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Punjabi – A Language With Four Scripts January 6, 2016

Posted by simarp in : Language, Punjabi, Punjabis, Script , add a comment

Yes, Punjabi may be the only language in the world to be written in four scripts, Gurmukhi, Shahmukhi, Devnagri and Roman. Punjabi is a language which is owned and disowned on religious grounds and script preferences also. This indeed is very sad as at the end an old historic language suffers and develops complex around its usage.

Here are some observations, as they are all independent and for ease of  punctuation I am numbering them rather than putting them altogether in one knitted article.

  1. Gurmukhi is Gurmukhi where it is a composite word coined from Guru + Mukh, which means a language which is spoken by the Gurus. Gurmukhi script has similarities with Devnagari Script but both scripts are mutually exclusive and knowing one is not at all knowing the other.
  2. Shahmukhi is a script with two more characters than Urdu and largely readable by all Urdu script readers. Urdu incidentally is one of the few languages which are written in script by the same name. Urdu script is derived from Arabic and Shahmukhi and Urdu are both written from left to right.
  3. Punjabi in Gurmukhi Script is an official language of Sikhs worldwide. The holy book Guru Granth Sahib is written in Gurmukhi and everyone is expected to read it in that script for regular/ daily prayers.
  4. Punjabi in Gurmukhi Script has official language and script status in India, Canada, UK and a few other countries.
  5. Punjabi in Shahmukhi Script has official language and script status in Pakistan.
  6. Punjabi written in Gurmukhi script now has an increasing influence of Hindi words and is slowly becoming a different language than Punjabi – Shahmukhi.
  7. Punjabi written in Shahmukhi is getting more closer to Arabic and Urdu with lot of import words from these two languages.
  8. By and large all Punjabi speakers still manage to understand and appreciate different dialects, but universality of the language is suffering.
  9. Punjabi spoken in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh has now a huge degree of import words from local Hindi dialects. Punjabi in written form in these states is largely in Devnagri Script.
  10. On the internet Roman has become preferred script for Punjabi, slowly it is taking a form of universal script and is progressing well. Even the vocab and the dialect used on internet is getting standardized. On the net Punjabi is by and large sans religion. For instance “Kidaan” has become a kind of default equivalent of “How are you” and “Wadiya” has become an acceptable reply for “fine thank you”.  “Kidaan” has pushed “Key Haal Chaal” to the background and “Wadiya” has pushed “Changa” to the background though both are still used interchangeably.  Some would still prefer to use “Key Haal Chaal” instead of Kidaan as Kidaan is still more associated with Jats and rural Punjabi, but differentiation practitioners are  becoming few and far between.
  11. Punjabi songs in Bollywood and as DJ mixes and rap are playing a major role in rejuvenating Punjabi. No Hindi movie is worth its salt if it doesn’t have one or two Punjabi numbers. Punjabi music groups from UK and Canada are also making huge difference in acceptability of the language.
  12. Delhi is the city leading in universal vocab for Punjabi, probably Delhi is also the city with maximum daily Punjabi language users in the world. The Delhi Punjabi is spiked with English and Hindi but still includes lot of Urdu words irrespective of whether they are imports in Hindi or not. For instance Punjabi like Hindi doesn’t have a word for Divorce, so both languages use Talaak, increasingly Divorce is used in Punjabi over Talaak in spoken genre. There are a few Punjabi words which are getting extinct in Delhi, “thale” is now usually replaced with neeche both meaning down and similarly “Udeeq” has completely lost out to wait for the English usage wait. I am waiting for you in Punjabi would almost always be spoken as “Main teri wait kar rahe haan.”  Neither the speaker nor listener would notice the import word.
  13.   There is a need to adopt a standard script for Punjabi and sooner or later that would be Roman, that adaptation would take Punjabi to even much higher usage.

This is a collection of some random thoughts on this subject and over a period of time I will add more to this.

Rab Rakha of course is becoming a universal/ pan religion Goodbye equivalent. So Rab Rakha!