By Ashraf Naushahi
According to archeologists, historians and linguists, the oldest human habitations were located in the valley and plains where River Indus and its five tributary rivers Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej flew. Locations of Soan valley (stretched from Punjab to Himalayas), Gandhara, Harappa, Mohenjo Daro, Mehrgarh, and other habitations, thousands of years ago, were not far away.
Indus Valley, Indo Aryan and Indo Iranian civilizations and languages flourished in its vicinity. Alexander, king of Macedonia, reached there and its areas were mentioned in the Greek history as “Pentapotamia” meaning the area of five rivers. It was translated in Persian as “Punjab” meaning the area where five rivers flew.
Because of several archeological discoveries in the areas of Punjab and its vicinity, archeologists, historians as well as linguists, said that the areas could be either the oldest human habitations or at least among the oldest.
Punjabi is the language spoken and written not only in the areas of Punjab but several other areas nearby too. In recent history it has been mentioned differently by various writers and poets, such as Lahori, Multani, and Hindvi. It is spoken by more than 110 million speakers in the present day world. Linguistically it is a language of the Indo-Aryan subgroup of Indo-European group of languages. It is the 9th most spoken language in the world.
Like other languages, various are varieties, accents and dialects of Punjabi. A language changes from person to person, area to area and period to period. However, it retains its several features unchanged and remains comprehensible despite its variations. Such features include: comprehensibility, common vocabulary, similar accents, and common cultural environment.
Standard Punjabi language is its literary language –the language or dialect in which its most literature is written and composed. Different dialects in the Punjabi language are categorized in dialects of Eastern, Middle and Western areas of Punjab. Various known dialects of Punjabi are: Majhi, Lahori, Multani, Lehndi, Doabi, Pahari, Potohari, Hindko, Shahpuri, Dogri, Chhachhi, Deri. Mostly Punjabi literature is in Majhi dialect or standard Punjabi.
Despite small variations, various varieties and dialects are comprehensible to all speakers of Punjabi because of common vocabulary, similar accents and common cultural environment.
Punjabi literature is rich in genres: songs, stories, epics, fables, idioms, proverbs. Some genres, especially in poetry, are particular to Punjabi language. Compositions in such genres are comprehensible to the speakers of different dialects, hence it is obvious that these all are different dialects of the same language and not different languages.
By: Ashraf Naushahi
(Educator, Writer, Book-Reviewer, Translator)