Punjabi in Roman
by Mr. Karamjit Singh Bains
The reasons I have been working on a Romanized version of the Punjabi script
were the following:
A roman version would enable one to write and read Punjabi without a special
need for any font or a program. This would enable us to use the mass media.
I know many a newspapers in Punjabi are not on line for the very reason,
need for a special font. This also keeps
people from making their own web pages as it is quite an effort to make a
web page in Gurmukhi or Shahmukhi or Devnagri.
We need a script which is able to represent all the sounds in the Punjabi
This script then would allow Punjabis worldwide to share and learn from each
This is especially helpful for the parent who speak Punjabi at home in
foreign lands but are unable to teach them their native script due to the
effort involved. Once the kids grow up and go away they loose any connection
with their mother tongue. I am hoping that a Romanized version would make it easier for them to learn.
In the end I would discuss the limitations, some of my decision making,
possible sources of confusion etc.
Please read through the whole thing before approving or disapproving.
First the vowels:
In English we have aeiou. These sounds do not adequately represent the
Punjabi sounds and can cause a lot of confusion. I have noticed that some of
the characters on the keyboard look strikingly similar to Gurmukhi and hence
I will use those. And whenever you see the
right parenthesis ")" it means that the sound it peculiar to Punjabi and it
does not exist in Hindustani, Persian, Arabic or Sanskrit or any other
language of the world that I know of. Then again we are all limited by our
ignorance and I am one of you. So if you see any
error please point it out or email it to me and we can keep on modifying
this script untilit is finished. No work is ever done but we can get to a
point where we can start using it.
FYI I am more familiar with gurmukhi than I am with Shahmukhi.
1) The underscore "_" will be used to represent the "u" sound in the English
Same as aaunkar in Gurmukhi and soft waw or peish(zamme) in Shahmukhi.
An example in Punjabi is T_K (t_k means rhyme,sense,logic in Punjabi)
2) The equal "=" will be used for OO as in the English word Tool. Same as
dulainkar in gurmukhi and waw+peish(zamme) in Shahmukhi.
An example in Punjabi is T=L (t=l in Punjabi means length or a painter's
3) The tilda "~" will be used to represent the o+e sound as in words POPE
and MORE. Same as hora in gurmukhi and fathe(zabr)+waw in Shahmukhi
Hence, the Punjabi word R~K (r~k means restriction, prevention etc.)
4) The backslash "\" will represent the a+i or e+i sound in the English word
RAIL as in a RAILWAY STATION. Same as lawan in gurmukhi, yei in shahmukhi.
Example in Punjabi the word T\L (t\l means oil in Punjabi)
5) The double-backslash "\\" will represent the sound a+i sound in the
English word CATCH.Same as dulawaan in gurmukhi.
Example in Punjabi is P\\R (p\\\r in Punjabi means foot)
6) The double-tilda "~ ~" will represent the invisible "a+o" sound in the
word clock (with a British accent not American). Same as knaora in gurmukhi.
Example in Punjabi is the word M~~R (m~~r means shoulder blade)
7) The more or pipe "|" will be used to represent the "a" sound as in CAR.
Same as kanna in gurmukhi and alef in shahmukhi.
Example in Punjabi is K|R (k|r means car, motor car, work)
8) The lowercase " i" will be used to represent the "i" sound in the
English word kin (family). Same as sihari in gurmukhi and kasre(zeir) in
Shahmukhi. There is some subtlety here but will leave it for later.
Example in Punjabi is the word DiN (din means day in Punjabi)
9) The uppercase "I" will be used to represent the "ee" sound in the English
word KEEL (a ship's keel). Same as bihari in gurmukhi and y(i) in shahmukhi.
Example in Punjabi is TiR (tir means arrow in Punjabi)
10) The hat "^" will be used to represent the silent N sound as in MONKEY.
Same as Tippi in gurmukhi and tashdid+noongunna in shahmukhi.
Example in Punjabi is T^G (t^g means narrow, tight, troubled, distressed in
11) Double consonant will be used to represent the "u" sound in the English
word PUCK(as in a ice hockey puck).
Same as adhak in gurmukhi and tashdid in shahmukhi.
Example in Punjabi is TKK (tkk means to see in Punjabi)
12) The colon ":" will be used to represent the silent N as in SM|:
in Shahmukhi (sin+mim+alaf+noongunna).
Other example H=R|: (plural of houri or beautiful woman)
13) Greater than ">" sign is be used to represent the blocking "a" sound as
in CH|> ( ch|a means pleasure in Punjabi). In Punjabi we add an arra after
kanna and we add an ein in shahmukhi.
14) \\) will be used in M\\)N=: (to me). In shahmukhi it is only represented
15) ~~) will be used in S~~)d| (merchandise,wares,goods for sale). In
shahmukhi it is represented only as S~~d|
Now to the main alphabet following the format of gurmukhi.
