Monday, May 13, 2013

Language Profile: Eastern Punjabi

Way back in November, we introduced you to the Lahnda macrolanguage of Pakistan. One of the many languages that belongs to the group of Lahnda languages is Western Punjabi, the most spoken native language in Pakistan. Today we'll be looking at Eastern Punjabi, which many believe is the same language, but in India. We're siding
The Harmandir Sahib or "Golden Temple" in Amritsar.
It is the holiest shrine in Sikhism.
with the Ethnologue as usual so we'll be treating them as separate languages, but that doesn't mean there isn't quite a bit of debate as to whether they're distinct dialects of one language or completely separate languages.

Eastern Punjabi is natively spoken by over 28 million people in India. It has recognition as an official regional language in the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana. It has multiple dialects, though all are highly mutually intelligible and mainly differ in lexicon.

Despite being considered different languages by some linguistics, many others combine Eastern and Western Punjabi and regard them as one language. Since there are so many shared characteristics between the two varieties, we'll now cover them while referring to the language simply as "Punjabi" to make things simpler.

"Punjabi" written in Gurmukhi,
Shahmukhi, and Devanagari.
The Punjabi language has become an increasingly important part of Bollywood cinema in recent years. It is not uncommon to hear Bollywood songs that are written in Punjabi. Punjabi pop and folk songs are also popular in both countries, and the study of Punjabi literature has gained the interest of many students.

Punjabi is written using three different writing systems. In Pakistan, it is written using Shahmukhi, a variant of the Perso-Arabic Nastaʿlīq script with four additional letters. In India, the language is usually written using the Gurmukhi script, which is an abugida. However, some Punjabi Hindus occasionally write the language using Devanagari, most commonly associated with Hindi.

For a final interesting fact, we were surprised to learn that Punjabi is actually the third most spoken language in Canada!