Punjabi is the 9th most spoken languages of the world. 1.44% population of the world speaks it as a 1st language. Punjabi is spoken as a first language by the majority population of Pakistan and it is the primary language of the Sikh people in India and third-most spoken language in South Asia. The Punjabi language is currently the second-most spoken language in the United Kingdom and third spoken language of Canada.
Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language like many other modern languages of South Asia and mainly spoken in present-day western and eastern Punjab. It is a descendant of the Shauraseni language, which was the chief language of medieval northern India.
Punjabi emerged as an independent language in the 12th century. Fariduddin Ganjshakar is generally recognized as the first major poet of the Punjabi language, Revered by Muslims, he is considered one of the fifteen Sikh bhagats and selections from his work are included in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh sacred scripture.
The Sikh religion originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region and Punjabi is the predominant language spoken by the Sikhs. Most portions of the Guru Granth Sahib use the Punjabi language written in Gurmukhi, though Punjabi is not the only language used in the Sikh scriptures.
The Janamsakhis, stories on the life and legend of Guru Nanak (1469–1539), are early examples of Punjabi prose literature. Nanak himself composed Punjabi verse incorporating vocabulary from Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, and other Indic languages as characteristic of the Gurbani tradition.
Punjabi Sufi poetry developed under Shah Hussain (1538–1599), Sultan Bahu (1628–1691), Shah Sharaf (1640–1724), Ali Haider (1690–1785), Saleh Muhammad Safoori (son of, Mai Safoora whom Ali Haider had given great tribute) and Bulleh Shah (1680–1757). In contrast to Persian poets, who had preferred the Ghazal for poetic expression, Punjabi Sufi poets tended to compose in the Kafi.
Punjabi Sufi poetry also influenced other Punjabi literary traditions particularly the Punjabi Qissa, a genre of romantic tragedy which also derived inspiration from Indic, Persian and Quranic sources. The Qissa of Heer Ranjha by Waris Shah (1706–1798) is among the most popular of Punjabi qisse. Other popular stories include Sohni Mahiwal by Fazal Shah, Mirza Sahiba by Hafiz Barkhudar (1658–1707), Sassi Punnun by Hashim Shah (1735?–1843?), and Qissa Puran Bhagat by Qadaryar (1802–1892).
Heroic ballads known as Vaar enjoy a rich oral tradition in Punjabi. Prominent examples of heroic or epic poetry include Guru Gobind Singh's in Chandi Di Var (1666–1708). The semi-historical Nadir Shah Di Vaar by Najabat describes the invasion of India by Nadir Shah in 1739. The Jangnama, or 'War Chronicle,' was introduced into Punjabi literature during the Mughal period; the Punjabi Jangnama of Shah Mohammad (1780–1862) recounts the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1845–46.
There are several different scripts used for writing the Punjabi language, depending on the region and the dialect, as well as the religion of the speaker. In the Punjab province of Pakistan, the script used is Shahmukhi and differs from the standard Nastaʿlīq script as it has four additional letters. The eastern part of the Punjab region, located in India, is divided into three states. In the state of Punjab, the Gurmukhī script is generally used for writing Punjabi. Punjabi Hindus, who are mainly concentrated in the neighboring Indian states such as Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, as well as the national capital territory of Delhi, sometimes use the Devanāgarī script to write Punjabi. While Punjabi GCSE and A Level qualifications are available to students in the United Kingdom; their written exam is in Gurmukhi only.