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Shahmukhi (شاہ مُکھی, Gurmukhi: ਸ਼ਾਹਮੁਖੀ, lit.'from the mouth of the Shah') is a Perso-Arabic alphabet script used historically by Punjabi Muslims (primarily in present-day Pakistani Punjab) to write the Punjabi language.[1][2][3][4] It is generally written in the Nastaʿlīq calligraphic hand,[3][4] which is also used for Urdu.[5] Shahmukhi script is used in Pakistani Punjab as the official script for writing Punjabi. Perso-Arabic is one of two scripts used for Punjabi, the other being Gurmukhi, used by Sikhs and Hindus in Indian Punjab.[3][6][4]

شاہ مُکھی
Shahmukhi nastaliq.png
"Shahmukhi" written using the Nastaliq calligraphic hand
Script type
Directionright-to-left script Edit this on Wikidata
Related scripts
Parent systems
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Shahmukhi is written from right to left, while Gurmukhi is written from left to right.[7][8][4] It is also used as the main alphabet to write Pahari–Pothwari in Azad Kashmir and Jammu and Kashmir.

The Shahmukhi alphabet was first used by the Sufi poets of Punjab,[9] and became the conventional writing style for the Muslim populace of the Pakistani province of Punjab following the Partition of India, while the largely Hindu and Sikh modern-day state of Punjab, India adopted the Gurmukhi or seldom, the Devanagari scripts to record the Punjabi language.[6]

Shahmukhi script is a modified version of the Arabic script. It was introduced by the Muslim Sufi poets in the 12th century for Punjabi language. While it is virtually identical to the Urdu alphabet, it is sometimes considered as a superset when additional letters are attempted to be included, representing Punjabi phonology; hence all Urdu readers can naturally read Shahmukhi (and vice versa) without any practical difficulty.[citation needed] For writing Saraiki, an extended Shahmukhi is used that includes 4 additional letters for the implosive consonants (ٻ, ڄ, ݙ, ڳ).[10]


The name 'Shahmukhi' is a recent coinage, imitating its counterpart 'Gurmukhi'.[11] However, the writing of Punjabi in the Perso-Arabic script is well-attested from the 12th century onwards.[12] According to Dhavan, Punjabi began to adopt the script as a "side effect" of educational practices in Mughal-era Punjab, when Punjabi Muslims learned the Persian language in order to participate in Mughal society. Educational materials taught Persian to Punjabi speakers by using Punjabi written in Persian's alphabet, which was a novel innovation. This was one of the first attempts in writing and standardising the Punjabi language; prior to this, Punjabi was primarily a spoken language, not formally taught in schools.[13]

Shackle suggests that the Gurmukhi script was not favoured by Punjabi Muslims due to its religious (Sikh) connotations.[12]


Vowel diacriticsEdit

Though only implied, like Urdu, Shahmukhi also has diacritics, which are implied - a convention retained from the original Arabic script, to express short vowels.[4][14]

Diacritics used in Shahmukhi
Name Symbol Usage IPA Notes Examples
Short Vowels
Zabar ◌َ‎ a [ə] Written underneath a letter
Zer ◌ِ‎ i [ɪ] Written above a letter
Pesh ◌ُ‎ u [ʊ]
Noon Gunna ◌٘‎ [◌̃], [ŋ] Nasal vowel diacritic مُون٘ہہ‎’ (‘face’)
Tashdeed ◌ّ‎ Geminite [ː] Doubles a consonant - goes above the letter being prolonged کّ’ ('kk')
Loan diacritics
Khari Zabar ◌ٰ á [äː] Used in certain Arabic loanwords only عیسیٰ’ (‘Jesus’)
Zabar Tanwīn ◌ً an [ən] فوراً’ (‘Immediately’)
Other diacritics
Hamza ◌ٔ varied Indicates a diphthong between two vowels, examples such as: ‘ئ’, ‘ۓ’, ‘ؤ‘, and أ , not written as a separate diacritic


No. Name[15] IPA Final glyph Medial glyph Initial glyph Isolated glyph Gurmukhi
1 الف alif /äː/, /ə/, /ɪ/, /ʊ/ ـا ـا ا ا , (medial)
2 بے /b/ ـب ـبـ بـ ب
3 پے /p/ ـپ ـپـ پـ پ
4 تے /t/ ـت ـتـ تـ ت
5 ٹے ṭē /ʈ/ ـٹ ـٹـ ٹـ ٹ
6 ثے s̱ē /s/ ـث ـثـ ثـ ث
7 جيم jīma /d͡ʒ/ ـج ـجـ جـ ج
8 چے /t͡ʃ/ ـچ ـچـ چـ چ
9 وڈّی حے waḍḍi ḥē /ɦ/ ـح ـحـ حـ ح
10 خے k͟hē /x/ ـخ ـخـ خـ خ ਖ਼
11 دال dāla /d/ ـد ـد د د
12 ڈال ḍāla /ɖ/ ـڈ ـڈ ڈ ڈ
13 ذال ẕāla /z/ ـذ ـذ ذ ذ ਜ਼
14 رے /r/ ـر ـر ر ر
15 ڑے ṛē /ɽ/ ـڑ ـڑ ڑ ڑ
16 زے /z/ ـز ـز ز ز ਜ਼
17 ژے zhē /ʒ/ ـژ ـژ ژ ژ -
18 سین sīna /s/ ـس ـسـ سـ س
19 شین shīna /ʃ/ ـش ـشـ شـ ش ਸ਼
20 صاد ṣwāda /s/ ـص ـصـ صـ ص
21 ضاد ẓwāda /z/ ـض ـضـ ضـ ض ਜ਼
22 طوۓ t̤oʼē /t/ ـط ـطـ طـ ط
23 ظوۓ z̤oʼē /z/ ـظ ـظـ ظـ ظ ਜ਼
24 عین ʻaina /∅/, /äː/, /ə/, /eː/, /oː/, ـع ـعـ عـ ع varied
25 غین ġaina /ɣ/ ـغ ـغـ غـ غ ਗ਼
26 فے /f/ ـف ـفـ فـ ف ਫ਼
27 قاف qāfa /q/ ـق ـقـ قـ ق ਕ਼
28 کاف kāfa /k/ ـک ـکـ کـ ک
29 گاف gāfa /ɡ/ ـگ ـگـ گـ گ
30 لام lāma /l/ ـل ـلـ لـ ل
31[16] ࣇام ḷāma /ɭ/ ـلؕ ـلؕـ لؕـ لؕ ਲ਼
32 میم mīma /m/ ـم ـمـ مـ م
33 نون nūna /n, ɲ/ ـن ـنـ نـ ن
34[16] ݨون ṇūna /ɳ/ ـݨ ـݨـ ݨـ ݨ
35 نون غنّہ nūn ġunnah /◌̃, ŋ/ ـں ـن٘ـ ن٘ـ ں


, , ਙ
36 واؤ wāʼoa /ʋ, uː, ʊ, oː, ɔː/ ـو ـو و و ,
37 نکی ہے
گول ہے
nikkī hē
gol hē
/ɦ, ɑː, e:/ ـہ ـہـ ہـ ہ
38 دو چشمی ہے do-cashmī hē /ʰ/ or /ʱ/ ـھ ـھـ ھ ھ varied / ੍ਹ
39 ہمزہ hamzah /ʔ/, /∅/ ء ء ء ء -
40 چھوٹی يے choṭī yē /j, iː/ ـی ـیـ یـ ی ,
41 وڈّی يے waḍḍi yē /ɛː, eː/ ـے N/A N/A ے ,

No Punjabi words begin with ں, ھ, or ے. Words which begin with ڑ are exceedingly rare, but some have been documented in Shahmukhi dictionaries such as Iqbal Salahuddin's Waddi Punjabi Lughat.[17] The digraphs of aspirated consonants are as follows. In addition, ل and لؕ form ligatures with ا: لا (ـلا) and لؕا (ـلؕا).


No. Digraph[18] Transcription[18] IPA Example
1 بھ bh بھاری
2 پھ ph پھل
3 تھ th تھم
4 ٹھ ṭh ٹھیس
5 جھ jh جھاڑی
6 چھ ch چھوکرا
7 دھ dh دھوبی
8 ڈھ ḍh ڈھول
9 رھ rh بارھویں
10 ڑھ ṛh [ɽʱ] کڑھنا
11 کھ kh کھولنا
12 گھ gh گھبراہٹ
13 لھ lh [lʱ] کولھ
14 مھ mh [mʱ] ڈمھ
15 نھ nh [nʱ] چنھاں
16 وھ wh [ʋʱ] No example?
17 یھ yh [jʱ] یھاوا[19]
  • ے (waddi ye) is only found in the final position, when writing the sounds e (ਏ) or æ (ਐ), and in initial and medial positions, it takes the form of ی.
  • Vowels are expressed as follows:
Romanization Final Middle Initial
a (ਅ) ـہ ـَ اَ
ā (ਆ) یٰ ـَا آ
i (ਇ) N/A ـِ اِ
ī (ਈ) ـِى ـِيـ اِی
ē (ਏ) ـے‬ ـيـ اے
ai (ਐ) ـَے‬ ـَيـ اَے
u (ਉ) N/A ـُ اُ
ū (ਊ) ـُو اُو
o (ਓ) ـو او
au (ਔ) ـَو اَو

Difference from Persian and UrduEdit

Shahmukhi has more letters added to the Urdu base to represent sounds not present in Urdu, which already has additional letters added to the Arabic and Persian base itself to represent sounds not present in Arabic. Characters added which differ from Persian but not Urdu include: ٹ to represent /ʈ/, ڈ to represent /ɖ/, ڑ to represent /ɽ/, ں to represent /◌̃/, and ے to represent /ɛ:/ or /e:/. Furthermore, a separate do-cashmi-he letter, ھ, exists to denote a /ʰ/ or a /ʱ/, this letter is mainly used as part of the multitude of digraphs, detailed below. Characters added which differ from Urdu include: to represent /ɭ/ and ݨ to represent /ɳ/. These characters, however are rarely used.


