|Please add Bengali script to this article, where needed.|
|Native to||Primarily spoken in the Sylhet region of Bangladesh, and the Indian districts of: Barak Valley, Silchar, Hailakandi, Karimganj and Tripura|
|Native speakers||10.7 million (2007)|
|Writing system||Sylheti Nagari, Bengali script|
Sylheti (Sylheti: ছিলটী/Bengali: সিলেটী) is an Indo-European language, primarily spoken in the Sylhet region of north east Bangladesh and Barak Valley region of south Assam. It has commonly been regarded as a dialect of Bengali, with which it shares a high proportion of vocabulary (Spratt and Spratt (1987) report 70% shared vocabulary, while Chalmers (1996) reports at least 80%).
Name of the language
Sylheti is now the commonest English spelling of the language name after the accepted British spelling of the Sylhet District, while the usual transliteration of the Standard Bengali spelling of the name is Sileti.
In the 19th century, the British tea-planters in the area referred to the Sylheti language as Sylhettia. In Assam, the language is still referred to as Srihattiya, the name used in ancient literature. The Sylheti language was written in the Syloti Nagri script, which is not widely known. Sylhet has a rich heritage of literature in the Syloti Nagri Script, (or just नागरी, Nāgrī, the name of its parent writing system) going back at least 200 years. The script includes 5 independent vowels, 5 dependent vowels attached to a consonant letter and 27 consonants. The Syloti Nagri alphasyllabary differs from the Bengali alphabets as it is a form of Kaithi, a script (or family of scripts) which belongs to the main group of North Indian scripts of Bihar. The writing system's main use was to record religious poetry, described as a rich language and easy to learn. In the 1860s, a Sylheti by the name of Moulvi Abdul Karim spent several years in Europe and learnt the printing trade. After returning home, he designed a woodblock type for the Syloti Nagri alphabet and founded the Islamia Press in Sylhet Town in about 1870. Other Sylheti presses were established in Sunamganj, Shillong and Calcutta. These presses fell out of use during the early 1970s. Since then the Syloti-Nagri alphabet has been used mainly by linguists and academics. During the 1971 Liberation War, when all Syloti Nagri printing presses were destroyed, the writing system came to a halt. After Bangladesh gained independence, the government of the newly formed Bangladesh mandated Bengali studies and the use of the Bengali alphabets as a curriculum to be taught at all levels of education. Efforts to establish Sylheti as a modern language were vigorously opposed by political and cultural forces allied to successive Bangladeshi governments.
Campaigns started to rise in London during the mid-1970s to mid-1980s to recognise Sylheti as a language on its own right. During the mid-1970s, when the first mother-tongue classes were established for Bangladeshis by a non-Sylheti, Nurul Islam, the classes were given in Bengali rather than the Sylheti dialect which triggered the campaign. During the 1980s, a recognition campaign for Sylheti took place in the area of Spitalfields, East End of London. One of the main organisation was the Bangladeshis' Educational Needs in Tower Hamlets (BENTH). However this organisation collapesed in 1985 and ended the pro-Sylheti campaign in the borough. Nonetheless Sylheti remained dominant and the domestic language within the hamlet. This fact is being recognised by Tower Hamlets Council in the provision of local services in the community.
Sylheti is the language of the Surma Valley region bordering what are today the nations of Bangladesh and India and spoken throughout Sylhet Division in Bangladesh (comprising the districts of Sylhet, Habiganj, Maulvi Bazar and Sunamganj). It is also spoken across the border in the Barak Valley region of Assam in India, in districts such as Cachar, Karimganj, and Hailakandi all located to the east from Sylhet.
Number of speakers
There are four major languages spoken in Sylhet and they are (i)Suddho Bangla(High Bengali), which is the administrative language and thus mainly spoken in academia and offices; (ii)Chalti Bengali(Standard), which is the language spoken by majority in Bangladesh; (iii) English, which is held in high esteem and is spoken by educated elite; and (iv)Sylheti, is spoken by almost all the peoples of Greater Sylhet (Surma Valley and Barak Valley).
