|Languages of Pakistan|
|Main||Punjabi (38.78%); Pashto (18.24%); Sindhi (14.57%); Saraiki (12.19%); Urdu (7.08%);[a] Balochi (3.02%); Hindko (2.24%); Pahari-Pothwari; Brahui|
|Signed||Pakistani Sign Language|
|Part of a series on the|
Pakistan is a multilingual country with dozens of languages spoken as first languages. The majority Pakistan's languages belong to the Indo-Iranian group of the Indo-European language family.
Urdu is the national language and the lingua franca of Pakistan, and while sharing official status with English, it is the preferred and dominant language used for inter-communication between different ethnic groups. Numerous regional languages are spoken as first languages by Pakistan's various ethnolinguistic groups. Languages with more than a million speakers each include Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki, Urdu, Balochi, Hindko, Pahari-Pothwari[b] and Brahui.
Ethnologue lists 74 languages in Pakistan. Of these, 66 are indigenous and 8 are non-indigenous. In terms of their vitality, 7 are classified as 'institutional', 17 are 'developing', 37 are 'vigorous', 10 are 'in trouble', and 3 are 'dying'.
|Rank||Language||2017 census||1998 census||1981 census||1961 census||1951 census|
* Saraiki was included with Punjabi in the 1951 and 1961 censuses.
Urdu (اردو) is the national language (قومی زبان) and lingua franca of Pakistan. Although only about 7% of Pakistanis speak it as their first language, it is widely spoken and understood as a second language by the vast majority of Pakistanis.
No region in Pakistan uses Urdu as its mother tongue, though it is spoken as the first language of Muslim migrants (known as Muhajirs) in Pakistan who left India after independence in 1947. Urdu was chosen as a symbol of unity for the new state of Pakistan in 1947, because it had already served as a lingua franca among Muslims in north and northwest British India. It is written, spoken and used in all provinces/territories of Pakistan, and together with English as the main languages of instruction, although the people from differing provinces may have different native languages.
Urdu is taught as a compulsory subject up to higher secondary school in both English and Urdu medium school systems, which has produced millions of second-language Urdu speakers among people whose native language is one of the other languages of Pakistan – which in turn has led to the absorption of vocabulary from various regional Pakistani languages, while some Urdu vocabularies has also been assimilated by Pakistan's regional languages.
See also: Pakistani English
English is a co-official language of Pakistan and is widely used in the executive, legislative and judicial branches as well as to some extent in the officer ranks of Pakistan's armed forces. Pakistan's Constitution and laws were written in English and are now being re-written in the local languages. It is also widely used in schools, colleges and universities as a medium of instruction. English is seen as the language of upward mobility, and its use is becoming more prevalent in upper social circles, where it is often spoken alongside native Pakistani languages. In 2015, it was announced that there were plans to promote Urdu in official business, but Pakistan's Minister of Planning Ahsan Iqbal stated, "Urdu will be a second medium of language and all official business will be bilingual." He also went on to say that English would be taught alongside Urdu in schools.
Punjabi (پنجابی) is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken in the Punjab province of Pakistan, with the prominent dialect being the Majha dialect, written in the Shahmukhi script. Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan. It is spoken as a first language by almost 39% of Pakistanis. It is the 11th most widely spoken language in India, and the third most-spoken native language in the Indian Subcontinent. The language is spoken among a significant overseas diaspora, particularly in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Punjabi is unusual among the Indo-Aryan languages and the broader Indo-European language family in its usage of lexical tone.
Pashto (پښتو) is an Iranian language spoken as a first language by more than 18% of Pakistanis, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in northern Balochistan as well as in ethnic Pashtun communities in the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, and most notably Karachi, which may have the largest Pashtun population of any city in the world. There are three 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 the southern areas such as in Quetta.
Sindhi (سنڌي) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken as a first language by almost 15% of Pakistanis, mostly in the Sindh province of Pakistan. The name "Sindhi" is derived from Sindhu, the original name of the Indus River.
Like other languages of this family, Sindhi has passed through Old Indo-Aryan (Sanskrit) and Middle Indo-Aryan (Pali, secondary Prakrits, and Apabhramsha) stages of growth. 20th century Western scholars such as George Abraham Grierson believed that Sindhi descended specifically from the Vrācaḍa dialect of Apabhramsha (described by Markandeya as being spoken in Sindhu-deśa) but later work has shown this to be unlikely. It entered the New Indo-Aryan stage around the 10th century CE.
Saraiki (سرائیکی) is an Indo-Aryan language of the Lahnda group, spoken in central and southeastern Pakistan, primarily in the southern part of the province of Punjab. Saraiki is to a high degree mutually intelligible with Standard Punjabi and shares with it a large portion of its vocabulary and morphology. At the same time in its phonology it is radically different (particularly in the lack of tones, the preservation of the voiced aspirates and the development of implosive consonants), and has important grammatical features in common with the Sindhi language spoken to the south.
Saraiki is the language of about 26 million people in Pakistan, ranging across southern Punjab, southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and border regions of northern Sindh and eastern Balochistan.
Balochi (بلوچی) is an Iranian language spoken as a first language by about 3% of Pakistanis, mostly in the Balochistan province. Rakshani is the major dialect group in terms of numbers. Sarhaddi is a sub-dialect of Rakshani. Other sub-dialects are Kalati (Qalati), Chagai-Kharani and Panjguri. Eastern Hill Balochi or Northern Balochi is very different from the rest.
Hindko (ہندکو) is a cover term for a diverse group of Lahnda dialects spoken in several discontinuous areas in northwestern Pakistan, primarily in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Hindko is mutually intelligible with Punjabi and Saraiki, and has more affinities with the latter than with the former. Differences with other Punjabi varieties are more pronounced in the morphology and phonology than in the syntax. The word Hindko, commonly used to refer to a number of Indo-Aryan dialects spoken in the neighbourhood of Pashto, likely originally meant "the Indian language" (in contrast to Pashto). An alternative local name for this language group is Hindki.[c]
Brahui (براہوئی) is a Dravidian language spoken in the central part of Balochistan province. Brahui is spoken in the central part of Pakistani Balochistan, mainly in Kalat, Khuzdar and Mastung districts, but also in smaller numbers in neighboring districts, as well as in Afghanistan which borders Pakistani Balochistan; however, many members of the ethnic group no longer speak Brahui.
Other languages spoken by linguistic minorities include the languages listed below, with speakers ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands. A few are highly endangered languages that may soon have no speakers at all. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization defines five levels of language endangerment between "safe" (not endangered) and "extinct":
The list below includes the findings from the third edition of Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger (2010; formerly the Red Book of Endangered Languages), as well as the online edition of the aforementioned publication, both published by UNESCO.
|Balti language||Vulnerable||Also spoken in: India||bft|
|Bashkarik language||Definitely endangered||gwc, xka|
|Badeshi language||Critically endangered||bdz|
|Bateri language||Definitely endangered||btv|
|Bhadravahi language||Definitely endangered||Also spoken in: India||bhd|
|Brahui language||Vulnerable||Also spoken in: Afghanistan||brh|
|Chilisso language||Severely endangered||clh|
|Dameli language||Severely endangered||dml|
|Domaaki language||Severely endangered||dmk|
|Gawar-Bati language||Definitely endangered||Also spoken in: Afghanistan||gwt|
|Gowro language||Severely endangered||gwf|
|Jad language||Definitely endangered||Also spoken in: India||jda|
|Kalasha language||Severely endangered||Not to be confused with Kalasha-ala language||kls|
|Kalkoti language||Severely endangered|
|Kati language||Definitely endangered||Also spoken in: Afghanistan||bsh, xvi|
|Kundal Shahi language||Definitely endangered||Also spoken in: India|
|Ormuri language||Definitely endangered||Also spoken in: Afghanistan||oru|
|Phalura language||Definitely endangered||phl|
|Purik language||Vulnerable||Also spoken in: India||prx|
|Savi language||Definitely endangered||Also spoken in: Afghanistan||sdg|
|Spiti language||Vulnerable||Also spoken in: India||spt|
|Torwali language||Definitely endangered||trw|
|Ushojo language||Definitely endangered||ush|
|Wakhi language||Definitely endangered||Also spoken in: China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan||wbl|
|Yidgha language||Definitely endangered||ydg|
|Zangskari language||Definitely endangered||Also spoken in: India||zau|
Most languages of Pakistan are written in the Perso-Arabic script. The Mughal Empire adopted Persian as the court language during their rule over South Asia as did their predecessors, such as the Ghaznavids. During this time, the Nastaʿlīq style of the Perso-Arabic script came into widespread use in South Asia, and the influence remains to this day. In Pakistan, almost everything in Urdu is written in the script, concentrating the greater part of Nastaʿlīq usage in the world.
The Urdu alphabet is the right-to-left alphabet. It is a modification of the Persian alphabet, which is itself a derivative of the Arabic alphabet. With 38 letters, the Urdu alphabet is typically written in the calligraphic Nasta'liq script.
Sindhi adopted a variant of the Persian alphabet as well, in the 19th century. The script is used in Pakistan today, albeit unlike most other native languages of Pakistan, the Naskh style is more common for Sindhi writing than the Nasta'liq style. It has a total of 52 letters, augmenting the Urdu with digraphs and eighteen new letters (ڄ ٺ ٽ ٿ ڀ ٻ ڙ ڍ ڊ ڏ ڌ ڇ ڃ ڦ ڻ ڱ ڳ ڪ) for sounds particular to Sindhi and other Indo-Aryan languages. Some letters that are distinguished in Arabic or Persian are homophones in Sindhi.
Balochi and Pashto are written in Perso-Arabic script. The Shahmukhī script, a variant of the Urdu alphabet, is used to write the Punjabi language in Pakistan.
Usually, bare transliterations of Urdu into Roman letters, Roman Urdu, omit many phonemic elements that have no equivalent in English or other languages commonly written in the Latin script. The National Language Authority of Pakistan has developed a number of systems with specific notations to signify non-English sounds, but these can only be properly read by someone already familiar with Urdu.
This is a series of maps which shows the distribution of different languages in Pakistan as of the 2017 Pakistan Census. These all refer to the mother tongues of individuals only.
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Modern Standard Urdu, a register of the Hindustani language, is the national language, lingua-franca and is one of the two official languages along with English in Pakistan and is spoken in all over the world. It is also one of the 22 scheduled languages and officially recognized languages in the Constitution of India and has been conferred the status of the official language in many Indian states of Bihar, Telangana, Jammu, and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and New Delhi. Urdu is one of the members of the new or modern Indo-Aryan language group within the Indo-European family of languages.
English has been the main language of instruction at the elementary and secondary levels since colonial times. It remains the predominant language of instruction in private schools but has been increasingly replaced with Urdu in public schools. Punjab province, for example, recently announced that it will begin to use Urdu as the exclusive medium of instruction in schools beginning in 2020. Depending on the location and predominantly in rural areas, regional languages are used as well, particularly in elementary education. The language of instruction in higher education is mostly English, but some programs and institutions teach in Urdu.