see Bengali dialects
Eastern Nagari script
Eastern Nagari script (Bengali alphabet)
Bengali signed forms
Official language in
India (in West Bengal,
Tripura & Southern Assam)
Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi
Bengali speaking region of South Asia
Bengali speakers around the world
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This article is part of a series on the
Language and Literature
Arts and Tradition
Amar Sonar Bangla
National symbols of Bangladesh
Fish and rice
Chingri malai curry
Bay of Bengal
A series of picture stories narrated in Bengali
Bengali (/bɛŋˈɡɔːli/), also known by its endonym Bangla
(/ˈbɑːŋlɑː/; বাংলা [ˈbaŋla] ( listen)), is
Indo-Aryan language spoken in South Asia. It's the official and
most widely spoken language of
Bangladesh and second most widely
spoken of the 22 scheduled languages of India, behind Hindi.
The official and de facto national language of
Bangladesh is Modern
Standard Bengali (Literary Bengali). It serves as the
lingua franca of the nation, with 98% of Bangladeshis being fluent in
Bengali (including dialects) as their first language.
Within India, Bengali is the official language of the states of West
Tripura and the
Barak Valley in the state of Assam. It is also
spoken in different parts of the Brahmaputra valley of Assam. There
are Bengali medium schools that cater to the demands of the community.
Also the language is taught in various colleges and universities
across Assam. It is also the most widely spoken language in the
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. and is spoken by
significant minorities in other states including Jharkhand, Bihar,
Mizoram, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.
With more than over a 300 million speakers worldwide (according to
2011 Census), Bengali is usually counted as the seventh most spoken
native language in the world by population.
Dictionaries from the early 20th century attributed slightly more than
half of the
Bengali vocabulary to native words (i.e., naturally
Sanskrit words, corrupted forms of
Sanskrit words, and
loanwords from non-Indo-European languages), about 30 percent to
Sanskrit words, and the remainder to foreign words.
Dominant in the last group was Persian, which was also the source of
some grammatical forms. More recent studies suggest that the use of
native and foreign words has been increasing, mainly because of the
preference of Bengali speakers for the colloquial style.
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. Both the
national anthems of
Bangladesh (Amar Sonar Bangla) and
Gana Mana) were composed in Bengali; furthermore, it is believed by
many that the national anthem of Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka Matha) was
inspired by a Bengali poem written by Rabindranath
Tagore, while some even believe the anthem was
originally written in Bengali and then translated into
In 1952, the
Bengali Language Movement
Bengali Language Movement successfully pushed for the
language's official status in the Dominion of Pakistan. In 1999,
UNESCO recognized 21 February as
International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day in
recognition of the language movement in East Pakistan (now
Bangladesh). Language is an important element of Bengali identity and
binds together a culturally diverse region.
1.1 Ancient language of Bengal
1.2 Emergence of Bengali
1.3 Middle Bengali
1.4 Modern Bengali
2 Geographical distribution
2.1 Official status
3 Spoken and literary varieties
5 Writing system
5.1 Orthographic depth
6.1 Word order
8 Sample text
9 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Silver coin with proto-Bengali script,
Harikela Kingdom, circa
Ancient language of Bengal
Sanskrit was spoken in
Bengal since the first millennium BCE. During
the Gupta Empire,
Bengal was a hub of
Sanskrit literature. The
Middle Indo-Aryan dialects were spoken in
Bengal in the first
millennium when the region was a part of the
Magadha Realm. These
dialects were called Magadhi Prakrit. They eventually evolved into
Ardha Magadhi began to give way to what are
Apabhraṃśa languages at the end of the first millennium.
Emergence of Bengali
Along with other Eastern Indo-Aryan languages, Bengali evolved circa
1000–1200 AD from
Sanskrit and Magadhi Prakrit. The local
Apabhraṃśa of the eastern subcontinent, Purbi
Abahatta ("Meaningless Sounds"), eventually evolved into regional
dialects, which in turn formed three groups of the Bengali–Assamese
languages, the Bihari languages, and the Odia language. Some argue
that the points of divergence occurred much earlier — going back to
even 500, but the language was not static: different varieties
coexisted and authors often wrote in multiple dialects in this period.
For example, Ardhamagadhi is believed to have evolved into Abahatta
around the 6th century, which competed with the ancestor of Bengali
for some time. Proto-Bengali was the language of the Pala Empire
and the Sena dynasty.
Silver Taka from the Sultanate of Bengal, circa 1417
During the medieval period, Middle Bengali was characterized by the
elision of word-final অ ô, the spread of compound verbs and Arabic
and Persian influences. Bengali was an official court language of the
Sultanate of Bengal. Muslim rulers promoted the literary development
of Bengali. Bengali became the most spoken vernacular language in
the Sultanate. This period saw borrowing of Perso-
into Bengali vocabulary. Major texts of Middle Bengali (1400–1800)
include Chandidas' Shreekrishna Kirtana.
The Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka commemorates the Bengali Language
UNESCO commemorates the movement as International Mother
The modern literary form of Bengali was developed during the 19th and
early 20th centuries based on the dialect spoken in the Nadia region,
a west-central Bengali dialect. Bengali presents a strong case of
diglossia, with the literary and standard form differing greatly from
the colloquial speech of the regions that identify with the
language. The modern
Bengali vocabulary contains the vocabulary
Magadhi Prakrit and Pali, also tatsamas and reborrowings
Sanskrit and other major borrowings from Persian, Arabic,
Austroasiatic languages and other languages in contact with.
During this period, the
চলিতভাষা Chôlitôbhasha form of Bengali using
simplified inflections and other changes, was emerging from
সাধুভাষা Sadhubhasha (Proper form or original form of
Bengali) as the form of choice for written Bengali.
In 1948 the Government of Pakistan tried to impose
Urdu as the sole
state language in Pakistan, starting the Bengali language
Bengali Language Movement
Bengali Language Movement was a popular
ethno-linguistic movement in the former East
Bangladesh), which was a result of the strong linguistic consciousness
Bengalis to gain and protect spoken and written Bengali's
recognition as a state language of the then Dominion of Pakistan. On
the day of 21 February 1952 five students and political activists were
killed during protests near the campus of the University of Dhaka. In
1956 Bengali was made a state language of Pakistan. The day has
since been observed as
Language Movement Day
Language Movement Day in
Bangladesh and was
International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day by
UNESCO on 17
November 1999, marking
Bengali language 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 in the Indian state of
Assam took place in
1961, a protest against the decision of the Government of
make Assamese the only official language of the state even though a
significant proportion of the population were Bengali-speaking,
particularly in the Barak Valley.
In 2010, the parliament of
Bangladesh and the legislative assembly of
West Bengal proposed that Bengali be made an official UN language.
Their motions came after Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
suggested the idea while addressing the
UN General Assembly
UN General Assembly that
Bengali language is native to the region of Bengal, which comprises
Indian states of
West Bengal and the present-day nation of Bangladesh.
A Bengali sign in
Brick Lane in London, which is home to a large
Besides the native region it is also spoken by the
Bengalis living in
Assam and the Bengali population in the Indian union
territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Bengali is also spoken in
the neighboring states of Odisha, Bihar, and Jharkhand, and sizable
minorities of Bengali speakers reside in Indian cities outside Bengal,
including Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, and Vrindavan. There are also
significant Bengali-speaking communities in the Middle
East, the United States, Singapore, Malaysia,
Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom and Italy.
See also: States of
India by Bengali speakers
Bengali is national and official language of Bangladesh, and one of
the 23 official languages in India. It is the official language of
the Indian states of West Bengal,
Tripura and in
Barak Valley of
Assam. Bengali is a second official language of the Indian
Jharkhand since September 2011. It is also a recognized
secondary language in the City of
Karachi in Pakistan. The
Department of Bengali in the University of
Karachi also offers regular
programs of studies at the Bachelors and at the Masters levels for
The national anthems of both
India were written in
Bengali by the Bengali Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. In
2009, elected representatives in both
Bangladesh and West Bengal
Bengali language to be made an official language of the
Main article: Bengali dialects
Regional variation in spoken Bengali constitutes a dialect continuum.
Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay
Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay grouped these dialects into four
large clusters—Rarh, Banga, Kamarupa and Varendra; but many
alternative grouping schemes have also been proposed. The
south-western dialects (Rarh or Nadia dialect) form the basis of
modern standard colloquial Bengali. In the dialects prevalent in much
of eastern and south-eastern
Bangladesh (Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka
and Sylhet Divisions of Bangladesh), many of the stops and affricates
West Bengal are pronounced as fricatives. Western
alveolo-palatal affricates চ [tɕɔ], ছ [tɕʰɔ], জ [dʑɔ]
correspond to eastern চ [tsɔ], ছ [tsʰɔ~sɔ], জ [dzɔ~zɔ].
The influence of
Tibeto-Burman languages on the phonology of Eastern
Bengali is seen through the lack of nasalized vowels and an alveolar
articulation of what are categorised as the "cerebral" consonants (as
opposed to the postalveolar articulation of West Bengal). Some
variants of Bengali, particularly Chittagonian and Chakma, have
contrastive tone; differences in the pitch of the speaker's voice can
distinguish words. Rangpuri, Kharia Thar and Mal Paharia are closely
related to Western Bengali dialects, but are typically classified as
separate languages. Similarly, Hajong is considered a separate
language, although it shares similarities to Northern Bengali
During the standardization of Bengali in the 19th century and early
20th century, the cultural center of
Bengal was in the city of
Kolkata, founded by the British. What is accepted as the standard form
today in both
West Bengal and
Bangladesh is based on the West-Central
dialect of Nadia District, located next to the border of
Bangladesh. There are cases where speakers of Standard Bengali in
West Bengal will use a different word from a speaker of Standard
Bengali in Bangladesh, even though both words are of native Bengali
descent. For example, the word salt is নুন nun in the west which
corresponds to লবণ lôbôn in the east.
Spoken and literary varieties
Bengali exhibits diglossia, though some scholars have proposed
triglossia or even n-glossia or heteroglossia between the written and
spoken forms of the language. Two styles of writing have emerged,
involving somewhat different vocabularies and syntax:
Shadhu-bhasha (সাধুভাষা "upright language") was the
written language, with longer verb inflections and more of a
Tatsama vocabulary. Songs such as India's national
Jana Gana Mana
Jana Gana Mana (by Rabindranath Tagore) were composed in
Shadhubhasha. However, use of Shadhubhasha in modern writing is
uncommon, restricted to some official signs and documents in
Bangladesh as well as for achieving particular literary effects.
Cholito-bhasha (চলিতভাষা "running language"), known by
linguists as Standard Colloquial Bengali, is a written Bengali style
exhibiting a preponderance of colloquial idiom and shortened verb
forms, and is the standard for written Bengali now. This form came
into vogue towards the turn of the 19th century, promoted by the
Peary Chand Mitra
Peary Chand Mitra (Alaler Gharer Dulal, 1857),
Pramatha Chaudhuri (Sabujpatra, 1914) and in the later writings of
Rabindranath Tagore. It is modeled on the dialect spoken in the
Shantipur region in Nadia district, West Bengal. This form of Bengali
is often referred to as the "Nadia standard", "Nadia dialect",
"Southwestern/West-Central dialect" or "Shantipuri Bangla".
While most writing is in Standard Colloquial Bengali (SCB), spoken
dialects exhibit a greater variety. People in southeastern West
Bengal, including Kolkata, speak in SCB. Other dialects, with minor
variations from Standard Colloquial, are used in other parts of West
Bengal and western Bangladesh, such as the
characterised by some unique words and constructions. However, a
Bangladesh speak in dialects notably different from SCB.
Some dialects, particularly those of the
Chittagong region, bear only
a superficial resemblance to SCB. The dialect in the Chittagong
region is least widely understood by the general body of Bengalis.
The majority of
Bengalis are able to communicate in more than one
variety—often, speakers are fluent in Cholitobhasha (SCB) and one or
more regional dialects.
Even in SCB, the vocabulary may differ according to the speaker's
religion: Hindus are more likely to use words derived from Sanskrit
and of Austroasiatic Deshi origin whereas Muslims are more likely to
use words of Persian and
Arabic origin respectively. For
Predominantly Hindu usage
Predominantly Muslim usage
আসসালামু আলাইকুম Assalamu-Alaikum
sister / elder sister
brother / elder brother
দো'আ do'a / du'a
Main article: Bengali phonology
The phonemic inventory of standard Bengali consists of 29 consonants
and 7 vowels, as well as 7 nasalized vowels. The inventory is set out
below in the
International Phonetic Alphabet
International Phonetic Alphabet (upper grapheme in each
box) and romanization (lower grapheme).
æ or ɛ
এ্যাঁ / অ্যাঁ
ঞ ~ ণ ~ ন
জ ~ য
jô ~ zô
শ ~ স
শ ~ ষ ~ স
ড় ~ ঢ়
rô / rhô
Bengali is known for its wide variety of diphthongs, combinations of
vowels occurring within the same syllable. Two of these, /oi̯/
and /ou̯/, are the only ones with representation in script, as ঐ
and ঔ respectively. /e̯ i̯ o̯ u̯/ may all form the glide part of
a diphthong. The total number of diphthongs is not established, with
bounds at 17 and 31. An incomplete chart is given by Sarkar (1985) of
In standard Bengali, stress is predominantly initial. Bengali words
are virtually all trochaic; the primary stress falls on the initial
syllable of the word, while secondary stress often falls on all
odd-numbered syllables thereafter, giving strings such as in
সহযোগিতা shô-hô-jo-gi-ta "cooperation", where the
boldface represents primary and secondary stress.
Main article: Bengali consonant clusters
Native Bengali words do not allow initial consonant clusters; the
maximum syllabic structure is CVC (i.e. one vowel flanked by a
consonant on each side). Many speakers of Bengali restrict their
phonology to this pattern, even when using
Sanskrit or English
borrowings, such as গেরাম geram (CV.CVC) for গ্রাম
gram (CCVC) "village" or ইস্কুল iskul (VC.CVC) for
স্কুল skul (CCVC) "school".
Bengali alphabet and Bengali Braille
An example of handwritten Bengali. Part of a poem written in Bengali
(and with its English translation below each Bengali paragraph) by
Rabindranath Tagore in 1926 in Hungary.
Bengali script is an abugida, a script with letters for
consonants, diacritics for vowels, and in which an inherent vowel (অ
ô) is assumed for consonants if no vowel is marked. The Bengali
alphabet is used throughout
Bangladesh and eastern
India (Assam, West
Bengal, Tripura). The
Bengali alphabet is believed to have evolved
from a modified Brahmic script around 1000 CE (or 10th – 11th
century). Note that despite
Bangladesh being majority Muslim, it
Bengali alphabet rather than an Arabic-based one like the
Shahmukhi script used in Pakistan.
Bengali script is a cursive script with eleven graphemes or signs
denoting nine vowels and two diphthongs, and thirty-nine graphemes
representing consonants and other modifiers. There are no distinct
upper and lower case letter forms. The letters run from left to right
and spaces are used to separate orthographic words.
Bengali script has
a distinctive horizontal line running along the tops of the graphemes
that links them together called মাত্রা matra.
Bengali script is an abugida, its consonant graphemes
usually do not represent phonetic segments, but carry an "inherent"
vowel and thus are syllabic in nature. The inherent vowel is usually a
back vowel, either [ɔ] as in মত [mɔt̪] "opinion" or [o], as in
মন [mon] "mind", with variants like the more open [ɒ]. To
emphatically represent a consonant sound without any inherent vowel
attached to it, a special diacritic, called the hôsôntô (্), may
be added below the basic consonant grapheme (as in ম্ [m]). This
diacritic, however, is not common, and is chiefly employed as a guide
to pronunciation. The abugida nature of Bengali consonant graphemes is
not consistent, however. Often, syllable-final consonant graphemes,
though not marked by a hôsôntô, may carry no inherent vowel sound
(as in the final ন in মন [mon] or the medial ম in
A consonant sound followed by some vowel sound other than the inherent
[ɔ] is orthographically realized by using a variety of vowel
allographs above, below, before, after, or around the consonant sign,
thus forming the ubiquitous consonant-vowel typographic ligatures.
These allographs, called কার kar, are diacritical vowel forms
and cannot stand on their own. For example, the graph মি [mi]
represents the consonant [m] followed by the vowel [i], where [i] is
represented as the diacritical allographি (called ই-কার
i-kar) and is placed before the default consonant sign. Similarly, the
graphs মা [ma], মী [mi], মু [mu], মূ [mu], মৃ
[mri], মে [me~mæ], মৈ [moj], মো [mo] and মৌ [mow]
represent the same consonant ম combined with seven other vowels and
two diphthongs. In these consonant-vowel ligatures, the so-called
"inherent" vowel [ɔ] is first expunged from the consonant before
adding the vowel, but this intermediate expulsion of the inherent
vowel is not indicated in any visual manner on the basic consonant
sign ম [mɔ].
The vowel graphemes in Bengali can take two forms: the independent
form found in the basic inventory of the script and the dependent,
abridged, allograph form (as discussed above). To represent a vowel in
isolation from any preceding or following consonant, the independent
form of the vowel is used. For example, in মই [moj] "ladder" and
in ইলিশ [iliɕ] "Hilsa fish", the independent form of the
vowel ই is used (cf. the dependent formি). A vowel at the
beginning of a word is always realized using its independent form.
In addition to the inherent-vowel-suppressing hôsôntô, three more
diacritics are commonly used in Bengali. These are the superposed
chôndrôbindu (ঁ), denoting a suprasegmental for nasalization of
vowels (as in চাঁদ [tɕãd] "moon"), the postposed ônusbar
(ং) indicating the velar nasal [ŋ] (as in বাংলা [baŋla]
"Bengali") and the postposed bisôrgô (ঃ) indicating the voiceless
glottal fricative [h] (as in উঃ! [uh] "ouch!") or the gemination
of the following consonant (as in দুঃখ [dukʰːɔ] "sorrow").
Bengali consonant clusters
Bengali consonant clusters (যুক্তব্যঞ্জন
juktôbênjôn) are usually realized as ligatures, where the consonant
which comes first is put on top of or to the left of the one that
immediately follows. In these ligatures, the shapes of the constituent
consonant signs are often contracted and sometimes even distorted
beyond recognition. In the Bengali writing system, there are nearly
285 such ligatures denoting consonant clusters. Although there exist a
few visual formulas to construct some of these ligatures, many of them
have to be learned by rote. Recently, in a bid to lessen this burden
on young learners, efforts have been made by educational institutions
in the two main Bengali-speaking regions (
West Bengal and Bangladesh)
to address the opaque nature of many consonant clusters, and as a
result, modern Bengali textbooks are beginning to contain more and
more "transparent" graphical forms of consonant clusters, in which the
constituent consonants of a cluster are readily apparent from the
graphical form. However, since this change is not as widespread and is
not being followed as uniformly in the rest of the Bengali printed
literature, today's Bengali-learning children will possibly have to
learn to recognize both the new "transparent" and the old "opaque"
forms, which ultimately amounts to an increase in learning burden.
Bengali punctuation marks, apart from the downstroke । daṛi –
the Bengali equivalent of a full stop – have been adopted from
western scripts and their usage is similar.
