Bengali or Bangla is the native language of the ethno-cultural region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal. It is the sole official language of Bangladesh, and one of the 22 offical "scheduled" languages of India. It is also the state official language of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. With about 220 million native and over 250 million total speakers, Bengali is one of the most spoken languages, ranked sixth/seventh in the world. The national songs of both India and Bangladesh were composed in the Bengali language by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. It is the most commonly spoken language in India's third largest city, Kolkata and Bangladesh's largest city Dhaka. In 2010 UNESCO, on behalf of the United Nations officially declared Bangla as the sweetest language in the world.
The following is a sample text in Bengali of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (by the United Nations):
ধারা ১: সমস্ত মানুষ স্বাধীনভাবে সমান মর্যাদা এবং অধিকার নিয়ে জন্মগ্রহণ করে। তাঁদের বিবেক এবং বুদ্ধি আছে; সুতরাং সকলেরই একে অপরের প্রতি ভ্রাতৃত্বসুলভ মনোভাব নিয়ে আচরণ করা উচিৎ।
Dhara êk: Shômosto mãnush shãdhinbhãbe shômãn môrjãdã ebong odhikãr nie jônmogrohon kôre. Tãder bibek ebong buddhi ãchhe; shutorãng shôkoleri êke ôporer proti bhrãttrittoshulôbh mônobhãb nie ãchorôn kôrã uchit.
Clause 1: All human free-manner-in equal dignity and right taken birth-take do. Their reason and intelligence is; 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 are endowed with reason and conscience. Therefore, they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
The phonemic inventory of Bengali consists of 40 consonants and 11 vowels, which may be nasalized to change meaning. Vowel sounds can either be independent or hooked on to the consonant in the form of diacritics. Bengali vowels tend to be difficult to pronounce for a non-Bengali speaker.
The independent vowel is on the left, the diacritic (which is hooked on to the consonant) is on the right.
Aspirated consonants are pronounced with a puff of air.
Bengali is known for its wide variety of diphthongs, combinations of vowels occurring within the same syllable.
In standard jarif, 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 shô-ho-jo-gi-ta "cooperation", where the boldface represents primary and secondary stress.
Native Bengali (tôdbhôbo) 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 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 -ţa (singular) or -গুলা -gula (plural) is added nouns are also inflected for number. When counted, nouns take one of a small set of measure words. As in many East Asian languages (like Chinese, Japanese, Thai, etc.), 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 -ţa, though other measure words indicate semantic classes (e.g. -জন -jon for humans). Measuring nouns in Bengali without their corresponding measure words (e.g. আট বিড়াল aţ biŗal instead of আটটা বিড়াল aţ-ţa biŗal "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-jon thakbe. (lit. "Only one-MW will remain.") would be understood to mean "Only one person will remain.", given the semantic class implicit in -জন -jon.
In this sense, all nouns in Bengali, unlike most other Indo-European languages, are similar to mass nouns.
Verbs divide into two classes: 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 she shikkhôk, (literally "he teacher"). In this respect, Bengali is similar to Russian and Hungarian.
Bengali is the most influenced one of all the South Asian languages. It has as many as 100,000 separate words, of which 50,000 are considered tôtshômo (direct reborrowings from Sanskrit and Prakrit), 21,100 are tôdbhôbo (native words with Sanskrit cognates), and the rest being bideshi (foreign borrowings) and deshi (Austroasiatic borrowings) words.
However, these figures do not take into account the fact that a large proportion of these words are archaic or highly technical, minimizing their actual usage. The productive vocabulary used in modern literray works, in fact, is made up mostly (67%) of tôdbhôbo words, while tôtshômo only make up 25% of the total. Deshi and Bideshi words together make up the remaining 8% of the vocabulary used in modern Bengali literature.
Due to centuries of contact with Europeans, Mughals, Arabs, Turks, Persians, Afghans, and East Asians, Bengali has incorporated many words from foreign languages. The most common borrowings from foreign languages come from three different kinds of contact. Close contact with neighboring peoples facilitated the borrowing of words from Hindi, Assamese and several indigenous Austroasiatic languages (like Santali) of Bengal. After centuries of invasions from Persia and the Middle East, numerous Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Pashtun words were absorbed into Bengali. Portuguese, French, Dutch and English words were later additions during the colonial period.
Retroflex consonants are pronounced with the tip of the tongue flapping against the roof of the mouth.
Aspirated retroflex consonants
Aspirated retroflex consonants are pronounced with the tip of the tongue flapping against the roof of the mouth and a puff of air.
How are you?
(I'm) not fine.
What is your name?
My name is ______ .
Nice to meet you.
Excuse me. (getting attention)
Bhai/Dada (when addressing a man)
I love you
I like you
I'm (very) sorry.
Leave me alone.
Don't touch me!
I'll call the police.
That man has stolen my (jewellery).
I can't speak [name of language] (that well).
Do you speak English?
Is there someone here who speaks English?
I don't understand.
I need your help.
I lost my bag.
I lost my wallet.
I've been injured.
I need a doctor.
Can I use your phone?
Can you help me?
Where is the toilet?
Other Common Terms
To call a stranger(male)
To call a stranger(female)
Writing time and date
Agrohayon / Aghraan
Bus and train
How much is a ticket to _____ ?
One ticket to _____
Where does this train go?
Does this train/bus stop in _____?
When does the train/bus for _____ leave?
When will this train/bus arrive in _____?
How do I get to _____ ?