In Punjabi, there are many Arabic and Persian loanwords. These words contain some sounds which were alien to South Asian languages before the influence of Arabic and Persian, and are therefore represented by introducing dots beneath specific Gurmukhi characters. Since the Gurmukhi alphabet is phonetic, any loanwords which contained pre-existing sounds were more easily transliterated without the need for characters modified with subscript dots.

Shahmukhi Letter Gurmukhi Letter
ذ ਜ਼
ض ਜ਼
ظ ਜ਼
غ ਗ਼
ژ ਜ਼
خ ਖ਼
ز ਜ਼
ف ਫ਼
ق ਕ਼
ع variable

ژ is pronounced 'j' in French or as vision in English

ع is often transliterated in many ways due to its changing sound in various Arabic and Persian words.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Evans, Lorna Priest; Malik, M.G. Abbas (1 May 2019). "Unicode Proposal for ArLaam" (PDF). Unicode. Punjabi Parchar. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 April 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  2. ^ Singh Saini, Tejineder; Singh Lehal, Gurpreet; S Kalra, Virinder (August 2008). "Shahmukhi to Gurmukhi Transliteration System". Coling 2008 Organizing Committee: 177–180. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 August 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Sharma, Saurabh; Gupta, Vishal (May 2013). "Punjabi Documents Clustering System" (PDF). Journal of Emerging Technologies in Web Intelligence. 5 (2): 174. doi:10.4304/JETWI.5.2.171-187. S2CID 55699784. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 April 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e Dhanju, Kawarbir Singh; Lehal, Gurpreet Singh; Saini, Tejinder Singh; Kaur, Arshdeep (October 2015). "Design and Implementation of Shahmukhi Spell Checker" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 December 2018. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  5. ^ Malik, Muhammad Ghulam Abbas; Boitet, Christian; Bhattcharyya, Pushpak (27 June 2012) [2010]. "ANALYSIS OF NOORI NASTA'LEEQ FOR MAJOR PAKISTANI LANGUAGES". King AbdulAziz University. Penang, Malaysia. p. 4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 August 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b Dorren, Gaston (2018). Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages. Profile Books. ISBN 978-1782832508.
  7. ^ Sharma, Saurabh; Gupta, Vishal (May 2013). "Punjabi Documents Clustering System" (PDF). Journal of Emerging Technologies in Web Intelligence. 5 (2): 174. doi:10.4304/JETWI.5.2.171-187. S2CID 55699784. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 April 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  8. ^ Handbook of Literacy in Akshara Orthography. Springer. 2019. p. 142. ISBN 978-3030059774.
  9. ^ Omer Tarin, 'Hazrat Baba Farid Ganj Shakar and the evolution of the literary Punjabi:A Brief Review' in Journal of Humanities and Liberal Arts, 1995, pp.21-30
  10. ^ Bashir, Elena; Conners, Thomas J.; Hefright, Brook (2019). A descriptive grammar of Hindko, Panjabi, and Saraiki. Hefright, Brook. De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 62, 77. ISBN 978-1-61451-296-7. OCLC 1062344143.
  11. ^ Shackle, Christopher. "Punjabi language". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-06-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ a b Shackle, Christopher (2007). Cardona, George; Jain, Dhanesh (eds.). Panjabi. The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. p. 655. ISBN 978-0-415-77294-5.
  13. ^ Dhavan, Purnima (2019-12-31), Green, Nile (ed.), "Marking Boundaries and Building Bridges: Persian Scholarly Networks in Mughal Punjab", The Persianate World, University of California Press, pp. 168–169, doi:10.1525/9780520972100-009, ISBN 978-0-520-97210-0, S2CID 211601323, retrieved 2021-06-12
  14. ^ Bhardwaj, Mangat (2016). Panjabi: A Comprehensive Grammar. Routledge. p. 378. ISBN 978-1317643265. It is an ancient Arabic writing tradition (carried on in Persian, Urdu and Shahmukhi) to omit the diacritics (except the Hamza) in ordinary writing and to depend on the context to interpret a word.
  15. ^ Delacy 2003, p. XV–XVI.
  16. ^ a b Rarely used in literature, except when a distinction between the pronunciation of the non-retroflex character is needed
  17. ^ Iqbal Salah-ud-Din (2002). Waddi Punjabi Lughat: پنجابی توں پنجابی (in Western Punjabi, English, and multiple languages). Vol. 2. Lahore: Aziz Publishers. pp. 1672–1673. ISBN 978-969-455-042-8. LCCN 2010341553. OCLC 629702100. OL 31212991M. Wikidata Q113450202. Retrieved 2022-08-29.
  18. ^ a b "Urdu romanization" (PDF). The Library of Congress.
  19. ^ Iqbal Salah-ud-Din (2002). Waddi Punjabi Lughat: پنجابی توں پنجابی (in Western Punjabi, English, and multiple languages). Vol. 3. Lahore: Aziz Publishers. p. 2958. ISBN 978-969-455-042-8. LCCN 2010341553. OCLC 629702100. OL 31212991M. Wikidata Q113450202. Retrieved 2022-08-29.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit