Introduction

Bengali or Bangla (বাংলা) is an Indo-Aryan language of the eastern Indian subcontinent, evolved from the Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit languages. Bengali is native to the Indian state of West Bengal and the country, Bangladesh. There are nearly 230 million total speakers of Bangla according to a 2007 census, making it the sixth most used language in the world (after Chinese (Mandarin), Spanish, English, Arabic and Hindi).

Bangla is the official language of the Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura and of Bangladesh. The national anthems of both India and Bangladesh were written by the Bengali Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

Writing System

The Bengali writing system is not a purely alphabetic script such as the Latin script. Rather, it is an "abugida" called the Bengali script, which is believed to have evolved from a modified Brahmic script around 1000 CE and is similar to the Devanagari abugida used for Sanskrit and many modern Indic languages such as Hindi.

The Bengali script is a cursive script with consonants and vowels. There is no concept of capitalization in Bengali. The letters run from left to right on a horizontal line, and spaces are used to separate words.

Every consonant sign has the vowel or the vowel [o] "embedded" or "inherent" in it. A consonant sound followed by some other vowel sound is realized by using a variety of vowel "allographs" above, below, before, after, or around the consonant sign, thus forming the ubiquitous consonant-vowel ligature. These allographs, called "kars", are dependent 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 allograph ি (called i-kar) and is placed before the default consonant sign. Similarly, the graphs মা [ma], মী [mI], মু [mu], মূ [mU], মৃ [mrri], মে [me], মৈ [mOI], মো [mO] and মৌ [mOU] represent the same consonant combined with other vowels.

Three other commonly used diacritics in the Bengali are

The vowel signs 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 [moi] "ladder" and in ইলিশ [ilish] "Hilsa fish", the independent form of the vowelis used (rather than the dependent form ি ). A vowel at the beginning of a word is always realized using its independent form.

The Bengali consonant clusters (যুক্তব্যঞ্জন juktobyonjon in Bengali) are usually realized as consonant ligatures (যুক্তাক্ষর juktakkhor), 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 Bengali writing system, there are nearly 285 such ligatures denoting consonant clusters.

Bengali punctuation marks, apart from the dari (|), the Bengali equivalent of a period or full stop, have been adopted from western scripts and their usage is similar.

Whereas in western scripts (Latin, Cyrillic, etc.) the letter-forms stand on an invisible baseline, the Bengali letter-forms hang from a visible horizontal headstroke called the "matra". The presence and absence of this matra can be important. For example, the letter[t] and the numeral [3] are distinguishable only by the presence or absence of the matra, as is the case between the consonant cluster ত্র [t+r=tr] and the independent vowel [e].

In spite of some modifications in the nineteenth 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,

Grammar

Bengali words can be classified into nouns, pronouns, verbs. etc as in English. Bengali is a Head-Final language and 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.

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 [-Ta] (singular) or -গুলো[-gulO] (plural) is added, nouns are also inflected for number.

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.

Sample Text in Bangla

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
English:
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.
Bangla:
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।
Phonetic scheme:
somosto manuSh swadhInobhabe soman morJada ebong odhikar niYe jonmogrohoN kore. tan^der bibek ebong buddhi achhe; sutorang sokoleroi eke oporer proti bhratrritwosulobh monObhab niye achoroN kora uchit^.