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Panjabi at SOAS Language Centre

Panjabi (often spelled 'Punjabi') is statistically one of the most important languages of South Asia, with a number of speakers quite possibly in excess of 100 million. The difficulty in attempting to estimate speaker numbers is that in Pakistan, where the majority of speakers are located, the language has no official status and the language, being largely an oral medium, possesses a very considerable number of dialects.

In India, Panjabi has the status of official language and has its own distinctive script known as Gurmukhi, meaning 'from the mouth of the Guru'. Whilst it is by no means the only language of the Guru Granth Sahib (the collection of scriptures forming the core of Sikhism), it is unquestionably the case that Panjabi has become associated with Sikh identity – a fact reflected outside South Asia as well as within it.    

The Panjab was severely affected by Partition, a brutal political separation that was not without linguistic consequences. In India, where Panjabi has been cultivated as a literary medium, numerous Persian and Arabic loan words have been replaced with words of Sanskrit origin. More recently, Panjabi speakers have borrowed from English – a feature particularly widespread in the Panjabi spoken in diaspora.

Language Centre courses in Panjabi: