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Bengali: one language – many options

Bengali (Bengali) is the official language of the state of Bangladesh, as well as of some states of India, in particular West Bengal and Tripura. More than 200 million people in the world speak Bengali, which is the fifth most widely spoken language – after Chinese, Spanish, English and Hindustani (Hindi and Urdu).

And in India, Bengali is the second language after Hindi. It is interesting that when comparing Bangladeshi Bengali (its variants within the country) and West Bengali language, fundamental differences in their spoken and written forms are revealed.

Bengal – an ancient language

The Bengali language and japanese translator belongs to the Indo-Aryan group of languages ​​of Western Asia, it developed as the successor of Sanskrit, Pali, and also Prakrit. Bengalis call their language Bangla. Scholars believe Bengali became an independent language around AD 1000. NS. In the history of the language, three or four periods of development are distinguished: ancient Bengali (1000-1400), medieval Bengali (1400-1800), modern Bengali (from 1800). Some philologists believe that Bengali is much older and possibly dates back to 500 BC. NS.

The Portuguese and the English are the compilers of the Bengali grammar!

Until the 18th century, Bengali was a collection of many dialects and had no documented grammar.

Manoel da Assumpcam, a Portuguese missionary, wrote the first Bengali grammar, Vocabolario em idioma Bengalla, e Portuguez dividido em duas partes.
Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, a grammar scholar from Great Britain, is considered the first compiler of a Bengali grammar using examples of Bengali texts and writing: “A Grammar of the Bengal Language” (1778).
Major evolutionary changes

After Raja Ram Mohan Roy, the great Bengali reformer, published The Bengali Grammar in 1832, the written form of Bengali has undergone numerous changes. Perhaps most significant was the assertion of cholit bhasha as a written form of language replacing the older, obsolete shadhu bhasha. The spoken and written forms of Bengali developed in both West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Striking similarities and huge differences

in India:
The Assamese language (Assam state), Oriya language (Orissa state), as well as Bengali, as some scholars believe, are very close to each other and understandable to the speakers of each of them; some local dialects of one of them bear a striking resemblance to one or more dialects of the other two languages.

in Bangladesh:
Sylheti, Chittagong, and Chakma are some of those often viewed as dialects of Bengali. Despite their similarities to neighboring Bengali dialects, it is difficult for a literary Bengali speaker to understand them.

Interestingly, the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh are written in Bengali!

Bengali: differences in writing and even greater in speaking

Like many Western Asian languages, Bengali exhibits significant instances of diglossia between formal, written language and vernacular, spoken language.

There are two standard forms of Bengali:

Shadhu-bhasha, or shadhu (“language of the sages”) is a written form of the language with long verb endings and heavily Sanskrit vocabulary. Songs such as the national anthem of India “Janaganamana” (lyrics by Rabindranath Tagore) and the national song “Vande Mataram” (by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee) are written in shadhu-bhasha, but this form is no longer used in modern texts.
Cholit Bhasha, or Cholit (“common language”), is a written form of Bengali that reflects the spoken style and is increasingly used as the written norm of the Bengali language. It is based on the form of regional dialects common in areas bordering the lower Hooghli River, namely in Shantipur, in the Nadia District of West Bengal. This form of Bengali is sometimes referred to as Nadiya Standard.
The oral form of Bengali has many more variations than the written form.

The spoken Bengali language, including the language of news reports, reports, official communications, is based on the Cholit Bhasha form. This variant of the spoken Bengali language exists side by side with the territorial dialects, or ancholic Bengali (“regional Bengali”). Most Bengali speak several dialects: often they are fluent in Cholit Bhasha, one or more dialects, as well as one or more forms of Grammo Bengali (“rural Bengali”) – dialects characteristic of small towns or villages.

Great division of the Bengali language

Bengali dialects are usually divided into eight large groups: western, southeastern, central (or west-central), northern, bache, eastern, ganda and wanga. Often the Chittagong dialect is also included in this list.

During the period of Bengali standardization, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, educated Bengalis lived mainly in West Bengal, especially in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Until now, the generally accepted literary language in both West Bengal and Bangladesh is based on the West-Central dialect, which was spoken by members of the educated elite of the 19th century.

This contributed to the emergence of diglossia in most parts of Bangladesh. At the same time, many residents understand well both the regional dialect of their area and the generally accepted West-Central dialect, or even speak them fluently.

Scientists identify some dialectal differences in the elements of phonological variations in the speech of Bengalis who live on the western – Poshchim – and eastern – Purbo – banks of the Padma River.

Bengal is a mixture of languages

As a result of the centuries-old powerful influence from the Europeans, Mongols, Arabs, Persians, as well as the peoples of East Asia, the Bengali language is rich in borrowings. They are often fully integrated into the core vocabulary of the language. As a result of centuries of invasions from Persia and the Middle East, many Turkish, Arabic and Persian words have been added to the Bengali lexicon. Later, European colonialists contributed to the introduction of words from Portuguese, French, Dutch, and mainly from English.

Bangladesh, Kolkata and UK

Many plosive consonants and affricates pronounced in Calcutta Bengali are fricative sounds in the dialects of eastern Bangladesh (in the districts of Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka and Sylhet). This feature is most typical for Sylheti (northeastern Bangladesh), a dialect of Bengali that is most spoken in the United Kingdom (among the former colonies of Great Britain – Ed.)!

Differences in Bengali vocabulary between Bangladesh and Kolkata

The third major factor in dialectal differences, especially between dialects of West Bengal and Bangladesh, is vocabulary. Even in literary Bengali, lexical units are often classified based on the division between the Muslim population of Bangladesh and a significant portion of the Hindus in East Bengal. Due to cultural and religious traditions, Muslims sometimes use Persian-Arabic words instead of the forms borrowed from Sanskrit.

The alternation of vocabulary between the generally accepted West Bengali (often called Hindu) and the corresponding Bangladeshi forms (the so-called Muslim) can be seen in the following examples:

hi: namoshkar matches assalamualaikum / slamalikum;
prompt: nimontron / nimontonno matches daoat;
water: jal corresponds to pani;
meat: mangsho matches gosh / goshto / gosto;
prayer: prarthona corresponds to doa;
God: Bhagoban, Ishshor corresponds to Allah, Khoda;
salt: nun matches lDbon;
turmeric: holdi corresponds to holud;
chili: lDngka matches morich.
These differences reflect the vocabulary of common Bengali languages ​​in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Deviations in the countless regional dialects of both West Bengal and Bangladesh are varied and even more pronounced.