In Syloti: "Ekh deshor gali arokh deshor buli" means "a phrase in one language mislead a phrase to another language". Or in Bengal: "Ek desher gali arek desher buli". For example:
"mucchi" in Bengali means I'm wiping
- "mutchi" in Syloti means I've urinated
- In Syloti I've wiped is pronounced fuschi.
"bhũk" in Bengali means starving
- "bhũk" in Syloti means hungry
- In Syloti starving is ufash
- In Bengali hungry is khida.
"ey" in Bengali means excuse me (for getting attention)
- "ei" in Syloti is an expression most informal (considered rude if no personal relation exists between the users)
- In Syloti excuse me (for getting attention) is pronounced e-re or o-go or o-ba.
"moho maya" in Bengali means love illusion
- "moho maea" in Syloti means love affection
"megh" in Bengali means cloud
- "megh" in Syloti means rain
- In Pali megh means both rain and cloud.
- In Syloti cloud is called badol or ashmani haz (decor of the sky).
- anar or ḍalim in Bengali means pomegranate fruit.
- anar in Syloti refers to the legendary slave girl named anar-koli meaning pomegranate-blossom.
"naṛa" in Bengali means to stir or to move
- "naṛa" in Syloti means to cheer:
1. Hip hip – Hooray!
2. Narae Takbeer – Allahu Akbar!
3. Joy Bangla!
- A waist drawstring acting as a belt is also called a nara.
- "naṛa" in Syloti means to cheer:
"torkari" in Bengali means curry.
- "torkari" in Syloti means vegetables.
"hē" in Bengali (pronounced as "heh") is an informal yes.
- "he? (pronounces as hē? or heh?) (rising tone) in Syloti means "what? err!" used informally.
"hēshē" in Bengali (pronounced as "heh-sheh") means laughter.
- "xēshē" (pronounced as heh-sheh) in Syloti means later.
- laughter is called "hashi" (pronounced as ah-shi) in Syloti.
- later in Bengali is called pore.
Below, are the grammar similarities or differences between the two languages; Bengali and Sylheti:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sylheti translation of the Universal Declaration...:
- Hoxol mainshor zonmo oe azad ar izzot o odikhar loia. Tarar hush ar gian-buddhi taxae zanu ex zon arox zonor loge ruhani bhaīitta bebohar taxe. (in Transcription, faithful to pronunciation, with x representing the Voiceless velar fricative often written as "kh")
- (Syloti word to word gloss) All humans' born happen free and dignity plus rights with. Their conscious and judgement-intelligence have ensure a person another person's with spiritual brotherhood conduct stay.
Bengali translation of the Universal Declaration...:
- Shômosto manush shadhinbhabe shôman môrjada ebong odhikar nie jônmogrohon kôre. Tãder bibek ebong buddhi ache; shutorang shôkoleri êke ôporer proti bhrattrittoshulôbh mônobhab nie acorôn kôra ucit. (in Transcription, faithful to pronunciation)
- (Bengali word-to-word gloss) 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.
Sylheti is distinguished by a wide range of fricative sounds, which correspond to aspirated stops in closely related languages such as Bengali; a lack of the breathy voiced stops seen in many other Indic languages; word-final stress; and a relatively large set of loanwords from Arabic, Persian, Bengali and Assamese. Sylheti is spoken by about 10 percent of Bangladeshis, but has affected the course of standard Bengali in the rest of the state.
