It is common to see people confuse Urdu and Punjabi. To bring some clarity to the matter, first understand what they mean.
Urdu is a language from India, whereas Punjabi is a language from Pakistan.
They share similar massive origins and are cousins of one another. However, they are different from each other.
- Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, while Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan.
- Urdu is written in the Persian script, while Punjabi is written in the Gurmukhi script.
- Urdu has more Arabic and Persian loanwords, while Punjabi has more Sanskrit and Hindi loanwords.
Urdu vs Punjabi
Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language that developed in the 12th century and is spoken in India, Bangladesh, and other parts of the world. Punjabi originated in the Punjab region of South Asia and is the official language of India and Pakistan. It is written in the Gurmukhi script and has many loanwords from Persian, and Sanskrit.
Urdu belongs to the Indo-Iranian language family, which is spread all across Central Asia, South, West, and Southeast Asia.
It is spoken by close to 250 million native speakers and is learned by over 100 million more as a second language.
It is the official language of Pakistan and one of two official languages in India.
It is an official language in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, as well as having a large number of native speakers in Bangladesh, Iran, Nepal, Mauritius, and Suriname, as well as Fiji, with smaller populations throughout Canada, Russia, and the United States.
Punjabi belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family, which is spread all across India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia. I
t is spoken by close to 90 million native speakers and is learned by over 10 million more as a second language.
It is one of the 22 official languages in Pakistan and one of the official languages in India, as well as having a large number of native speakers in Bangladesh and Nepal.
|Parameters of Comparison
|Created by a Muslim scholar, Mir Ameer Ali Khan Shere Ali.
|Created by Guru Angad Dev Ji.
|Arabic, which is based upon the Perso-Arabic script
|Gurmukhi script, which is derived from the Landa alphabet
|Indo-Iranian language family
|Indo-Aryan language family
|Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Iran, Nepal, Mauritius, Suriname, Fiji, and India
|India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal
What is Urdu?
Urdu is the general term for the South Asian language, written in a variety of Arabic, Persian, and Indic scripts.
It belongs to the Indo-Aryan group of languages, which means it is related to other languages such as Hindi, Punjabi, and Gujarati. In Pakistan, Urdu speakers form about 75% of the population, with about an equal number in India.
Urdu has been used as a lingua franca for Muslims in South Asia since mid 18th century due to its proximity with Arabic.
Urdu was referred to by Muslims in India after the establishment of Pakistan when it became grounds for criticism among them due to its connection with Islam and Arab culture.
In Pakistan, Urdu became a divisive issue when other ethnic groups, such as Punjabis and Sindhis, began to criticize it for its affiliation with Islam, and their language was criticized for being associated with Hinduism.
Urdu is a mixture of Persian language and Arabic used as the main languages of Muslim culture. It is considered by many to be a genius linguistic masterpiece.
With its rich vocabulary, it has been able to adapt to South Asia’s regional languages and culture.
The Urdu language was created in 1844 by a Muslim scholar, Mir Ameer Ali Khan Shere Ali, who wanted to make the Arabic script workable for the different languages of India with the aim of unification.
This resulted in creating a new alphabet from scratch from English letters. Urdu is predominantly a spoken language with an emphasis on written literature.
In Pakistan, it is used as a language of government, education, and culture. While in India, it is mainly used for cultural purposes.
What is Punjabi?
Punjabi is one of the languages of the Indo-Aryan language family, with millions of speakers, mainly in India and Pakistan.
It is written in the Gurmukhi script, which was developed by Guru Angad Dev Ji for Punjab. Punjabi has various dialects like Majhi, Jandaviya, Dogri, Hindko, and Shahpuri.
It has three main varieties of Punjabi, which are widely used in India. Dogri, which is mostly spoken in Jammu and Kashmir, and Hindko or Pothohari, which is spoken by around 25% of the people living in Pakistan.
The meaning behind this word has been debated throughout history. Its literal meaning describes it as the language of the Punjab, which means the “land of five rivers,” referring to the Indus River and its four tributaries.
The main view states that it originally meant this until it was reinterpreted to mean “the language of Punjab,” a Persian word meaning “five glasses of water.”
This change in meaning is believed to have occurred after India’s partition from Pakistan, as those who wanted Punjabi to be recognized as a language separate from Hindi didn’t want it associated with Pakistan, which uses Urdu as its official state language.
In addition, those who spoke Punjabi were spread out across India, especially after British colonization.
Punjabi is a language spoken by millions of people in over ten countries, mainly in the northern region of South Asia.
It is one of the national languages of India and Afghanistan as well as, to a lesser extent, Pakistan and Nepal.
The first evidence of Punjabi dates back to the 5th century BC, making it one of the oldest living languages on Earth.
Almost half of Punjabis speak their native language, most notably those who live in India, but plenty still speak nothing else but Punjabi.
Main Differences Between Urdu and Punjabi
- The Urdu language was created by a Muslim scholar, Mir Ameer Ali Khan Shere Ali, whereas Guru Angad Dev Ji created the Punjabi language for Punjab.
- Urdu is derived from Arabic which is based upon the Perso-Arabic script, whereas the Punjabi Gurmukhi script is derived from the Landa alphabet.
- The ethnic background of the Urdu language is from Persia, whereas the ethnic background of the Punjabi language is from India.
- The native background of the Urdu language is from the Indo-Iranian language family, whereas the native background of the Punjabi language is from the Indo-Aryan language family.
- The Urdu language has speakers from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Iran, Nepal, Mauritius, Suriname, Fiji, and India, whereas the Punjabi language has speakers from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
Last Updated : July 13th, 2023
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Piyush Yadav has spent the past 25 years working as a physicist in the local community. He is a physicist passionate about making science more accessible to our readers. He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences and Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science. You can read more about him on his bio page.