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left-cor1.jpg (1241 bytes) Lesson prepared by: Rupinderpal Singh Dhillon
Please contact us at:

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It has been a long standing demand of the readers that we should, using the techniques of information technology and the multi-media capabilities of the Internet, provide a series of Punjabi learning modules. Although, due to our limited resources, we have not been able to develop interactive, computer based learning packages, here we present a series of simple and useful lessons which, we hope, our readers (particularly the second generation overseas Punjabis) will find them helpful in their quest to learn the Punjabi language. What is more important, the lessons are devised by someone who for his years of commitment and dedication has taught himslef the Gurmukhi script and has agreed to develop these lessons for the readers.

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Rupinderpal Singh Dhillon

Rupinderpal Singh Dhillon, has lived in the UK most of his life and has the first hand experience of the difficulties of learning one's mother language in an alien  environment. All over the world, especially in the Western countries, there are many Punjabi learning schools set up by the respective Governments and non-Government organisations (mainly Gurudwaras). Sadly, they all lack modern teaching aids and learning material (books etc.)  readily available for all the other modern languages. This is attributable mainly due to fact that such material is neither developed nor available in the mother country, i.e. the Punjab. To address this issue the overseas Punjabi community (especially the Punjabi businesses and entrepreneurs) can do a lot, in terms of sponsoring such developments. We look forward to their suggestions and views.

Please contact us at:

Lesson 1: In this lesson you will learn :

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The Gurmukhi Alphabet
dot_sq2.jpg (730 bytes) The Punjabi Sound System
dot_sq2.jpg (730 bytes) The Vowels
dot_sq2.jpg (730 bytes) The Basic Greetings
dot_sq2.jpg (730 bytes) Punjabi sentence word order
dot_sq2.jpg (730 bytes) Traditional and Diaspora Punjabi
The Gurmukhi Alphabet
In Punjabi, the Alphabet is called Varnhmaalaa ( vrxmwlw). The script that we will be using is Gurmukhi Lipee (gurmuKI il`pI ).  Below is a table showing each letter how to pronounce it and the English (Roman script) equivalent sound.

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oorrha airhaa eerhee sassa hahaa
ooh a e s h

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kakkaa khakha gaggaa ghagha nganngaa






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chachchaa chachchaa jajjaa jhajjaa njannjaa
ch sh j jh nj

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tainkaa thaththaa daddaa dhaddhaa nhaanhaa
t th d dh nh

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tattaa thaththaa daddaa dhaddaa nannaa
t th d dh n

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pappaa phaphphaa babbaa bhabbaa mammaa
p ph b bh m

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yayyaa raaraa lallaa vavvaa rhaarhaa
y r l v/w rh

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shashshaa khakhkhaa ghaghghaa zazzaa faffaa
sh kh gh z f
The Punjabi Sound System
The Punjabi sound system is more complicated and different from the English one. As has been seen, there are thirty-five letters in the Punjabi Language. There are ten vowels in total
with some supporting consonants or accents. Below is an indication how these work and how to pronounce letters.
s is pronounced like the s in snake.


is pronounced like h as in hot.
k is said like k as in kite.
K does not have an English equivalent, but is pronounced like kh as in khaki.
g is pronounced as g as  in goat.
G is the same as gh in ghost.
| is pronounced like the middle of Penguin or the end in wing.
c is pronounced as ch as  in the word cheat.
C is pronounced like sh as in shower, robustly aspirated.
j is pronounced like j as in Jungle, the tongue being positioned next to the lower teeth.
J is pronounced as jh robustly aspirated.
\ is a sound not found in the western languages, and is uttered with a palatal sound.
t is pronounced like t as in the middle of the word constrain, with less discharge of breath and the tongue placed further back.
T sounds like the end of wheat, with the last letter robustly aspirated.
f is pronounced as d as in dumb, the d rounded heavily, however less expiration of breath and the tongue much further back
F is pronounced as dh is in drummer robustly aspirated.
x is a retroflex nasal sound as in ' nah' if the 'a' was deleted.
q is softly unaspirated, being similar to a softly said 'Tim'.
Q is pronounced as th as in the word third, but robustly aspirated.
d is pronounced as d as in then, with less expiration of breath.
D is pronounced dh as is like 'then', powerfully aspirated.
n is pronounced as n as  in night, with the tongue firmly placed next to the teeth.
p is pronounced as p as in aspirin with less expiration of air.
P is pronounced as f as in fight, being the aspirated version of p .
b is pronounced as b as in bin and bat.
B is pronounced as bh as in bard, if the word was pronounced as a halfway between a p and bh.
m is pronounced as m as in marriage or mother.
X is pronounced as y as in yard.
r is pronounced as r as in matador or in razor , without dropping the r.
l is pronounced as l as in like or lion .
v pronounced as v and is a cross between a V in vexed and W in wart, without rounding the lips and without the upper teeth being grazed by the lower lip.
V the closest example to this is the English name ' Barrat', but said as if a h is placed in between the two R's.
S is as in Shimmer.
^ As in the Scottish Loch.
Z as in gosh pronounced as if a h follows g.
z as in Zebra
& As in Frankenstein.
The last five row of letters have a dot or Paireen Bindee ( pYrIN ibMdI ), literally dot at letter's foot. Many of these sounds originate from Urdu (or Persian). There are also subjoined consonants, which are just (pYrIN) Paireen, or ' of the foot'. There are three.

( H )  h 

(  R  )   r

There are also five nasally pronounced consonants.
| these possess two accents.
\ a . ibMdI bindee M  it~pI Tippee
n N}
m M}
The Vowels
Punjabi has twice as many vowels as English, namely ten, which are all pronounced exactly as they are written. There are two types of vowels. Independent ones and dependent ones. The latter require a consonant for support. In dependent vowels can begin words and syllables. They are also used when a consonant cannot support two vowels or a diphthong. The latter that is the use of two vowels within a syllable is very common in Punjabi. In the case of independent vowels three principle letters are used which require accents for support. These are:

a (O),     A  (A),      e   (E)

Dependent vowels are a little more complex, so the table below compares both types to provide the reader with a feel for their use.

Dependent Vowels

Accent Example Vowel English
 - a

s sa

mukqw Muktaa
 w aa

vw vaa

kMnw Kannaa
 i i

iz zi 

ishwrI Sihaaree
 I ee

eI ee

ibhwrI  Bihaaree
  u u

au oh

AONkV Aunkarh
 aUuU oo

aU oo

dulYNkV  Dulainkar
 y  e

ly le

lWv Laanv

sY sai

dulWv Dulaanvaan
  o o

ro ro

hoVw Horhaa
  O au

gO gau

knOVw  Kanaurhaa

Independent Vowels

Accent Example Transliteration English
A a AsIN    assi     us
Aw aa  AwlU alloo potatoe
ie i ie~k eik one
eI ee eIst eesat East
au oh auh  ohho They
aU oo aUT ooth Camel
ey e     ey eis is
AY ai AYqvwr aitavaar Sunday
o O AwE ahaaoh come
aO au AOto auto auto
This brings us onto two subjects regarding accents. Primarily Punjabi is an intoned language like that of the Chinese, but with a low pitch, high pitch and levelled out one. Secondly,  the behaviour of the letter or symbol is dependant upon the carried accent (mainly vowels). The most alien one to the English speaker is the Mukhta or invisible a. Whereas in English the silent n is written but not heard, in Punjabi the soft a is heard but not written. So mar is spelt mr, that is mr.
In the next lesson we'll learn about the rules governing the use of these vowels.

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Awpxy ivcwr swnUM ilKo