A notable characteristic of spoken Sylheti is the correspondence of the /x/, pronounced between [k] and [h] from [x] like the "ch" in Scottish "Loch" or the "j" in Latin American Spanish "Jalapeño", to the [ʃ], or "sh", of Bengali, e.g.
|Coroṇ sporsho||Xodom boci||Khodom bosi||Touch the feet (A pre-Islamic welcome/farewell ritual)|
|Dhaka nogor-bhashī||Dhaxaia||Dhakhaia||People of Dhaka region|
|Ek lōk||Ex manush||Ekh manush||A person|
|Ek jon||Ex zon||Ekh zon||Someone|
|Ek Puruṣh||Ex Beṭa||Ekh Beṭa||A man|
|Kiser: kīser||Xihor||Kihor||What (implying in no respect)|
|Konya; meye||Xonia; Zi||Khonia; Zi||Daughter|
|Manob Jatiyo||Manshor zat||Manshor zat||Human-kind|
|Oshomīya||Axomia||Akhomia||People of Assam (Assamese)|
|Onguli; ongul||Anguil||Anguil||Finger; toe|
|Osur; Osuro||Axura; Axuria||Ahura; Ahuria||People of Assyria (Assyrian)|
|Pakira||Faikia||Faikia||Plural of bird; All kinds of Bird species|
|Paki||Phaxi||Faki||A (singular) bird|
|Por||Fore; bade||Fore; bade||Later|
|Sara (kon)||Xara (buil)||Hara (buil)||Every (time)|
|Shāto Beel||Hat Bila||Hat Bila||Seven wetlands|
|Shāt Kora||Xat Xora||Hat Khora||Citrus macroptera fruit|
|Shāt bar||Xat-bar||Hat-bar||Seven-times (Sylheti term for lots of time)|
|Sileṭī (স)||Ciloṭia (ছ)||Siloṭia||People of Sylhet|
|Su bhagyo||Allahr Hāola||Allaar Haola||Good luck (Sylheti: God's Authority)|
|Shu tripti; bhalo ruchi||Taza bhux; Bhalaṭike xawka||Taza bhukh; Bhalaṭike khawka||Bon appétit|
|Shamī||Zamai; beṭa||Zamai; beṭa||Husband|
|Shikśa kora||Xixia newa||Hikia newa||Learn|
|Shuṭki||Xuṭki; xukṭi||Huṭki: hukṭi||Sundried Fish|
|Apnar nam ki?||Afnar nam kita?||Afnar nam Kita?||What's your name?|
|Daktar asar purbe rugi mara gelo||Daxtor awar ageu bemari mori gese||Dakhtor awar ageu bemari mori gese||Before the doctor came, the patient had died|
|Bohu din dekhi ni||Oto buile na dexlam||Oto buile na dekhlam||Long time no see|
|Bhalo Achhen?||Bala acoen ni?||Bala asoin ni?||How are you?|
|Mangshor torokariṭa ami onek bhalopeyechi||Ami ghustor salon bhalafaici||Ami gustor salon balafaisi||I loved the meat curry|
|Mangshor torokariṭa amar bhalō legeche||Ghustor salonṭa amar bhala lagce||Gustor salonṭa amar bala lagse||I liked the meat curry|
|Shilchor kon dike pore?||Xilcor xun baidi phorce?||Hilsor khun baidi forse?||Which way to Silchar?|
|Shōwchagar kōthay?||Xocailoe (ba leftin) xun xano?||Hosailoe ba liftin khun khano?||Where is the toilet?|
|Eiṭa ki?||Oxṭa xita?||Okṭa kita?||What is this?|
|Oṭa ki?||Outa xita?||Outa kita?||What are they?|
- Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
- Grierson, G.A. 1903. Linguistic Survey of India, Vol. 5, Part I. Calcutta.
- James Lloyd-Williams & Sue Lloyd-Williams (Sylheti Translation and Research/STAR); Peter Constable (SIL International) Date: 2002-11-01
- Syloti Nagri alphabet
- Sylheti unicode chart
- Sylheti Literature
- Sylheti Literature
- Sylheti Alphabets
- Anne J. Kershen (2005). Strangers, Aliens and Asians: Huguenots, Jews and Bangladeshis in Spitalfields, 1660–2000. Routledge. page. 147
- Anne J. Kershen (2005). Strangers, Aliens and Asians: Huguenots, Jews and Bangladeshis in Spitalfields, 1660–2000. Routledge. pages. 148–150
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Sylheti phrasebook.|
Sylheti phrasebook travel guide from Wikivoyage