Linguistic Landscape of Punjab (Pakistan), by Freeha Amna

If you are well-versed in the major languages of your area you might not notice the difference between the presence of one language or another in your city’s linguistic landscape unless you notice purposefully. Pakistan has two official languages, English and Urdu. In any Pakistani city, from traffic signage to commercial shop signs, these two exist predominantly. Urdu in Roman transcript is also common. A little Arabic may also be found at some places, but that is usually the Quranic verses or religious content.

Government owned institutes, official buildings, banks, and road signs display English and Urdu simultaneously. English, being considered the language of the elite and educated, predominates at places such as malls and private educational institutes. It is also used by the big brands on their billboards or the shop signs in posh areas of the city. The smaller shops in lower class localities have mainly Urdu or Roman Urdu written on their signboards.

English and Urdu both are taught in schools. Most people can read some English, especially the alphabet is extensively used in writing Roman Urdu as well. Use of mobile phones (sms, internet, youtube etc) has promoted English alphabet for written communication in Urdu. Small shops in lower class areas sometimes have signs displayed in Roman Urdu. Public service messages, such as, outside banks may also be written in Roman transcript.

6. Small shops.

Local languages are not part of the curriculum in schools in Punjab. They rarely appear on sign boards, except to create amusement and lend a local flavour. Welcoming phrases such as “Ji ayan noo” or “Aye ve saain” might be seen in local festivals or in restaurants that serve local food, catering to the lower classes.

The linguistic landscape of Punjab can easily be explained in socio-economic terms. Smaller cities display an Urdu dominant landscape, although, English enjoys the elitist status there as well. Urdu remains the most widely understood language, with extensive outreach and impact, hence used in advertisements and notices most frequently.

7. Billbords in a small city in Urdu.

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