The Bengali language is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is unsurprisingly native primarily to Bengal, and the language itself is also commonly referred to as Bangla as well as the more usual Bengali. Bengal is an area of eastern South Asia which is made up of modern day Bangladesh and the state of West Bengal. It also is spoken in some parts of the Indian states of Assam and Tripura.
The Bengali language has come through three incarnations so far: Old Bengali, Middle Bengali and New Bengali. In Old Bengali, which emerged around 1000AD, the language was mostly used for religious texts and devotional songs. Middle Bengali was around 1400AD to 1800AD. The most significant work of this era is considered to be the Shreekrishna Kirtana, a drama composed in poetry detailing many folk literature stories in 417 verses and 133 Sanskrit shlokas. New Bengali is what is referred to as Bengali today, and is characterized primarily by a shortening of pronouns and verbs.
Interestingly, for a language that has been in use for so long, the Bengali language was not categorized until the early 1800s, with no form of common dictionary or standardized way of speech or writing being recognized until then.
The Bengali language is the sixth most spoken language in the world, and has over 220 million speakers worldwide. There are significant communities of Bengali-speaking people in the UK, USA, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Myanmar, and Canada.
Bengali is written with the Bengali script to a Bengali alphabet. It emerged as a language around 1000 years ago, from a declining version of Sanskrit. The Bengali language is the main language that is used in Bangladesh, and the second most used language in India overall. Considering India’s population of over 1.2 billion people, this is a significant number in total.
There are many regional dialects of Bengali, with four main clusters being identified: Kamarupa, Varendra, Banga and Rarh. These are highly differing dialects, with even certain aspects such as being tonal or non-tonal in meaning being different among the four.
The Bengali language is very similar grammatically to the English language. Pronouns particularly are basically the same in terms of first, second and third person, although gender-specific pronouns are not used. Interestingly, however, there is the addition of third person pronouns to describe the proximity of the subject. There are three pronouns, to describe someone nearby, someone close, and someone who is not present.
The verbs of the Bengali language are highly inflected, and change their endings based on the kind of tense and speaker that is using them. Occasionally, the stem vowel of the word can affect the other vowels in the sentence. This is called vowel harmony. The verbs themselves occur in six forms, none of which express information on whether what is being described is past, present or future, though various inflections can be used to intone various levels of respect.
Very different from the English language, the Bengali language has its modifying words occurring after the object instead of before it. These are, for obvious linguistic reasons, called postpositions instead of prepositions. Most of these are created by transferring the nouns that refer to a location and inflecting them for locative case.
Why Learn The Bengali Language?
As there are so many speakers, this makes Bengali a clear choice to learn if you are looking for a language that is going to be potentially globally useful to you. However, the majority of speakers are localized in Indian states, though there are a large amount of emigrants around the world.
The Bengali language also has a rich literary history, with a great deal of epic poetry and folk tales re-imagined and re-told through various generations. If you have a strong interest in world literature, then there is a wealth of it to be found here. With such a culturally diverse group of people being Bengali speakers, there is clearly going to be a wide variety of art and literature being produced not only historically, but in modern times as well.