Punjabi/Shahmukhi/Lesson 1

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Lesson 1Lesson 2Lesson 3Lesson 4Lesson 5Lesson 6Lesson 7Lesson 8Lesson 9Lesson 10Lesson 11

Introduction[edit]

As you have already read, Shahmukhi is used to write the Punjabi language by Punjabi speakers in Pakistan. It is written from right to left. The Shahmukhi script is based on the Perso-Arabic script which is used to write Urdu. Shahmukhi cannot be called an alphabet; it is really an abjad. An abjad is a script that has letters to represent consonants but not vowels. Of course, Shahmukhi, and other scripts relating to it, are impure abjads. This means that there are ways to represent vowels in the writing but they are used in a very bare method. There are 38 letters in the Shahmukhi abjad. This may seem like a lot to learn, but the letters are really not too difficult to remember.


The letters are:


ا ب پ ت ٹ ث

ج چ ح خ د ڈ ذ

ر ڑ ز ژ س ش ص ض

ط ظ ع غ ف ق ک گ

ل م ن و ه ھ ى ے


The letters each have 4 forms: independent, initial, medial, and final. This means that the letters change form according to where they are in a word to help the letters connect well. This will become clear as you proceed through this lesson.

The independent forms will not be explicitly repeatedly told to you because each letter heading contains the independent form of that letter along with its romanized name, and the script chart above shows the independent form of each letter.

The lessons will be provided in a way so that you will learn the letters row by row.

Therefore, you will now be taught these:

ب پ ت ٹ ث

You will begin with bē. Alef will be taught later in Lesson 6.

Romanization[edit]

Throughout the lesson you will be presented with words written in Shahmukhi, with romanization next to each word, and then its definition.

The romanization of each consonant will be presented throughout the lessons. For example, when you begin with bē, you will be taught how to pronounce it, and how it will be represented in the romanization before you are taught its multiple forms.

As for the vowels, you will be taught their romanization when you reach Lesson 6. Therefore, when you are reading the words throughout the consonant lessons, try to focus more on memorizing the multiple letter forms rather than on pronunciation of the vowels in the romanization. Once you get to Lesson 6, you will be taught the vowels used in Punjabi, how they are represented in Shahmukhi, and how they are represented in romanization. Then, if you so desire, you can go through Lessons 1 to 5 again and work on your pronunciation of the example words.

bē - ب[edit]

Bē will be your first letter.

It is pronounced like the English "b". It will therefore be represented by "b" in romanization.

Initial[edit]

When used at the beginning of a word, bē will be used like this:


بورڈ - borḍ - board

برش - burash - brush


Note how bē connects to wāw in the first example and rē in the second example.

Medial[edit]

When used in the middle of a word, it is used like this:


چھبّی - chhabbī - 26

کباب - kabāb - roasted meat (Urdu)

Final[edit]

At the end of a word, bē appears like this:


ننکانہ صاحب - nankānah sāhib - Nankana Sahib (a district of Punjab, Pakistan)

نب - nib


Note how hē connects to bē at the end of sāhib and nūn to bē in nib.

pē - پ[edit]

Pē (along with tē, ṭē, and sē) connects to letters in exactly the same way as bē does. The only difference is in the diacritics. Instead of one dot like bē, you need three dots underneath the letter.

It is pronounced like the English "p". It will therefore be represented by "p" in romanization.

Initial[edit]

پنجاب - panjāb - Punjab

پاکستان - pākistān - Pakistan

Medial[edit]

کيپسول - caipsūl - capsule

پيپر - pēpar - paper

Final[edit]

کلپ - clip

ٹپّ - ṭapp - jump

tē - ت[edit]

The same again, but with two dots over the letter.

It is pronounced somewhat like the English "t" however, instead of placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth like you would do if you were normally pronouncing t, place the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth. This is called a dental t. It will be represented by "t" in romanization.

Initial[edit]

ترپرا - tripurā - Tripurā (a state in North-East India)

تمل - tamil - Tamil

Medial[edit]

مکتسر - muktsar - Muktsar (a city in Punjab, India)

ملتان - multān - Multan (a city in Punjab, Pakistan)

Final[edit]

گلگت - gilgit - Gilgit (the capital city of the Northern Areas, Pakistan)

شجاعت - shujāt - Shujaat (a name)

ṭē - ٹ[edit]

Now you have a small tōē above the letter.

It is pronounced like the English "t", however it will be represented by "ṭ" in romanization.

Initial[edit]

ٹوپ - ṭaup - top

ٹريکٹر - ṭraikṭar - tractor

Medial[edit]

سٹيج - sṭēj - stage

ميٹر - mīṭar - meter

Final[edit]

پليٹ - plēṭ - plate

گلٹ - gēṭ - gate

sē - ث[edit]

Now there are three dots above.

It is pronounced like the English "s". It will therefore be represented by "s" in romanization.

Initial[edit]

ثالث - sālis - arbitrator (Urdu)

Final position is also shown in this example.

Medial[edit]

نثار - nisār - sacrifice (Urdu)

Summary[edit]

You have now been taught how to use bē, pē, tē, ṭē, and sē. Since they all have the same forms with only differing diacritics, it should not be too difficult for you to memorize these letters and their forms.

When you're ready, proceed to Lesson 2.