Languages of Pakistan

Languages of Pakistan

Languages of
country = Pakistan
official = Urdu; English
main = Balochi; Pashto; Punjabi; Sindhi
regional = Kashmiri; Potwari; Siraiki
indigenous = Balti; Brahui; Hindko; Jhangochi
minority = Burushaski; Kalash; Khowar; Shina
immigrant = Arabic; Bengali; Gujarati ; Memoni; Persian
foreign =
sign = Indo-Pakistani Sign Language
keyboard = Urdu keyboard

English is the official language of Pakistan while Urdu is the national language despite not being a native language or being the mother tongue of any native group in the country. [ [ Information of Pakistan ] ] Many other languages are spoken within the country including Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Siraiki, Balochi and Brahui. Most of the languages of Pakistan are part of Indo-Aryan languages family with Iranian languages most significant in west as well as Dardic languages in north & northwest.


Urdu was chosen as a national language of Pakistan to act as a "lingua franca" amongst the various ethnic/cultural groups & has historical significance as language developed during the Islamic conquests in the Subcontinent during the Mughal Empire and was chosen as neutral language to unite various groups of Pakistan. However the official language and that used most often by the government is English. Many educational institutes and universities use English only. Many other languages are spoken in Pakistan regional tongues from largest to smallest are as follows: Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Saraiki, Baluchi, Hindko, Brahui, Burushaski, Balti, Shina, Khowar, etc.. Pakistan has about 1 million native speakers of Persian. Arabic is popular due to religious significance. Persian continues to be an important literary language in Pakistan.


*Punjabi 45%
*Sindhi 15%
*Pashto 15%
*Siraiki 10%
*Urdu 5%
*Balochi 4%
*Other 6%

Urdu (National language)

Urdu is Pakistan's national language and has been promoted as a token of national unity. More than 95% of Pakistanis can speak or understand Urdu as their second or third language in many cases, though only about 9% of the population of Pakistan has Urdu as its mother tongue. It is written in modified form of Arabic alphabet. First poetry in Urdu was by Persian poet Amir Khusro (1253–1325), first Urdu book Dah Majlis was written in 1728 & first time word "Urdu" was used by Sirajuddin Arzoo in 1751.

English (Official language)

English is Pakistan's official language widely used in government but Pakistan's Constitution and laws are written in Urdu. 50 percentFact|date=September 2008 of people in Pakistan have basic understanding of English.

Major languages

Punjabi (provincial language)

Punjabi is spoken as first language by 45% of Pakistanis. It is an important language since it is, if counted with Seriaki, spoken by well over half of all Pakistanis. However, Punjabi does not have any official status in Pakistan. About 70% of Pakistanis know how to speak Punjabi. Punjabis lineage can be traced through Lahori and Multani during Muslim period (700 to 1860).

Punjabi dialects:
* MajhiThis dialect is "the standard Punjabi language" and spoken in the heart of Punjab where most of the Punjabi population lives. The main districts are Lahore, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Gujrat and some parts of Jhelum in Pakistani Punjab and Gurdaspur and Amritsar in Indian Punjab.

*Jhangvi or Jhangochi or RachnaviThis dialect is spoken in the central Pakistani Punjab, stretches from districts Khanewal to Jhang and includes Faisalabad and Chiniot.

*ShahpuriThis dialect is spoken in Mianwali, Sargodha, Khushab and Mandi Bahauddin districts.

*Pothowari (regional language)The area where Pothowari is spoken extends in the north from Muzaffarabad to as far south as Jhelum, Gujar Khan, Chakwal and Rawalpindi. [phr] 49,440 (2000 WCD). Murree Hills north of Rawalpindi, and east to Bhimber. Poonchi is east of Rawalakot. Potwari is in the plains around Rawalpindi. Alternate names: Potwari, Pothohari, Potohari, Chibhali, Dhundi-Kairali. Dialects: Pahari (Dhundi-Kairali), Pothwari (Potwari), Chibhali, Punchhi (Poonchi), Mirpuri. Pahari means 'hill language' referring to a string of divergent dialects, some of which may be separate languages. A dialect chain with Panjabi and Hindko. Closeness to western Pahari is unknown. Lexical similarity 76% to 83% among varieties called 'Pahari', 'Potwari', and some called 'Hindko' in Mansehra,Muzaffarabad, and Jammun. Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northern zone, Western Pahari.

