Bengali/Dialects

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Dialect (উপভাষা)[edit]

A dialect (উপভাষা; IPA : /upɔbʰasa/) is one of the different spoken forms of a language used by a specific group of peoples speaking the language. A dialect originates from different reasons, including :

  • The geographical relief :

Physical barriers like mountains or rivers that seclude a specific group of speakers of the language give rise to phonetic and grammatical differences among the group and the majority of speakers in that language, which in turn becomes a dialect. This happens because the separating barriers divide the specific language group into minor groups of speakers, which helps in the genesis of the dialect.

  • Population :

Population of the language group is another deciding factor. If the population is minor, the emergence of a dialect is less likely, because it will be more hard for the speech defects to reside long enough. The reason behind this is that the phonetic and morphological defects of the language will get corrected automatically when the speakers will come into contact with people who speak the language grammatically.

These are the most prominent reasons behind the origin of a new dialect.

Dialects of Bengali[edit]

Bengali linguist Suniti Kumar Chatterji grouped Bengali into four principal dialects, Rarhi, Bôngali, Kamrupi and Bôrendri (রাঢ়ী, বঙ্গালী, কামরূপী ও বরেন্দ্রী; IPA : /raɽi/, /bɔnɡali/, /kamrupi/, /bɔrend̪ri/). Modern linguists consider Jharkhandi (ঝাড়খন্ডি, IPA : /jʱaɽkʰn̪d̪i/) a dialect in addition to the dialects mentioned above. Presently, there are numerous other dialects as well, which constitute a dialect continuum. A dialect continuum is a collection of dialects where a speaker of a dialect of one extreme boundary is unable or scarcely able to understand a dialect of another boundary. E.g., a speaker of the Jharkhandi dialect will not be able to understand the dialect spoken at the extreme east boundary of Bangladesh completely. But the speakers of both dialects will understand the standard dialect of Bengali, which is the dialect spoken in and around the Bhagirothi (ভাগিরথী, /bʱagirot̪ʰi/) River basin of Nadia in West Bengal. The standard dialect is the dialect used for literary and official purposes.

Basically, languages and dialects have little difference. A dialect with a large amount of difference with the others dialects can become a separate language in the future. For example, Bengali and Assamese (The language spoken in Assam state of India) were once dialects of a common language, Magadhi Prakrit. However, the differences between them became so much prominent that they became separate languages. We will first study here the five dialects mentioned above, then move to other important dialects.

Rarhi (রাঢ়ী)[edit]

Rarhi is the dialect spoken by Bengali speaking people of South-Western and Central part of the state of West Bengal, India. The standard colloquial dialect of Bengali also belongs to this dialect. This dialect is characterized by :

  • Extensive use of Obhishruti (অভিশ্রুতি, /obʱisrut̪i/). E.g. old Bengali Koriya (করিয়া, /koria/, meaning - having done) > Beng. Koira (কইরা, /koira/) > Beng. Kore (করে, /kore/).
  • The change of অ to ও, when অ is the first sound of a word where the অ is followed by ই(ি), ও(ো), ক্ষ or য. E.g. Ati (written অতি, means 'excess') is pronounced as Oti (ওতি, /ot̪i/).
  • Use of Vowel Harmony. E.g. Bilati (বিলাতি, /bilat̪i/, meaning - foreign) became Biliti (বিলিতি, /biliti/).

Obhishruti and Opinihiti[edit]

Obhishruti and Opinihiti (অপিনিহিতি, /opinihit̪i/) are two phonological phenomena that occur in spoken Bengali. Opinihiti refers to the phonological process in which a ই or উ is pronounced before it occurs in the word. Obhishruti is the sound change in which this shifted ই or উ becomes removed and changes the preceding vowel. Observe the example above : Koriya (করিয়া, /koria/) > Koira (কইরা, /koira/) > Kore (করে, /kore/). First Opinihiti changes Koriya to Koira (notice how the i changes position.), then Obhishruti changes Koira to Kore.

Bôngali[edit]

Bôngali is the dialect (more precisely, the group of dialects) spoken in the country of Bangladesh. Although each of these dialects has their own peculiarities, all of these numerous dialects share some common characteristics that we will study here. Firstly, Bôngali's most prominent phonological trait is the extensive use of Opinihiti, just like Rarhi uses Obhishruti. Bôngali itself has numerous sub-dialects. Some of them are at such a far end of the dialect continuum, like Sylheti, that they are almost not understandable by speakers of Bengali at the other end. Whether these dialects can be considered a separate language is still a matter of dispute.

Beyond Dialects[edit]

Dialects are not the only subgroups that a language can have. There are others, like sociolects which are the differences in the spoken language due to factors such as profession, richness and poverty, castism and many other differences in social status. Usually each profession has its own special vocabulary. So there is a difference in language as well. In Tamil, the difference of speech between a Brahmin (Iyengar) and a non-Brahmin (Mudaliyar) is much. An Ethnolect is spoken by a specific ethnic group and a Regional dialect is spoken in a specific region. Finally, an Idiolect is an individual's distinct use of a language. All these lects are linguistically called Varieties.