O A E S H
K KX G K) na
C CX J C) na
T# T* D# T& N)
T TX D T) N
P PX B P) M
Y R L W RX
SH', JH', GH', KH', Z, F, Q
(The last row represents sound from Arabic/Persian and in the case of SH'
m/, n/, l/, h/, t/, g/
are peculiar to Punjabi again.
The forward slash "/" represents a silent h.
Now let me elaborate on the alphabet.
S:: S\\ (hundred), S|R\ (all)
h:: HR (every)
K:: K_TT| (dog)
KX:: KXRX| (standing)
G:: GiLL (wetness)
K):: K)R (house), pronouned as G) when in the middle of a word
C:: C|R (four)
CX:: CX\ (six)
J:: JiSM (body)
C):: C)_GGI (hut), in the middle pronounced J)
T#:: T#M|T#R (tomato)
T*:: T*^D# (cold)
D#:: D#R (fear)
T&:: T&~L (drum, musical instrument)
NX:: L=NX (salt)
T:: TR (swim)
TX:: TXKK (tired)
D:: DSS (say it, tell me)
T):: T)~BI (laundryman)
N:: NiR~L (pure)
P:: PKK| (firm)
PX:: PXRX (hold it)
B:: B_R| (bad)
P):: P)R| (brother), in the middle pronounced as B)
M):: MRD (man)
Y:: Y|R (friend)
R:: R_KK| (letter)
L:: Lbb) (find)
W:: WTN (country)
RX:: KXRX| (standing)
The " ' " means that the last two letters have been combined to form a
SH':: SH'bd or lfz (word)
Z:: ZR=RI (neccessary)
F:: FSL (crop)
GH':: GH'_SS| (anger)
KH':: KH'R|B (riuned)
Q:: QiSM (kind,sort)
m/:: m/~T#| (fat)
L/:: RL/| (amalgamation)
G/:: G/bbNX (pregnant)
R/:: R/~T#I (bread)
N/:: N/\RX\ (nearby, close)
T/:: T/=T (mulberry)
H/:: Bh/_T (verymuch)
Now you might be asking the question: why did he not use H instead of X.
Well X in Greek is indeed used for H, but I have used X to avoid confusion
with English. PH is pronounced as F in English but the Punjabi PX is a
different sound than F. TX is not the same as
English TH. I know that being a native speaker of Punjabi and being in the
US for a while. RH is used in English and it is not the same as RX. Also CX
will not be confused with SH'.
K,Q:: East Punjab will most probably only use K.
KH',GH' vs. KX,G:: East Punjab mostly uses KX,G.
I suggest if one is not sure just use KX,G.
S,SH:: It depends. In Persian, it is shewa, in Punjabi it is sewa. In
Sanskrit it is Kesh,in Punjabi it is kes. So in those cases we will use S
not SH'. Maajha and doaba may also differ eg. shagan vs sagan. The
pronounciation may vary but the written form has to be the one from Amritsar
W,B:: some words in doaba and maalwa are pronounced like Hindi/urdu.
Again written from has to be amritsari.
F vs PX:: East Punjabis may confuse the two.
Frx instead of PXrx (hold) and Pxikr instead of fikr.
Z vs J:: East Punjab mainly uses J. In rare cases Z is confused with J.
Jarra instead of zarra and mazbur instead of majbur as examples.
JH':: This sound does not exist in Gurmukhi. It is like the "s" in casual.
SH' vs CX:: These two are distinct and should not be confused.
CX\ (six) should not be pronounced SH'\.
J vs Y:: Again we should stick with whatever has been used over the
centuries in Punjabi.
May be we can record some sounds and put it on the internet in the future.
L/, \\), NX, T), T&, P), ~~) are mostly absent and are replaced by
(L, \\, N, dh, dhh, bh, ~~) in West Punjab.
U,V,W can be confusing with Shahmukhi (C~L/ or C|wl rice), sual or sawaal
(question). We should be careful again to preserve the Punjabi way of saying
it and learn it from each other.
Will discuss the use of fathe,kasre,zamme, sokun or jazm in detail at a
Let me leave you with some poetry from Punjabi. Please look at it and give
back you candid opinion. I am hoping that at least some of
my ideas are useful.
Happy new millenium to all Punjabis.
cirxI c=kdI n|l/ j| t_r\ p|:d)I
peIa|: c|t#Ia|: wic md)|nxIa|: nI:
n|: m\\: hi^d= n|: m\\: m_slim n|: m\\: m_ll|: q|zI h=
n|: dil d~zkh' m^g\ m\r| n|: sh'~~k bhish'tI r|zI h=
b|j) ws|l rbb d\ b|h= h~r sbb)\ k=rxI b|zI h=
c=t* a|kxia|: k_j) n| bcd| e\ scc a|kxia|: P)|:brx mcd| e\
jI d~h|: gll|: t~: d#rd| e\ jcc jcc k\ jIb e\h/ kh/i^dI e\
m=^h/ a|eI b|t n| rh/indI e\
I urge people working on the growth of Punjabi for future to discuss it with
other,talk to schools, colleges, institutions who can help us on this and
make it available to public.
Please send any suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org