Bengali is the main language of West Bengal, which is the mother tongue of a majority of the people of the state. It is the official language of West Bengal. Nepali and Bhutiya are also spoken in West Bengal, but mainly in the district of Darjeeling. Kolkata, which is a melting pot of several cultures, also communicates in Hindi and English. In schools of West Bengal, the medium of instruction is generally either Bengali or English. However, Hindi and Urdu are also being used in some cases.
The Bengali language has been derived from Magadhi Prakrit, Pali and Sanskrit. However, besides these three, Bengali has been enriched through borrowing words from several other languages such as Persian, Hindi, Urdu, English, Portuguese, Greek, Arabic, Dutch, Turkish, French, Japanese, Malayan and Burmese among others. Bengali is a very sweet language with a rich body of literature, whose origin dates back to the tenth century. Bengali also known by its endonym Bangla is an Indo-Aryan language. and the official language of several northeastern states of the Republic of India, including West Bengal, Tripura, Assam (Barak Valley) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. With over 210 million speakers, Bengali is the seventh most spoken native language in the world.
Bengali exhibits diglossia, though largely contested notion as some scholars proposed triglossia or even n-glossia or heteroglossia between the written and spoken forms of the language. Two styles of writing, involving somewhat different vocabularies and syntax, have emerged:
Shadhu-bhasha was the written language, with longer verb inflections and more of a Pali and Sanskrit-derived Tatsama vocabulary. Songs such as India’s national anthem 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.
Cholitobhasha 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 writings of 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.
NEPALI : Nepali is prominent language of the Gorkhas of north Bengal (Darjeeling) and the Nepali language has played an important role in the scheme of things . In 2011, CM Mamata Banerjee had included Nepali as one of the six “second official” languages of the state. She also included Nepali as one of the languages for answering question papers in the examinations by the Public Service Commission .
BHUTIYA: Bhutiya is spoken in northern West Bengal, especially in the towns of Kalimpong and Darjeeling.
Dielects of Bengali language
Dialectal differences in Bengali manifest themselves in three forms: standardised dialect vs. regional dialect, literary language vs. colloquial language and lexical (vocabulary) variations. The name of the dialects generally originates from the district where the language is spoken.
While the standard form of the language does not show much variation across the Bengali-speaking areas of South Asia, regional variation in spoken Bengali constitutes a dialect continuum. Mostly speech varies across distances of just few miles and takes distinct forms among the religious communities. Apart from the present dialects, there are a few more which have disappeared. For example, ‘Bikramapuri’, Sātagāiyã’ (this is the name used in East Bengal for the dialect of South-western Rarh region).
West Central dialects
These dialect are mostly spoken in and around the Bhagirathi River basin, in West Central Bengal. The standard form of the colloquial language (Choltibhasha) has developed out of the Nadia dialect.