( Shahmukhi : سرائیکی ) is the southern dialect of Western Punjabi of the Indo-Aryan language family. It is spoken by 20 million people (2013) across the South Punjab , southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , and border regions of North Sindh and Eastern Balochistan , with some 20,000 migrants and their descendants in India who migrated as a result of the independence of Pakistan , as well as overseas, especially in the Middle East . Saraiki is also spoken by some Hindus in Afghanistan , though the number there is unknown.
It follows the standardized Punjabi Shahmukhi script for writing. The name "Saraiki" (or variant spellings) was formally adopted in the 1960s by regional social and political leaders who undertook to promote Saraiki dialects of the Punjabi language .
The word sarāiki likely originated from sauvīrā , or Sauvira , a kingdom name in ancient India which was also mentioned in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata . By adding adjectival suffix -kī to the word sauvīrā it became sauvīrakī . The consonant v with its neighboring vowels was dropped for simplification and hence the name became sarāiki . Although George Abraham Grierson reported that sirāiki (that was the spelling he used) is from a Sindhi word sirō , meaning "of the north, northern", Shackle asserts that this etymology is unverified. Another view is that sarāiki originates from the word sarai .
The most common rendering of the name is Saraiki. However, Seraiki and Siraiki have also been used in academia until recently. Precise spelling aside, the name was adopted in the 1960s by regional social and political leaders. An organization named Saraiki Academy was founded in Multan on 6 April 1962 and gave the name of universal application to the dialect. Currently, Saraiki is the spelling used in universities of Pakistan (the Islamia University of Bahawalpur , department of Saraiki established in 1989, Bahauddin Zakariya University , in Multan, department of Saraiki established in 2006, and Allama Iqbal Open University , in Islamabad, department of Pakistani languages established in 1998), and by the district governments of Bahawalpur and Multan, as well as by the federal institutions of the Government of Pakistan like Population Census Organization and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation.