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Exploring the linguistic relationship between Punjabi and Hindi

Although Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India, the country is home to a diverse range of languages. One of these languages is Punjabi, which is mainly spoken in a historical region known as Punjab.

This historical region stretches across parts of northwestern India and eastern Pakistan. Interestingly, there is an Indian state called Punjab and a Pakistani province with the same name, both of which have Punjabi as one of their main languages.

Vocabulary similarities

Hindi and Punjabi share a lot of common vocabulary words, many of which come from Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an ancient language that has influenced numerous Indian languages, much like Latin has influenced many European languages.

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Table: similar vocabulary words in Punjabi and Hindi
Hindi Punjabi English
प्यार (pyār) ਪਿਆਰ (piāra) love
शांति (shaanti) ਸ਼ਾਂਤੀ (shaantī) peace
जीवन (jīvan) ਜੀਵਨ (jīvan) life
आज़ादी (āzādī) ਅਜ਼ਾਦੀ (azādī) freedom
दोस्त (dost) ਦੋਸਤ (dosat) friend
भाषा (bhāṣā) ਭਾਸ਼ਾ (bhāśā) language
आग (āg) ਅੱਗ (aga) fire
रात (rāt) ਰਾਤ (rāt) night
पानी (pānī) ਪਾਣੀ (pāṇī) water
मछली (machlī) ਮੱਛੀ (macchī) fish
काम (kaam) ਕੰਮ (kamm) work
फूल (phūl) ਫੁੱਲ (phula) flower
कुत्ता (kuttā) ਕੁੱਤਾ (kuttā) dog
बिल्ली (billī) ਬਿੱਲੀ (billī) cat
नदी (nadī) ਨਦੀ (nadī) river
चांद (cānd) ਚੰਦ (cand) moon
गीत (gīt) ਗੀਤ (gīt) song

The similarity between Hindi and Punjabi is related to them belonging to the same language family. Both Hindi and Punjabi are Indo-European languages.

In contrast, some of the other languages spoken in India are not Indo-European languages. In the south of India, there are languages such as Tamil and Telugu which belong to the Dravidian family of languages.

The Influence of Sanskrit on Hindi and Punjabi Vocabulary

A large part of the vocabulary in both Hindi and Punjabi are words which come from Sanskrit. Here are some examples of these:

Hindi Word Punjabi Word Sanskrit Word / Meaning
दिन (din) ਦਿਨ (dina) दिन (dina) - day
भोजन (bhojan) ਭੋਜਨ (bhojana) भोजन (bhojana) - food
पिता (pitā) ਪਿਤਾ (pitā) पितृ (pitṛ) - father
अध्यापक (adhyāpak) ਅਧਿਆਪਕ (adhiāpak) अध्यापक (adhyāpaka) - teacher
समुद्र (samudra) ਸਮੁੰਦਰ (samundar) समुद्र (samudra) - ocean

The Impact of Persian on Hindi and Punjabi

The presence of Persian loanwords in Hindi and Punjabi is a legacy of the Mughal Empire. The Mughals came from Central Asia and ruled over the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to the 19th century, bringing with them the Persian language.

This left a lasting impact on the region, including the introduction of Persian words into local languages like Hindi and Punjabi. Along with the linguistic influence, the Mughals also left behind an architectural legacy visible in stunning buildings such as the Taj Mahal and Red Fort, known for their intricate designs and grandeur.

Hindi Word Punjabi Word Meaning
शहर (śahar) ਸ਼ਹਿਰ (śahir) city (borrowed from Persian word « شهر‎ » (šahr))
क़ानून (qānūn) ਕਾਨੂੰਨ (kanū̃na) law (derived from Persian word « قانون » (qânun))
काग़ज़ (kāġaz) ਕਾਗ਼ਜ਼ (kāġaz) paper (borrowed from Persian word « کاغذ » (kâğaz))
ख़ुश (xuś) ਖੁਸ਼ (khuś) happy (borrowed from Persian word « خوش » (xoš))

The SOV Word Order in Punjabi and Hindi

In both Hindi and Punjabi, verbs are often placed at the end of sentences, which makes them SOV (subject-object-verb) languages, according to linguists. This is different from English, which is an SVO (subject-verb-object) language, and as a result, has a different sentence structure compared to Hindi and Punjabi.

For example, the English phrase “linguistics is interesting” translates to:

Both these example sentences have the same word order. The word “linguistics” in Hindi is formed by combining the word « भाषा » (bhāṣā) meaning “language” with the word « विज्ञान » (vigyān) meaning “knowledge”. In Punjabi, the word for “linguistics” is formed in the same way.

The Hindi adjective « दिलचस्प » (dilcasp) and the Punjabi adjective « ਦਿਲਚਸਪ » (dilacasapa) both mean “interesting” and they look similar because they both come from the Persian word « دلچسب » (delčasp).

Both these example sentences end with the verb which is « है » (hai) in Hindi and « ਹੈ » (hai) in Punjabi. These are the conjugated forms for the verbs “to be”.

Writing systems

Hindi and Punjabi are easily distinguishable in their written form because they use different writing systems.

Hindi is written using the Devanagari script, which is also used for Sanskrit. Linguists classify Devanagari as an abugida or an alphasyllabary because in this type of writing system, the main symbols are consonants, and vowels are indicated through modifications of those consonant symbols.

Punjabi has two distinct writing systems: Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi.

Punjabi speakers in India commonly use the Gurmukhi script, which has its roots in the Brahmi script that is also the precursor of Devanagari.

In contrast, Shahmukhi derives from the Arabic and Persian scripts and is frequently used by Punjabi speakers in Pakistan. The use of these different scripts highlights the rich historical and cultural diversity of the Punjabi-speaking region.

Going further

To learn more about the languages which are spoken in India, see these comparisons of Hindi and Sanskrit, as well as Bengali and Hindi.