Language is an important element of ethnic identity that binds together culturally diverse regions.
Our ‘Bangla’, the language of the people of the deltaic (Ganga-Brahmaputra) region, is often known as the second most beautiful language in the world.
Bengal Diaspora has spread its web all across the globe. No matter how much we Bengalis love travelling and moving out of the city, but there is no denying that whenever we hear the sound of this familiar language when we are far away from home, it’s like music to our ears.
In Bengal, sweetness runs in our veins. So, how can it not have an influence on our language too! Let us enlighten you with some facts about our ‘sweet’ language:
1. Did you know that the International Mother Language day is based on the Bengali language? Oh yeah! Now you can bask in the glory of our dear language.
2. Bengali is the only language in the world to be also known for its language movements and people sacrificing their life for their mother language (Bengali Language Movement).
3. Such is the importance of the language that an entire country is named after it – ‘Bangladesh’
4. Bengali is spoken by more than 210 million people as a first or second language. It is usually ranked about seventh in the world in terms of number of people who speak it as a first language. It is also the second most spoken language in India. The modern Bengali language is the official language of West Bengal, Tripura and Bangladesh. It is also an official language in Sierra Leone.
5. Bengali language is a member of the Indo-Aryan group and branch of the Indo-European language So basically, it is a distant relative of German, French, Spanish, Russian, etc.
6. Bengali has essentially evolved from Sanskrit and Magadhi Prakrit. It has also been influenced by other language families prevalent in South Asia, notably the Dravidian, the Austro-Asiatic, and the Tibeto-Burman families, all of which contributed to Bengali vocabulary and provided the language with some structural forms.
7. The four main dialects roughly approximate the divisions of the Bengali-speaking world, known as Radha (West Bengalproper); Pundra, or Varendra (the northern parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh); Kamrupa (northeastern Bangladesh); and Bangla (the dialects of the rest of Bangladesh). In addition, two cities, Sylhet and Chittagong, have developed dialects with lexical and phonological characteristics that are mostly unintelligible to other speakers of Bengali.
8. Bengali literature, with its millennium old history and folk heritage, has extensively developed since the Bengali renaissance and is one of the most prominent and diverse literary traditions in Asia.
9. Both the national anthems of Bangladesh (Amar Sonar Bangla) and India (Jana Gana Mana) were composed in Bengali.
10. Bengali was an official court language of the Sultanate of Bengal. Proto-Bengali was the language of the Pala Empire and the Sena dynasty.
11. Two styles of writing, involving somewhat different vocabularies and syntax, have emerged: Shadhu-bhasha was the written language, with more of a Pali and Sanskrit-derived Tatsama vocabulary & Cholitobhasha , known as Standard Colloquial Bengali, is the standard for written Bengali now.
12. ‘Charyapada’, a collection of mystical poems and songs of realization is believed to be the first Bengali text and so to say, the origin of Bengali in the written form.
Bengali has radically changed over time, with the injection of Sanskrit and Urdu words into the language. It has influenced other languages through its proximity and ideology as well. It feels odd to know that at one point in time, no one spoke Bengali in Bengal as it did not originate by that time.
If you were to read Bankim Chandra’s ‘Anandamath’ or ‘Vande Mataram’, you will realize that he was hardly talking about India. In fact, he was talking about Bengal.
Facts compiled by Santana Fell with inputs from Garga Chatterjee.