Noun refers to the name of a living being, place, thing, abstract idea etc. Typically, it can be anything that we call by name. For example, ਮੁੰਡਾ muṇḍā ‘boy’, ਕਿਤਾਬ kitāb ‘book’, ਕਾਰ kār ‘car’, ਸਕੂਲ sakūl ‘school’, ਘਰ ghar ‘house’ are all nouns. Nouns can be of various semantic types, like proper nouns, common nouns, countable nouns, collective nouns etc.
Regardless of the semantic types, Punjabi nouns change forms for number and case in sentences.
Punjabi nouns have assigned gender, and it can be either masculine or feminine, though some nouns (e.g. common nouns) can be used for both the genders (due to dialectical variations). Every Punjabi noun (animate or inanimate) must have a gender. This gender value is purely grammatical for inanimate objects. For example, ਕੰਧ kandh ‘fence’, ਕੁਰਸੀ kurasī ‘chair’, ਸਡ਼ਕ saṛak ‘road’, ਕਾਰ kār ‘car’, ਬੱਸ bass ‘bus’, ਦੁਕਾਨ dukān ‘shop’, ਰਾਤ rāt ‘night’ are used in feminine gender, and ਮੇਜ਼ mēz ‘table’, ਟਰੱਕ ṭarakk ‘truck’, ਦਿਨ din ‘day’, ਪਹਾਡ਼ pahāṛ ‘mountain’, ਘਰ ghar ‘house’, ਪਾਣੀ pāṇī ‘water’, ਦੁੱਧ duddh ‘milk’ are used in masculine gender. This assignment of gender to inanimate objects is arbitrary, though some patterns can be established but there will always be exceptions to those patterns. One such pattern can be that nouns ending in ਆ ā are termed masculine and ending in ਈ ī are termed feminine, e.g. ਰੱਸਾ rassā ‘rope’ – ਰੱਸੀ rassī, ਪਤੀਲਾ patīlā ‘vessel’ – ਪਤੀਲੀ patīlī. Other pattern based on the physical size can be that big objects are termed masculine and their smaller counterparts are termed feminine, e.g. ਪਹਾਡ਼ pahāṛ ‘mountain’ – ਪਹਾਡ਼ੀ pahāṛī, ਗਲਾਸ galās ‘glass’ – ਗਲਾਸੀ galāsī. But as can be easily established, there are many exceptions to these patterns.
Punjabi nouns can be in two numbers – singular or plural.
There are two cases – direct and oblique, which apply to almost all the nouns. Other cases are realized using oblique case form combined with appropriate postpositions. This method of using postpositions in place of case inflected forms is widely followed in Punjabi and other Indic languages like Hindi, Urdu etc.
There are some remnant case inflected forms of few Punjabi nouns. Some of these are provided below, but it should be noted that all these case forms (except vocative) can be realized using the oblique case form followed by the appropriate postposition.
The instrumental case is seen in the plural form of some nouns, like ਹੱਥੀਂ hatthīṃ meaning ਹੱਥਾਂ ਨਾਲ hatthāṃ nāl ‘with hands or using hands’. The ablative case is seen only in the singular form of some nouns, like ਕੋਠਿਓਂ kōṭhiōṃ meaning ਕੋਠੇ ਤੋਂ kōṭhē tōṃ ‘from roof’. The locative case is seen in both the singular and the plural form of nouns. One common noun ਘਰ ghar ‘house’ has a singular locative form ਘਰੇ gharē ‘in the house’, and some place names ending in ਆ ā, like ਪਟਿਆਲੇ paṭiālē ‘at Patiala’ from ਪਟਿਆਲਾ paṭiālā ‘Patiala’, have singular locative forms. Examples of plural locative forms are ਪਿੰਡੀਂ piṇḍīṃ ‘in villages’ from ਪਿੰਡ piṇḍ ‘village’, ਸ਼ਹਿਰੀਂ shahirīṃ ‘in cities’ from ਸ਼ਹਿਰ shahir ‘city’ etc. Vocative case is common with animate nouns only, though it can equally be used for inanimate nouns in specific contexts. It can be used in both singular and plural numbers.
A typical Punjabi noun can have on an average five-six different forms depending upon the values of number and case, e.g. ਮੁੰਡਾ muṇḍā ‘boy’ has five different forms – ਮੁੰਡਾ muṇḍā (singular-direct), ਮੁੰਡੇ muṇḍē (singular-oblique, plural-direct), ਮੁੰਡਿਆਂ muṇḍiāṃ (plural-oblique), ਮੁੰਡਿਆ muṇḍiā (singular-vocative), and ਮੁੰਡਿਓ muṇḍiō (plural-vocative).