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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh






Sub-Dialects of Punjabi Language

Jaswant Rai*

It is universally accepted that all languages of the Asian sub-continent have been derived from Sanskrit. Sanskrit had a lasting impact on the languages of South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, especially on their lexical items. Some historians are of the opinion that 4000 years back, the Aryans had standardized their mother tongue i.e. Vedic Sanskrit through a grammarian named ‘Panini’ and its upgraded version of evolved Vedic Sanskrit turned into ancient Sanskrit. At that time, Sanskrit was spoken all over south-Asia, i.e. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, and Maldives. With the passage of time, Sanskrit gave birth to Prakirt language. This Prakrit was spoken by the people of ancient Sapt Sindhu (Old Punjab) during Harrapan Civilization. Prakrit further proliferated into Pali and then into Apbhransh languages and from Apbhransh (Apabhramsha), then some modern different languages of the India came into being, Punjabi is one of these languages.

Punjabi emerged as an Apabhramsha, a degenerated form of Prakrit in the 7th century A.D. and became popular by the 10th century. The earliest writings in Apabhramsha Punjabi belong to Nath Yogi era from 9th to 14th century A.D. Modern day Punjabi language was developed during the next four centuries. During this time, lot of Punjabi literature was produced by Nathas, Yogies, Sufis (like Baba Farid) and Sikh Guru Sahiban. It is generally believed that the first Punjabi poetry was written by Baba Farid around 10th or 11th century.

    ਦੇਖੁ ਫਰੀਦਾ ਜੁ ਥੀਆ ਦਾੜੀ ਹੋਈ ਭੂਰ॥ਅਗਹੁ ਨੇੜਾ ਆਇਆ ਪਿਛਾ ਰਹਿਆ ਦੂਰਿ॥ 

During this period, the use of vocabulary of the widely spoken languages like Sanskrit, Prakrit, Apbhransh, Persian or Arabic was incorporated into Punjabi language. One can find a lot of words of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic in the Punjabi literature of Nath Yogis and the poetry of Baba Farid. It is believed that the three dialects of Punjabi were being used to produce literature at that time. These were Hindvi, Multani and Lahori. Multani and Lahori (Shahmukhi & Gurmukhi) were spoken in Central Punjab and Hindvi was being used in the rest of Northern India and Persian had also come into use in Punjab at that time, as it was the official language in those times.

It is true that although massive political expansion of Punjab took place during the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, but no special attention was given towards the development of Punjabi. Maharaja Ranjit Singh declared Persian as his official language instead of Punjabi. Although there were some political compulsions behind this declaration, but it was a big setback to Punjabi language.

Punjabi got a significant encouragement during the British rule. Many Printing Presses were setup in the colonial period and lot of Punjabi literature had been published. It is worth noting that the first Bible in Punjabi (Gurmukhi & Shahmukhi) language was published by the British Missionaries in Punjab. In 1947 when Punjab was divided into two parts – East and West Punjab, Punjabi language in Gurmukhi script got a status as its official language in East Punjab. In 1966, when Punjab was again divided on the linguistic basis, Punjabi came to acquire the 14th position among the National languages.

Although a slight difference occurs between the written words in a particular language and their spoken version after a distance of around 50 kms, but grammar rules remain the same. The spoken version of that language becomes a sub-dialect of any language. Areas of such sub-dialects remain restricted to a particular distance. The area of Punjabi sub-dialects is based on tarritories of versions spoken between five rivers of Punjab, i.e. Jhelam, Jhanab, Ravi, Beas and Satluj.  The modern Punjabi Language can be divided into the main following sub-dialects.

1.    Majhi: The area of Punjab between Beas and Ravi is called Majha means central part of Punjab falling in undivided Punjab consisting of Amritsar, Tarntaran, Gurdaspur, Batala, Lahore, Sialkot, etc.