Where can I find (some)____
____sites to see?
Can you show me on the map?
Can you tell me the way to _____?
Towards the _____
Watch for the _____.
(on/to the) right
(on/to the) left
(on/to the) north
(on/to the) south
(on/to the) east
(on/to the) west
Turn around (___).
Keep going (___).
Do you have any rooms available?
Bharay ghar paowa jabe ki ? (...)
How much is a room for one person/two people?
Ek/Dui joner koto porbe ? (...)
Does the room come with...
Ghar'e ---- achhe ki? (...)
...bedsheets? (chaador acche ki?)
May I see the room first?
Age ghar'ta dekhe nite pari ki?
Do you have anything quieter?
Apnar kachhe kono shaanto/chupchaap jaayga achhe ki?
...bigger? (er cheye boro/ ektu boro)
...cleaner? (er cheye porishkaar / ektu porishkaar)
...cheaper? (er cheye shostaa /ektu shostaa)
OK, I'll take it.
OK, I'll take it. (Theek achhe eta-i nebo)
I will stay for _____ night(s).
I will stay for _____ night(s). (____raatri thakbo)
Can you suggest another hotel?
Can you suggest another hotel? (Onno kono hotel dekhiye din)
...lockers? (loker achhe ki?)
What time is breakfast/supper?
What time is breakfast/supper? (naasta/khabar-er shomoy ki?)
Please clean my room.
Please clean my room. (Ghar-ta porishkar kore deben.)
Can you wake me at _____?
Can you wake me at _____? (amay____tay deke dite parben ki?)
Taka : Poysha Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars?
American/australian/canadian dollar grohon/shikaar koren ki ?)
Do you accept British pounds?
British pound grohon/shikaar koren ki?
Do you accept credit cards?
Credit Kaard grohon/shikaar koren ki?
Can you change money for me?
Taka poribortton korte parben ki ?
Where can I get money changed?
Taka poribortton korte kothay parbo ?
Can you change a traveler's check for me?
traveler check poribortton korie deben ?
What is the exchange rate?
poribortton-er dar koto?
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
A.T.M.-ta kothāy/ kon jāygāy?
Eating and drinking
With an emphasis on fish, vegetables and lentils served with rice as a staple diet, Bengali cuisine is known for its subtle (yet sometimes fiery) flavours, and its huge spread of confectioneries and desserts. It also has the only traditionally developed multi-course tradition from the Indian subcontinent that is analogous in structure to the modern service à la russe style of French cuisine, with food served course-wise rather than all at once.
A table for one person/two people, (please).
Can I look at the menu, please?
Can I look in the kitchen?
Is there a local specialty?
I'm a vegetarian.
I don't eat pork.
I don't eat beef.
Can you make it "lite", please? (less oil/butter/lard)
I want a _____.
I want a dish containing _____.
jilepi, amriti, laddu, kalakand,
pitha/pithe, payesh, doi, chamcham,
ghee (clarified butter)
May I have some _____?
It was delicious.
Please clear the plates.
The bill/check, please.
May I have a glass/cup/bottle of _____?
soft drink (attn- in S. Asia this means a sherbet drink, not cola!)
Do you have this in my size?
How much is this?
That's too expensive.
Would you take _____?
I can't afford it.
I don't want it.
You're cheating me.
I'm not interested.
OK, I'll take it.
Can I have a bag?
Do you ship (overseas)?
...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen)
...an English-language book.
... an English-language magazine.
'...an English-language newspaper.
...an English-Bengali dictionary.
I want to rent a car.
gas (petrol) station
get out of the way
Bengali is written using the Bengali alphabet (Bengali: বাংলা হরফ Bangla hôrôf, Bengali: বাংলা লিপি Bangla lipi) and is the 6th most widely used writing system in the world. The script with minor variations is shared by Assamese and is the basis for the other languages like Meitei and Bishnupriya Manipuri. All these languages are spoken in the eastern region of South Asia. Historically, the script has also been used to write the Sanskrit language in the same region.
Bangali dialects include Eastern and Southeastern Bengali dialects: The Eastern dialects serve as the primary colloquial language of the Dhaka district. They do not have contrastive nasalized vowels or a distinction in approximant র /ɹ/ and flap ড়/ঢ় /ɽ/, pronouncing them all as র /ɹ/. This is also true of the Sylheti dialect, which has a lot in common with the Kamrupi dialect of Assam in particular, and is often considered a separate language. The Eastern dialects extend into Southeastern dialects, which include parts of Chittagong. The Chittagongian dialect has Tibeto-Burman influences.
South Bengal dialects
North Bengal dialects
This dialect is mainly spoken in the districts of North Bengal. These are the only dialects in Bangladesh that pronounce the letters চ, ছ, জ, and ঝ as affricates [tʃ], [tʃʰ], [dʒ], and [dʒʱ], respectively, and preserve the breathy-voiced stops in all parts of the word, much like Western dialects (including Standard Bengali). The dialects of Rangpur and Pabna do not have contrastive nasalized vowels.
Western Border dialects
This dialect is spoken in the area which is known as Manbhum.
The later two, along with Kharia Thar and Mal Paharia, are closely related to Western Bengali dialects, but are typically classified as separate languages. Similarly, Rajbangsi and Hajong are considered separate languages, although they are very similar to North Bengali dialects. There are many more minor dialects as well, including those spoken in the bordering districts of Purnea and Singhbhum and among the tribals of the eastern Bangladesh like the Hajong and the Chakma.