Bengali consonant clusters

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Consonant clusters in Bengali are very common word-initially due to a long history of borrowing from English and Sanskrit, two languages with a large cluster inventory. A smaller number of words with word-final clusters have also been borrowed from English, Urdu, and Persian. A handful of words from non-standard dialects of Bengali include native clusters.

Syllable-initial clusters[edit]

Native Bengali (তদ্ভব tôdbhôbo) words do not allow initial consonant clusters;[1] 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".

Sanskrit (তৎসম tôtshômo) words borrowed into Bengali, however, possess a wide range of clusters, expanding the maximum syllable structure to CCCVC. Some of these clusters, such as the mr in মৃত্যু mrittu "death" or the sp in স্পষ্ট spôshṭo "clear", have become extremely common, and can be considered legal consonant clusters in Bengali.

English and other foreign (বিদেশী bideshi) borrowings add even more cluster types into the Bengali inventory, further increasing the syllable capacity to CCCVCCCC, as commonly used loanwords such as ট্রেন ṭren "train" and গ্লাস glash "glass" are now even included in leading Bengali dictionaries.

Initial Clusters
Cluster Source language(s) Example(s) in
orthography
Example(s) in
transliteration
Translation
kr Sanskrit
English
কৃমি
ক্রিকেট
krimi
krikeṭ
worm
cricket (sport)
kl Sanskrit
English
ক্লান্তি
ক্লাস
klanti
klash
fatigue
class
khr Native coinage খ্রিস্টান khrishṭan Christian
gr Sanskrit
English
গ্রাম
গ্রিক
gram
grik
village
Greek
gl Sanskrit
English
গ্লানি
গ্লাস
glani
glash

glass
ṭr English ট্রেন ṭren train
ḍr English ড্রাইভার ḍraibhar driver
tr Sanskrit ত্রিশ trish thirty
thr English থ্রু thru through
dr Sanskrit দৃশ্য drishsho view
dhr Sanskrit ধ্রুবতারা dhrubotara North star
nr Sanskrit নৃতত্ত্ব nritôtto anthropology
pr Sanskrit
English
প্রশ্ন
প্রেশার
proshno
preshar
question
pressure
pl Sanskrit
English
প্লাবন
প্লেন
plabon
plen
flood
plane
fr English ফ্রান্স frans France
fl English ফ্লাইট flaiṭ flight
br Sanskrit
English
বৃষ্টি
ব্রাশ
brishṭi
brash
rain
brush
bl English ব্লাউজ blauj blouse
bhr Sanskrit ভ্রু bhru brow
mr Sanskrit মৃত্যু mrittu death
ml Sanskrit ম্লান mlan melancholy
sk Sanskrit
English
স্কন্ধ
স্কুল
skôndho
skul
shoulder
school
skr English স্ক্রু skru screw
skh Sanskrit স্খলন skhôlon slip
sṭ English স্টেশন sṭeshon station
sṭr English স্ট্রেট sṭreṭ straight
st Sanskrit স্তম্ভ stômbho tower
str Sanskrit স্ত্রী stri woman
sth Sanskrit স্থানীয় sthanio local
sn Sanskrit
English
স্নান
স্নো
snan
sno
bath
snow
sp Sanskrit
English
স্পষ্ট
স্পেশাল
spôshṭo
speshal
clear
special
spr Sanskrit
English
স্পৃহা
স্প্রিং
spriha
spring
desire
spring (coil)
sf Sanskrit স্ফূর্তি sfurti delight
sm English স্মার্ট smarṭ smart (good-looking)
sr Sanskrit শ্রমিক sromik laborer
sl Sanskrit
English
শ্লীলতা
স্লোগান
slilota
slogan

(protest) chant (<slogan)
hr Sanskrit হৃদয় hridôe heart
hl Sanskrit হ্লাদিনী hladini

Syllable-final clusters[edit]

Final consonant clusters are rare in Bengali.[2] Most final consonant clusters were borrowed into Bengali from English, as in লিফ্‌ট lifṭ "lift, elevator" and ব্যাংক bêngk "bank". However, final clusters do exist in some native Bengali words, although rarely in standard pronunciation. One example of a final cluster in a standard Bengali word would be গঞ্জ gônj, which is found in names of hundreds of cities and towns across Bengal, including নবাবগঞ্জ Nôbabgônj and মানিকগঞ্জ Manikgônj. Some nonstandard varieties of Bengali make use of final clusters quite often. For example, in some Purbo (eastern) dialects, final consonant clusters consisting of a nasal and its corresponding oral stop are common, as in চান্দ chand "moon". The Standard Bengali equivalent of chand would be চাঁদ chãd, with a nasalized vowel instead of the final cluster.

Final Clusters
Cluster Source language(s) Example(s) in
orthography
Example(s) in
transliteration
Translation
kṭ English
kt Persian/Urdu ওয়াক্ত oakt Muslim prayer time
kf Persian/Urdu ওয়াক্‌ফ oakf waqf
ksh Persian/Urdu
ks English ট্যাক্স ṭêks tax
ngk English ব্যাংক bêngk bank
nch English লঞ্চ lônch steamboat (<launch)
nj dialectal গঞ্জ gônj marketplace
nṭ English প্যান্ট pênṭ pants
nḍ English পাউন্ড paunḍ pound
nd dialectal চান্দ chand moon
ndh dialectal কান্ধ kandh shoulder
ns Persian/Urdu
English

চান্স

chans

chance
fṭ English লিফ্‌ট lifṭ elevator/lift
fs Persian/Urdu নাফ্‌স nafs self
mp English ল্যাম্প lêmp lamp
rk Persian/Urdu
English

পার্ক

park

park
rch English টর্চ ṭôrch torch
rj English লাঠি-চার্জ laṭhi-charj baton-charge
rṭ English শার্ট sharṭ shirt
rḍ English বোর্ড borḍ (administrative) board
rth English
rd Persian/Urdu ফর্দ fôrd inventory sheet
rn English হর্ণ hôrn (car) horn
rp English
rb English
rbh English নার্ভ narbh/narv nerve
rm English ফর্ম fôrm form
rl English আর্ল arl earl
rs English নার্স nars nurse
rsṭ English ফার্স্ট farsṭ first
rsh Persian/Urdu
lṭ English বেল্ট belṭ belt
sk English রিস্ক risk risk
sṭ English লাস্ট lasṭ last
st Persian/Urdu দোস্ত dost friend
sht Persian/Urdu গোশ্ত gosht meat

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ (Masica 1991, pp. 125)
  2. ^ (Masica 1991, pp. 126)

References[edit]

  • Masica, C (1991), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Cambridge Univ. Press