*HindkoThis dialect is spoken in districts of Peshawar, Attock, Nowshehra, Mansehra, Balakot, Abbotabad and Murree and the lower half of Neelum District and Muzafarabad..

*MalwiSpoken in the eastern part of Indian Punjab. Main districts are Ludhiana, Ambala, Bathinda, Ganganagar, Malerkotla, Fazilka, Ferozepur. Malwa is the southern and central part of present day Indian Punjab. Also includes the Punjabi speaking northern areas of Haryana, viz. Ambala, Hissar, Sirsa, Kurukshetra etc.

*Doabi (regional language)The word "Do Aabi" means "the land between to rivers" and this dialects is spoken between the rivers of Beas and Sutlej. It includes Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts.

*Saraiki /Multani (regional language)"Saraiki or Multani" (also Lahndi by some) and perhaps differs from Punjabi more than any other dialect. Multani becomes more and more different as you move down south, as the influence of Sindhi increases, it is also known as Saraiki there. Saraiki itself is Sindhi word and means northern. See the map of Saraiki language: Saraiki Area's City of Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bhakkar, Dera Ismail Khan, Khanewal, Muzaffargarh, Sukkur, Jacobabad, Layyah and Mianwali.

indhi "(provincial language)"

Sindhi (سنڌي ) is spoken as a first language by about 15% of Pakistanis, in Sindh and parts of Balochistan and is the second most common language in Pakistan. Sindhi has very rich literature and is used in schools. Sindhi language contains Arabic words and is affected by Arabic language to a great extent. The reason being Arab ruled Sindh for more than 150 years. Muhammad bin Qasim entered Sindh and conquered it in 712 AD. He remained here for three years and set up Arabic rule in the area. According to historians, the social fabric of Sindh comprises elements of Arabic society.Sindhi is spoken in Pakistan and is also one of the constitutional languages of India. It is spoken by about 20 million people in the southern Pakistani province of Sindh, and by about 2½ million more across the border in India. In Pakistan it is written in the Arabic script with several additional letters to accommodate special sounds. The largest Sindhi-speaking city is Hyderabad, Pakistan.

Sindhi literature is also spiritual in nature and Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (1689–1752) was one of its legendary poets who wrote Sassi Punnun, Umar Marvi in his famous book "Shah Jo Risalo".

Pashto "(provincial language)"

Pashto (پشتو) is spoken as a first language by 15% of Pakistanis, mostly in the North-West Frontier Province, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and in Balochistan as well as by immigrants to the eastern provinces who are often not counted due to census irregularities. Additionally, Afghan refugees are often outside the census count, but appear to be largely Pashto speakers from Afghanistan. Pashto speakers are almost 15.42% of Pakistan's population and more than 50% in Afghanistan. Pashto has no written literary traditions although it has a rich oral tradition. There are two major dialect patterns within which the various individual dialects may be classified; these are Pakhto, which is the northern (Peshawar) variety, and the softer Pashto spoken in southern areas around Quetta.
Khushal Khan Khatak (1613–1689) and Rehman Baba (1633–1708) were two important poets in the Pashto language.

iraiki "(regional language)"

Siraiki is closely related to Sindhi and Punjabi (See Classification, below) Spoken as a first language by 10% of Pakistanis, mostly in southern districts of Punjab (see Siraikis).All most 10% of the population of Pakistan speak Siraiki language. Dialects tend to blend into each other, into Punjabi to the east, and Sindhi to the south. Until recently it was considered to be a dialect of Punajbi. 85% lexical similarity with Sindhi; 68% with Odki and Sansi. Dialects are Derawali, Khatki, Jangli or Jatki and Riasti or Bahawalpuri. Confusion has also arisen over the name of the Punjab province. Anything belonging to the Punjab province and presented as Punjabi, like literature, culture, heritage might be interpreted as representing not Punjab the region but Punjabi language and this is unacceptable to the identity conscious Seraikis because they believe that, when reference is made to Punjabi culture it doesn't refer to administrative unit but to cultural are being deprived of your social, cultural and linguistic identity legally and officially' .