Unlike in western scripts (Latin, Cyrillic, etc.) where the
letter-forms stand on an invisible baseline, the Bengali letter-forms
instead hang from a visible horizontal left-to-right headstroke called
মাত্রা matra. The presence and absence of this matra can
be important. For example, the letter ত tô and the numeral ৩ "3"
are distinguishable only by the presence or absence of the matra, as
is the case between the consonant cluster ত্র trô and the
independent vowel এ e. The letter-forms also employ the concepts of
letter-width and letter-height (the vertical space between the visible
matra and an invisible baseline).
There is yet to be a uniform standard collating sequence (sorting
order of graphemes to be used in dictionaries, indices, computer
sorting programs, etc.) of Bengali graphemes. Experts in both
India are currently working towards a common solution
for this problem.
Bengali script in general has a comparatively shallow orthography,
i.e., in most cases there is a one-to-one correspondence between the
sounds (phonemes) and the letters (graphemes) of Bengali. But
grapheme-phoneme inconsistencies do occur in certain cases.
One kind of inconsistency is due to the presence of several letters in
the script for the same sound. In spite of some modifications in the
19th century, the Bengali spelling system continues to be based on the
one used for Sanskrit, and thus does not take into account some
sound mergers that have occurred in the spoken language. For example,
there are three letters (শ, ষ, and স) for the voiceless
alveolo-palatal sibilant [ɕɔ], although the letter স retains the
voiceless alveolar sibilant [sɔ] sound when used in certain consonant
conjuncts as in স্খলন [skʰɔlɔn] "fall",
স্পন্দন [spɔndɔn] "beat", etc. The letter ষ also
retains the voiceless retroflex sibilant [ʂɔ] sound when used in
certain consonant conjuncts as in কষ্ট [kɔʂʈɔ]
"suffering", গোষ্ঠী [ɡoʂʈʰi] "clan", etc. Similarly,
there are two letters (জ and য) for the voiced alveolo-palatal
affricate [dʑɔ]. Moreover, what was once pronounced and written as a
retroflex nasal ণ [ɳɔ] is now pronounced as an alveolar [nɔ] when
in conversation (the difference is seen heard when reading) (unless
conjoined with another retroflex consonant such as ট, ঠ, ড and
ঢ), although the spelling does not reflect this change. The
near-open front unrounded vowel [æ] is orthographically realized by
multiple means, as seen in the following examples: এত [æt̪ɔ]
"so much", এ্যাকাডেমী [ækademi] "academy",
অ্যামিবা [æmiba] "amoeba", দেখা [d̪ækʰa]
"to see", ব্যস্ত [bæst̪ɔ] "busy", ব্যাকরণ
Another kind of inconsistency is concerned with the incomplete
coverage of phonological information in the script. The inherent vowel
attached to every consonant can be either [ɔ] or [o] depending on
vowel harmony (স্বরসঙ্গতি) with the preceding or
following vowel or on the context, but this phonological information
is not captured by the script, creating ambiguity for the reader.
Furthermore, the inherent vowel is often not pronounced at the end of
a syllable, as in কম [kɔm] "less", but this omission is not
generally reflected in the script, making it difficult for the new
Many consonant clusters have different sounds than their constituent
consonants. For example, the combination of the consonants ক্ [k]
and ষ [ʂɔ] is graphically realized as ক্ষ and is pronounced
[kkʰɔ] (as in রুক্ষ [rukkʰɔ] "rugged") or [kkʰo] (as in
ক্ষতি [kkʰot̪i] "loss") or even [kkʰɔ] (as in
ক্ষমতা [kkʰɔmɔt̪a] "power"), depending on the position
of the cluster in a word. The Bengali writing system is, therefore,
not always a true guide to pronunciation.
The script used for Bengali, Assamese and other languages is known as
Bengali-Assamese or Eastern Nagari script. The script is known as the
Bengali alphabet for Bengali and its dialects and the Assamese
Assamese language with some minor variations. Other
related languages in the nearby region also make use of the Bengali
alphabet like the
Meitei language in the Indian state of Manipur,
Meitei language has been written in the
Bengali alphabet for
centuries, though the
Meitei script has been promoted in recent times.