2.    Malvai: Malvai sub-dialect of Punjabi is being spoken in the Malwa area of Punjab. This dialect is believed to be very old. It is said that Malav was a famous tribe of Aryan people, who spoke this dialect of Punjabi language. This sub-dialect is being spoken in Ludhiana, Faridkot, Moga, Fazilka, Sangroor, Sirsa, Bathinda, Barnala, Fatehgarh Sahib Districts of the modern East Punjab.

3.    Doabi: This sub-dialect is spoken in the area between river Satluj and Beas. This includes, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Nawanshahr (Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar) districts of Punjab.

4.    Puadhi: Eastern part of the East Punjab or the area of the Shivalik mountain foothills and area around both sides of the Ghaggar River is called Puadh. The language of this territory is called Puadhi. The dialect is being spoken in the areas of Ropar, Ambala, Mohali, Chandigarh and some parts of Patiala,  Sangrur, Malerkotla, Nabha, Jind, parts of  Distt Hissar. Puadhi dialect is slightly different from the language spoken in Central Punjab. On the western side of Ghaggar river this sub-dialect is a hybrid mixture of Bagri and Hindi, where influence of Western Uttar Pradesh is very clear on this dialect on the eastern side of Ghagar.

5.    Pothohari: In the ancient India, this area was a under the influence of Pali Language because world famous Ancient Indian University, Taxila was situated in this area. The language spoken in plateau area of Northern Punjab i.e. Jehlum, Rawalpindi, Kembalpur (Now in Pakistan) and some areas of Jammu & Kashmir is called Pothohar and it extends southwards up to the Salt Range area of present Pakistan. It is also called Lehndi Boli. Baba Farid’s poetry and some poems of Prof Mohan Singh are also in Lehndi/ Pothohari boli.

6.    Multani: The Multan stands for (mool+stan) a word Sanskrit etymology. It was used to be written in Saraiki dialect, often considered a dialect of Landa group of languages. The script was used for routine writing and commercial activities. Multani is one of four Landa scripts usage of which was extended beyond the mercantile domain and included for literary writings also. This sub-dialect is being spoken in Jhang, Multan, Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazikhan etc districts of Pakistan.

7.    Dogri:  The areas of Punjab which are adjoining with Mountain range of Jammu and Himachal have three different dialect known as Dogri, Kangri, and Himachali. The language spoken in the north-west of Punjab i.e. Jammu state is known as Dogri. The influence of Kashmiri and Pothohari can also be noted on Dogri. Dogri script is a mixture of Gurmukhi and Devnagri.

8.    Kangri: Kangri Language is another kind of Dogri which is spoken in north-western part of Himachal Pradesh. In erstwhile Kangra district, this sub-dialect of Punjabi was also known as Dogri but now this is known as Kangri. Some areas of Himachal near Punjab Border like Una, Hamirpur, Dehra, Nurpur, Chamba Sirmaur, Nalagarh, etc are Kangri speaking areas.

Besides these main sub-dialects of Punjabi language there are also some other less spoken dialects of Punjabi, like Jhangvi, Shahpuri, Awankari, Dhani, Thalochi, Riyasti, Derewali etc. Nowadays all these sub-dialects are being spoken in the areas of west Punjab.

Thus, Punjabi language like some other rich Indian regional and vernacular languages has a large number of sub-dialects with their distinct phonetic sounds, flavor and word pronunciations. Some of these dialects like Majhi, Malvai, Puadhi, Dogri and lehndi and Photohari have produced a significant body of Punjabi literature and enriched it with their characteristic lingo and conversational prose and poetry. Punjabi novels of Jaswant Singh Kanwal,  Dalip Kaur Tiwana, Short stories of Gurbachan Singh Bhullar, Gurdev Singh Rupana, Short stories of Waryam Singh Sandhu, poems of Prof Mohan Singh are some of the best specimen of Malvai, Majhi, Lehndi/ Pothohari dialects of Punjabi. All these dialectic variations with their umbilical link with Punjabi language present a rich bouquet of Punjabi language and literature.






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