Balochi "(provincial language)"

Balochi (بلوچی) is spoken as a first language by 4% of Pakistanis, mostly in Balochistan, Sindh and southern Punjab. Baluchi language is spoken by almost 4% of the Pakistani population and is very close to the Persian language itself.The name "Baluchi" or "Balochi" is not found before the 10th century. It is believed that the language was brought to its present location in a series of migrations from Northern Iran, near the Caspian Shores.Rakshani is the major dialect group in terms of numbers. Sarhaddi, is a sub-dialect of Rakshani. Other sub-dialects are qalati, Chagai-kharani, Panjguri. Eastern Hill Baluchi or Northern Baluchi is very different from the rest.

Other languages

Numerous other languages are spoken by relatively small numbers of people, especially in some of the more remote and isolated places in, for example, the Northern Areas of Pakistan [] . These include:
#Burushaski - spoken in Hunza
#Shina - spoken in Gilgit District
#Khowar - spoken in Chitral
#Kalash - spoken in the Kalash valleys
#Wakhi or Xikwor - spoken in Upper Hunza Gojal valleys

Minor (Disappearing) Languages

Gujarati "(regional language)"

Gujarati is spoken by over a 100,000 people who arrived in Sindh from Gujarat in India at the time of independence. All Parsi (5,000-10,000), many Ismaili Muslims, and many Hindus (10,000 to 20,000) speak Gujarati. Many Parsi and Ismailis are literate in Gujarati.


Memoni/Kutchi is spoken by over 500,000 Pakistani citizens who originate in eastern Sindh and the bordering regions of Kathiawad and Kutch in Gujarat India, and who settled in Pakistan at the time of independence. Most reside in Karachi area, an important business community consist of merchants and traders, ‎industrialist professional and managers and generally holds white collar jobs. They share a common tongue, Memoni, that is often classified as a dialect of Sindhi, but with a pre-domninate vocabulary from Gujarati.



About 75% of the languages of Pakistan are classified as Indo-Aryan languages. 20% are Indo-Iranian languages and about 4% are classified as Dardic languages most notably Shina and Khowar. About 1% belong to the dravidian language family most notably Brahui.

Lahnda dialects

Punjabi, Pahari, Mirpuri, Hindko and Saraiki, all mutually intelligible, are classified by linguists as dialects of Lahnda [] , also spelled as Lehnda. These are also, to a lesser extent, mutually intelligible with Urdu. Added together, speakers of these mutually-intelligible languages make up nearly two-thirds of Pakistan's population.

Iranian family of languages

Pashto and Balochi are classified as members of the Iranian family of languages. [] If combined, Iranian peoples who speak Pashto, Balochi, Dari, Persian, and Wakhi comprise almost 20% of the population of Pakistan. Persian was the official language during Mughal times before British colonial rule. It is taught in many schools in Pakistan.


Brahui belongs to the Dravidian language family. Brahui is a minor language of the mainly in the region of Kalat in the western province of Balochistan inhabitied by the Brahui and spoken by some 1% of the population. Brahui is heavily influenced by Baluchi and Sindhi languages in which many Brahui speakers are bilingual. Brahui now has rather fewer inherited Dravidian words in its lexicon and is gradually incorporating more Urdu, Balochi and even Pashto. Its grammar and phonology are however clearly Dravidian.


ee also

*Kashmiri language
*Statistics Division of the Government of Pakistan
*Naional Language Authority

External links

* [ Pakistan census statistics by population]
* [ List of Pakistani Languages] at Ethnologue

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