Punjabi - interesting facts


Punjabi is the native language of about 100 million people (1.5% of the world's population), which is the 10th place on the list of the most used languages in the world regarding the number of native speakers.

Punjabi is the official language of the Punjab Province of Pakistan (where it does not have the official status of an official language) and India (the regional official language of the Punjab State), where it is the seventh most widely spoken language. In many countries (including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia), this language functions as the language of the diaspora, which is the aftermath of the emigration of the Punjabi people. It is the third most spoken language in the UK.

Pandabi belongs to the Indo-European languages, specifically the Indo-Aryan group of languages. As a separate language, it was formed in the 12th century (it evolved from Sanskrit through the Saurasian prakrit), becoming a carrier of the emerging Punjabi culture. Its development was influenced by Turkish, Persian, Arabic, and later English.

The issue of Punjabi language diversity is a subject of discussion and dispute. Some researchers consider Western Punjabi dialects a separate lahnda language (called West Punjabi) used exclusively in Pakistan. In this sense, the Punjabi name refers only to the dialects of the Indo-Pakistani borderland (East Punjabi). A very large dialectal diversity characterizes Punjabi. The Majhi dialect is considered the standard language in India and Pakistan.

The Punjabi script in Pakistan uses the shahmukhi alphabet, a modified Arabic script mainly used by Muslims. In India, on the other hand, gurmukhi is more common (in this alphabet are also given all the linguistic examples in the following sections), used mostly by Sikhs.

The name of the language derives from the Persian word Panj-āb, which means "five waters" and refers to the five tributaries of the Indus River.

As one of the few Indo-European languages, Punjabi is a tonal language. The syllables are assigned a tone that determines the meaning of the word There are three tones: high, intermediate and low.

A typical word order is subject-completion-ruling. Prepositions usually occur after nouns (postposition).

As a language derived from Sanskrit, Punjabi is a moderately inflexible language. Nouns change by five cases. There are two grammatical types and two numbers.


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Connections to Sanskrit

Punjabi, like Polish, belongs to the family of Indo-European languages, it is associated with Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages in the world. Even if these two languages differ, they have a common history that may be of interest to Poles studying their language roots.


Two writing systems

Depending on whether we are talking about Indian or Pakistani Punjab, the Punjabi language can be written using two different alphabets: gurmukhi (India) and shahmukhi (Pakistan). Knowing this fact can be useful when learning to read and write in this language.


A rich literary heritage

Punjabi literature is an exceptionally rich tradition that dates back to the 12th century and covers a vast array of genres, styles, and themes. The earliest known Punjabi literature was written by Sufi poets and saints, such as Baba Farid, whose writings embodied a unique synthesis of Islamic and Indian spirituality.

One of the most notable figures in Punjabi literature is Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, whose hymns and teachings form the cornerstone of Sikh literature and the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy text of Sikhism.

The early 20th century marked the beginning of the modern period of Punjabi literature, bringing an increased focus on social and political issues. The works of poets like Amrita Pritam, who courageously explored themes of love, loss, and partition, have left a lasting impact.

Punjabi literature has also made significant contributions to folk literature, particularly in the form of epic ballads. These include the tragic romances of Heer Ranjha and Mirza Sahiban, which are integral to the cultural fabric of the Punjab region.

In contemporary times, Punjabi literature continues to evolve, capturing the unique sociopolitical and cultural experiences of the Punjabi diaspora worldwide. It remains a vibrant part of the global literary landscape, illuminating the rich and diverse heritage of the Punjabi people.


Language in Music and Film

Punjabi is not only the language of literature, but also of music and movies. Bollywood often draws inspiration from Punjabi culture, and Punjabi music, especially bhangra, is gaining popularity worldwide. This is a great opportunity for Poles to explore this culture and discover new inspirations.


Diversity of dialects

The Punjabi language is very diverse regarding dialects, which vary from region to region. These dialects include, among others, majhi, malvi, doabi, potohari and many others. Understanding this diversity can help Poles better understand and appreciate Punjab's culture.


The Language of the Sikh Religion

Punjabi language plays a key role in the religion of Sikhism, which has its roots in Punjab. The Holy Book of Sikhs – Guru Granth Sahib – is written in Punjabi, in the Gurmukhi alphabet. This collection of hymns and poetry includes the teachings of the first ten Sikh gurus and other saints from different religions such as Hinduism or Islam. All Sikhs, regardless of where they live, learn to read and understand Punjabi to study their holy book. Therefore, learning the Punjabi language can help Poles better understand and appreciate the culture and traditions of the Sikhs, as well as lead to interesting cultural exchanges with followers of this religion.


The impact of Punjabi on English

Punjabi, one of the most spoken languages in the world, has had a subtle but noticeable impact on the English language. This influence is primarily due to the large Punjabi diaspora living in English-speaking countries like the UK, Canada, and the United States.

Many Punjabi words have been incorporated into English, particularly in the UK, where they are used in everyday conversation. Food-related words are perhaps the most recognisable, such as "tandoori" and "ghee." "Punjab" is used in English to describe India and Pakistan's regions.

The influence extends beyond just vocabulary. Punjabi music, particularly Bhangra and its fusion genres, has had a significant impact on the British music scene, and this has also introduced some Punjabi words and phrases into English.

Furthermore, the term "Desi" of Punjabi origin is now widely used in English-speaking countries to denote people, cultures, and products from the Indian subcontinent. While the Punjabi influence on English might not be as pronounced as other languages, it has undoubtedly added flavour and diversity to the English lexicon.


Language with a rich oral tradition

Oral tradition plays an extremely important role in Punjabi culture, which has its roots in ancient times, when the ability to write was not widely available. Many literary, historical and religious works have been handed down from generation to generation through stories, songs and poems. These oral messages played a key role in preserving the cultural and historical heritage of Punjab, especially in times of conflict and social change.

In the Punjabi oral tradition, stories of love, war, heroism and spirituality are particularly important. Many of them were written later, but still works remain only in oral form. Learning the Punjabi language allows Poles to discover these fascinating stories that offer insight into the life, values and aspirations of Punjab's inhabitants over the centuries.

In addition, the richness of the Punjabi oral tradition is reflected in the diversity of its dialects and local customs and customs. Dialects that vary from region to region provide unique insight into the history and culture of different parts of Punjab. Learning Punjabi and understanding this oral tradition can be an interesting experience for Poles who want to explore the richness of Punjab culture and establish closer relations with its inhabitants.


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Your Essential Punjabi




yes ਹਾਂ (hāṁ)
no ਨਹੀਂ (nahīṁ)
please ਕਿਰਪਾ ਕਰਕੇ (kirpā karkē)
thank you ਧੰਨਵਾਦ (dhanvād)
I'm sorry ਮੁਆਫ ਕਰੋ (muāf karō)
good morning ਸ਼ੁਭ ਸਵੇਰ (śubh savēr)
good evening ਸ਼ੁਭ ਸੰਧਿਆ (śubh sandhyā)
goodbye ਸ਼ੁੱਭ ਰਾਤ (śubh rāt)
good night ਅਲਵਿਦਾ (alvidā)
hi ਹੈਲੋ (hailō)
how are you?  ਤੁਹਾਨੂੰ ਕਿਵੇਂ ਹੈ? (tuhānūṁ kivēṁ hai?)
well ਧੰਨਵਾਦ, ਠੀਕ ਹਾਂ (dhanvād, ṭhīk hāṁ)
My name is... ਮੇਰਾ ਨਾਮਹੈ (mērā nām hai)
I don't understand ਮੈਂ ਸਮਝਦਾ ਨਹੀਂ (maiṁ samajhdā nahīṁ)



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