Main article: Romanisation of Bengali
There are various ways of Romanisation systems of Bengali created in
recent years which have failed to represent the true Bengali phonetic
Bengali alphabet has often been included with the group of
Brahmic scripts for romanisation where the true phonetic value of
Bengali is never represented. Some of them are the International
Transliteration or IAST system (based on
diacritics), "Indian languages Transliteration" or
upper case alphabets suited for
ASCII keyboards), and the National
In the context of Bengali romanisation, it is important to distinguish
transliteration from transcription.
orthographically accurate (i.e. the original spelling can be
recovered), whereas transcription is phonetically accurate (the
pronunciation can be reproduced).
Although it might be desirable to use a transliteration scheme where
the original Bengali orthography is recoverable from the Latin text,
Bengali words are currently Romanized on using a phonemic
transcription, where the true phonetic pronunciation of Bengali is
represented with no reference to how it is written.
Main article: Bengali grammar
Bengali nouns are not assigned gender, which leads to minimal changing
of adjectives (inflection). However, nouns and pronouns are moderately
declined (altered depending on their function in a sentence) into four
cases while verbs are heavily conjugated, and the verbs do not change
form depending on the gender of the nouns.
As a head-final language, Bengali follows subject–object–verb word
order, although variations to this theme are common. Bengali makes
use of postpositions, as opposed to the prepositions used in English
and other European languages. Determiners follow the noun, while
numerals, adjectives, and possessors precede the noun.
Yes-no questions do not require any change to the basic word order;
instead, the low (L) tone of the final syllable in the utterance is
replaced with a falling (HL) tone. Additionally, optional particles
(e.g. কি -ki, না -na, etc.) are often encliticized onto the
first or last word of a yes-no question.
Wh-questions are formed by fronting the wh-word to focus position,
which is typically the first or second word in the utterance.
Nouns and pronouns are inflected for case, including nominative,
objective, genitive (possessive), and locative. The case marking
pattern for each noun being inflected depends on the noun's degree of
animacy. When a definite article such as -টা -ṭa (singular) or
-গুলা -gula (plural) is added, as in the tables below, nouns
are also inflected for number.
Singular noun inflection
on/in the shoe
Plural noun inflection
on/in the shoes
When counted, nouns take one of a small set of measure words. Similar
to Japanese, the nouns in Bengali cannot be counted by adding the
numeral directly adjacent to the noun. The noun's measure word (MW)
must be used between the numeral and the noun. Most nouns take the
generic measure word -টা -ṭa, though other measure words
indicate semantic classes (e.g. -জন -jôn for humans). There is
also the classifier -khana, and its diminutive form -khani, which only
attach to nouns which are flat, long, square, or thin. These are the
least common of the classifiers. 
How many-MW pillow
How many pillows
Four or five teachers
Measuring nouns in Bengali without their corresponding measure words
(e.g. আট বিড়াল aṭ biṛal instead of আটটা
বিড়াল aṭ-ṭa biṛal "eight cats") would typically be
considered ungrammatical. However, when the semantic class of the noun
is understood from the measure word, the noun is often omitted and
only the measure word is used, e.g. শুধু একজন
থাকবে। Shudhu êk-jôn thakbe. (lit. "Only one-MW will
remain.") would be understood to mean "Only one person will remain.",
given the semantic class implicit in -জন -jôn.
In this sense, all nouns in Bengali, unlike most other Indo-European
languages, are similar to mass nouns.
There are two classes of verbs: finite and non-finite. Non-finite
verbs have no inflection for tense or person, while finite verbs are
fully inflected for person (first, second, third), tense (present,
past, future), aspect (simple, perfect, progressive), and honor
(intimate, familiar, and formal), but not for number. Conditional,
imperative, and other special inflections for mood can replace the
tense and aspect suffixes. The number of inflections on many verb
roots can total more than 200.
