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Punjabi is a tonal language. This implies that tone is spoken in Punjabi and its use is meaningful, that is the use of tone changes the meaning of the word. So what is tone?


Tone is a high or low aspirated sound, especially of consonant ਹ. (This is not an attempt to precisely define the tone but to just familiarize the reader with the concept. A precise definition is beyond the scope of this Wikibook.)

Though tone is not written using any symbol or letter it is still spoken in Punjabi. There are many ways in which tone is spoken in Punjabi. The letter ਹ has a special significance in this context. When ਹ comes at the beginning of a word or a syllable it is spoken with its normal aspirated glottal sound. However when it comes in a word at a different place it is spoken as a high tone. See the examples below.

• ਰਹਿ /reh/ = live
• ਬਹਿ /beh/ = sit
• ਸ਼ਹਿਰ /shehar/ = city
• ਕਹਿਰ /kehar/ = atrocity
• ਜਾਹ /jah/ = go
• ਉਹ /uh/ = he

Besides ਹ the letters ਘ, ਝ, ਢ, ਧ and ਭ are also of special significance in the context of tone. These consonants are high tone consonants. They are spoken as their normal sounds when they occur at the beginning of a word. See for example:

• ਘਰ /ghar/ = house
• ਝੰਡਾ /jhandaa/ = flag
• ਢੱਕ /dhakk/ = cover
• ਧੱਕਾ /dhakka/ = push
• ਭਾਰ /bhaar/ = weight

However when they occur elsewhere in a word their sounds are replaced with the low tone ਗ੍ਹ, ਜ੍ਹ, ਡ੍ਹ, ਦ੍ਹ and ਬ੍ਹ. Since these conjugates are occurring at the end of the word the half haha is actually spoken as high tone. See these examples:

• ਸਿੰਘ /singh/ = lion
• ਬੋਝਾ /bojhaa/ = pocket
• ਕੱਢ /kadhdh/ = take out
• ਕੰਧ /kandh/ = wall
• ਖੰਭ /khambh/ = feather

Here are some examples of low tone:

• ਕਿੰਨ੍ਹਾ /kinaah/ = who
• ਜਿੰਨ੍ਹਾ /jinaah/ = those who
• ਨ੍ਹਾਤਾ /nhaataa/ =bathed
• ਪੜ੍ਹਾਈ /parhaaii/ = education
• ਚੜ੍ਹ /charhh/ = climb