8. ^ For the use of the term "Greater Panjabi", see Rensch (1992, p. 87) and Rahman (1996, p. 175).
  9. ^ [1]Muhr, Rudoplh (2016) Pluricentric Languages and Non-Dominant Varieties Worldwide. Peter Lang
  10. ^ Shackle 2003, p. 591.
  11. ^ Masica 1991, pp. 446–63.
  12. ^ Shackle 1979, p. 198.
  13. ^ Pothwari has previously been regarded as part of "Lahnda", but Shackle (1979, pp. 201) argues that it shares features with both groups. Jhangvi (Wagha 1997, p. 229) and Shahpuri (Shackle 1979, pp. 201) are transitional between Saraiki and Punjabi.
  14. ^ Birmani & Ahmed 2017.
  15. ^ "Pakistan Demographic Survey 2020" (PDF). pbs.gov.pk. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  16. ^ "Table 11. Population by mother tongue, sex and rural/urban" (PDF). pbs.gov.pk. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  17. ^ Singh, Dr Gurmeet (2021-09-11). Information Seeking Behaviour of Users in Punjabi Literature. K.K. Publications. p. 98.
  18. ^ "Table 11. Population of Rawalpindi District by mother tongue" (PDF). pbs.gov.pk.
  19. ^ Statistical Year Book 2020 (PDF). Muzaffarabad: AJ&K Bureau Of Statistics. pp. 131, 140. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-10-09. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  20. ^ "Pahari and Pothwari: a sociolinguistic survey". SIL International. p. 44. Retrieved 2023-06-17.
  21. ^ Census catalog
  22. ^ Language (Paper 1 OF 2018)- Census of India2011
  23. ^ *Gusain, Lakhan (1999). A Descriptive Grammar of Bagri (PhD). Jawaharlal Nehru University. hdl:10603/16847.
  24. ^ Tiwari, Dr Siyaram. Bhartiya Bhashaon Ki Pahchan (in Hindi). Vani Prakashan. ISBN 978-93-5229-677-4.
  25. ^ Ralph Lilley Turner (1985), A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages, p. xii, Wikidata Q115652507
  26. ^ Census Index
  27. ^ Census Tables
  28. ^ Kli︠u︡ev, B. I. (1981). India, National and Language Problem. India: Sterling.[2]
  29. ^ Census of India, 1941. (1943). India: Manager of publications [3]
  30. ^ Coalition Politics and Hindu Nationalism.(2007). (n.p.): Taylor & Francis[4]
  31. ^ Language Sciences. (1991). Japan: International Christian University Language Sciences Summer Institute.[5]
  32. ^ Grewal, J.S. and Banga, Indu (1998) Punjab in prosperity and violence: administration, politics, and social change, 1947-1997. K.K. Publishers for Institute of Punjab Studies, Chandigarh [6]
  33. ^ "Pushp & Warikoo: Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh - Linguistic Predicament". koshur.org. Retrieved 2023-02-11.
  34. ^ Jared Klein, Brian Joseph, Matthias Fritz (2017) Handbook of Comparative and Historical Indo-European Linguistics[7]
  35. ^ Eberle, Ulrich J., et al. “Ethnolinguistic Diversity and Urban Agglomeration.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 117, no. 28, 2020, pp. 16250–57. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/26935214. Accessed 12 Feb. 2023.


  • Birmani, Ali H.; Ahmed, Fasih (2017). "Language of the Khetrans of Barkhan of Pakistani Balochistan: A preliminary description". Lingua. 191–192: 3–21. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2016.12.003. ISSN 0024-3841.
  • Burling, Robbins. 1970. Man's many voices. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Ethnologue. Indo-Aryan Classification of 219 languages that have been assigned to the Indo-Aryan grouping of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages.
  • Ethnologue. Languages of India
  • Ethnologue. Languages of Pakistan
  • Grierson, George A. (1903–1928). Linguistic Survey of India. Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India. Online database
  • Masica, Colin P. (1991). The Indo-Aryan languages. Cambridge language surveys. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-23420-7.
  • Rahman, Tariq (1996). Language and politics in Pakistan. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-577692-8.
  • Rahman, Tariq. 2006. The role of English in Pakistan with special reference to tolerance and militancy. In Amy Tsui et al., Language, policy, culture and identity in Asian contexts. Routledge. 219-240.
  • Rensch, Calvin R. (1992). "The Language Environment of Hindko-Speaking People". In O'Leary, Clare F.; Rensch, Calvin R.; Hallberg, Calinda E. (eds.). Hindko and Gujari. Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan. Islamabad: National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University and Summer Institute of Linguistics. ISBN 969-8023-13-5.
  • Shackle, C. 1970. Punjabi in Lahore. Modern Asian Studies, 4(3):239–267. Available online at JSTOR.
  • Shackle, Christopher (1979). "Problems of classification in Pakistan Panjab". Transactions of the Philological Society. 77 (1): 191–210. doi:10.1111/j.1467-968X.1979.tb00857.x. ISSN 0079-1636.
  • Shackle, Christopher (2003). "Panjabi". In Cardona, George; Jain, Dhanesh (eds.). The Indo-Aryan languages. Routledge language family series. Y. London: Routledge. pp. 581–621. ISBN 978-0-7007-1130-7.
  • Wagha, Muhammad Ahsan (1997). The development of Siraiki language in Pakistan (Ph.D.). School of Oriental and African Studies. (requires registration)

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