Inflectional suffixes in the morphology of Bengali vary from region to
region, along with minor differences in syntax.
Bengali differs from most Indo-Aryan Languages in the zero copula,
where the copula or connective be is often missing in the present
tense. Thus, "he is a teacher" is সে শিক্ষক se
shikkhôk, (literally "he teacher"). In this respect, Bengali is
similar to Russian and Hungarian. Romani grammar is also the closest
to Bengali grammar.
Sources of modern literary Bengali words
8% indigenous and foreign loans
Main article: Bengali vocabulary
Bengali has as many as 100,000 separate words, of which 50,000 are
considered Tadbhavas, 21,100 are Tatsamas and the remainder loanwords
from Austroasiatic and other foreign languages.
However, these figures do not take into account the large proportion
of archaic or highly technical words, rarely used. Furthermore,
different dialects use more Persian and
Arabic vocabulary especially
in different areas of
Bangladesh and Muslim majority areas of West
Bengal also Hindus use more
Sanskrit vocabulary than Muslims and while
standard Bengali is based on the Nadia dialect of spoken in the Hindu
majority states of West Bengal, about 90% of
approx 148 million Muslim) and 27% of
West Bengal and 10%
Assam (Together 36 million Muslims) are Muslim and speak a more
persio-arabised version of Bengali instead of the more Sanskrit
influenced Standard Nadia dialect. The productive vocabulary used in
modern literary works, in fact, is made up mostly (67%) of tadbhavas,
while tatsamas comprise only 25% of the total. Loanwords from
non-Indic languages comprise the remaining 8% of the vocabulary used
in modern Bengali literature.
Because of centuries of contact with Europeans, Turkic peoples, and
Bengali language has absorbed numerous words from
foreign languages, often totally integrating these borrowings into the
The most common borrowings from foreign languages come from three
different kinds of contact. After close contact with several
indigenous Austroasiatic languages, and later the
Mughal invasion whose court language was Persian, numerous Chagatai,
Arabic, and Persian words were absorbed into the lexicon.
Later, East Asian travelers and lately European colonialism brought
words from Portuguese, French, Dutch, and most significantly English
during the colonial period.
The following is a sample text in Bengali of Article 1 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Bengali in the Bengali alphabet
ধারা ১: সমস্ত মানুষ
স্বাধীনভাবে সমান মর্যাদা
এবং অধিকার নিয়ে
জন্মগ্রহণ করে। তাঁদের
বিবেক এবং বুদ্ধি আছে;
সুতরাং সকলেরই একে অপরের
মনোভাব নিয়ে আচরণ করা
Bengali in phonetic Romanization
Dhara êk: Sômôstô manush shadhinbhabe sôman môrjada ebông
ôdhikar niye jônmôgrôhôn kôre. Tãder bibek ebông buddhi achhe;
sutôrang sôkôleri êke ôpôrer prôti bhratrittôsulôbh mônobhab
niye achôrôn kôra uchit.
Bengali in the International Phonetic Alphabet
d̪ʱara æk ʃɔmɔst̪ɔ manuʃ ʃad̪ʱinbʱabe ʃɔman
mɔrdʒad̪a ebɔŋ ɔd̪ʱikar nie̯e dʒɔnmɔɡrɔhɔn kɔre
t̪ãd̪er bibek ebɔŋ budd̪ʱːi atʃʰe sut̪ɔraŋ sɔkɔleri
æke ɔpɔrer prɔt̪i bʱrat̪rit̪ːɔsulɔbʱ mɔnobʱab nie̯e
atʃɔrɔn kɔra utʃit̪
Clause 1: All human free-manner-in equal dignity and right taken
birth-take do. Their reason and intelligence exist; therefore
everyone-indeed one another's towards brotherhood-ly attitude taken
conduct do should.
Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and
rights. They possess conscience and reason. Therefore, everyone should
act in a spirit of brotherhood towards each other.
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