A Punjabi (Gurmukhi) primer for native Hindi (Devanagari) speakers

Most native Hindi speakers like me are familiar with Punjabi vocabulary through Punjabi music. Out of curiosity, I decided to spend some time learning Gurmukhi. I was a bit taken aback by the fact that most articles and videos were aimed at teaching Punjabi (Gurmukhi) to English speakers. However, it is much easier to map Punjabi (Gurmukhi) to Hindi (Devanagari) letters for a native Hindi speaker, as almost all Gurmukhi letters map really well to the Devanagari counterparts. Here are my notes.

There are five vowels (matra) with the small and the big sounds.

Vowels Gurmukhi Devanagari Notes
1. This letter forms the basis for आ, ऐ, and औ
3. Gurmukhi sound is pronounced closer to ए
5. This letter forms the basis for ऊ and ओ

There are 30 basic consonants (vyanjana)

Consonants Gurmukhi Devnagari Notes
1. Gurmukhi one looks like the left half of the Devanagari one
2. Related: ਖ਼ -> ख़
3. Almost Identical
8. Related: ਜ਼ -> ज़
11. Identical
12. Identical
20. ਨ use to be न in old-style Devanagari
22. Related: ਫ਼ -> फ़
25. Similar to भ but is actually म
26. Similar
31. There seems to be no equivalent of ष in Gurmukhi
34. ਲ਼ Retroflex L that’s used in Marathi and Sanskrit. This is also used in dialect like Haryanvi and Mewari but not in the standard Hindi dialect

Consonants in Gurmukhi that are similar or identical to their counterpart in Devanagari

  1. ਕ is क
  2. ਚ is च
  3. ਜ is ज
  4. ਟ is ट
  5. ਠ is ठ
  6. ਢ is ढ. Warning: ਫ looks similar to ढ but is फ
  7. ਨ is न
  8. ਬ is ब
  9. ਲ is ल

Consonants in Gurmukhi that are similar to a different consonants in Devanagari

  1. ਘ looks similar to ध but is घ
  2. ਤ looks similar to उ but is त
  3. ਥ looks similar to घ but is थ
  4. ਫ looks similar to ढ but is फ
  5. ਮ looks similar to भ but is म
  6. ਯ looks similar to ज but is य
  7. ਵ looks similar to ह but is व

Consonants in Gurmukhi that are very similar to each other but different in pronunciation

  1. ਗ vs. ਰ vs. ਹ – the first one is ग, the second one is र (note the missing danda), and the third one is ह  (the circle doesn’t close)
  2. ਯ vs. ਧ vs. ਪ – the first one is य, the second one is ध, and the third one is प
  3. ਫ vs. ਢ – the first one is फ and the second one is ढ

Notably in some characters, the continuity of the top line is reversed, for example, ਘ is घ, ਪ is प, ਮ is म, ਧ is ध.

The Four Modifiers

  1. Addhak – Double Emphasis – ੱ
  2. Halant – 50% more emphasis – ੑ. Contrast this with halant in Devanagri, which is 50%-emphasis as opposed to 150% emphasis in Gurmukhi.
  3. Nasal Bindu – for example, the dot in ਦੁਲਾਂਵ (दुलांव). This modifier is pronounced exactly like the Bindu in Hindi.
  4. Nasal Bindu (tipee) – ੰ, for example, ਅੰਗਦ (अंगद). This modifier is pronounced with a slight ग at the end.

The half letters

  1. It seems half letters are uncommon in Punjabi. More often than not, even for the same Hindi word, the full letter appears to be used, both for writing and speaking. For example, floor – फ़र्श – ਫਰਸ਼ and love – प्यार – ਪਿਆਰ
  2. Unlike Hindi, half letters are always written below a full letter. So, the mainline contains full letters while a half letter is beneath the full letter, after which it is pronounced. Only र््, य््, and व्् are common.

A quiz for testing

I wrote a small quiz to test myself with random questions. You can try the quiz here.

Good resources

  1. https://www.learnreligions.com/consonants-of-gurmukhi-alphabet-35-akhar-illustrated-4126838
  2. http://www.personal.psu.edu/ejp10/symbolcodes/bylanguage/punjabichart.html
  3. https://pa.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E0%A8%9D
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU3s19hDZlU&list=PL5UNLfJ1TsJm0OHEOslS3NOqGduHwggGg&index=3

Disclaimer: I am a new learner, so use these notes with caution.

2 Replies to “A Punjabi (Gurmukhi) primer for native Hindi (Devanagari) speakers”

  1. Thanks for this! Exactly what I was looking for. I’m also trying to learn Nastaliq, so I’ll probably get to Gurmukhi after that.

  2. Hi there it is a nice article and I am really impressed with the way you have to explain about the Gurmukhi script keep us updated about the Gurmukhi script

Leave a Reply