Bengali dialects

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A map of Bengal (and some districts of Assam and Jharkhand) which shows the dialects of the Bengali Language.[citation needed] (the name with *bold letter are considered as Bengali dialects by some people. Note that except Rarhi and Manbhumi other groups are not linguistically classified as Bengali dialects. Some also consider Sylheti and Chittagonian as separate languages.)

The dialects of the Bengali language (বাংলা উপভাষাসমূহ Bangla Upôbhaṣasômūhô) are part of the Eastern Indo-Aryan language group of the Indo-European language family widely spoken in the Bengal region of South Asia. Although the spoken dialects of Bengali are mutually intelligible with neighbouring dialects.

Bengali dialects can be thus classified along at least two dimensions: spoken vs. literary variations, and prestige vs. regional variations.


Suniti Kumar Chatterji and Sukumar Sen classified Bengali Dialects in 6 classes by their phonology & pronunciation.[1][2] They are:

1. Rarhi dialect: Rarhi is the basis of official Standard Bengali language. This dialect is spoken across much of Southern West Bengal, India. The regions where it is spoken include the whole of Presidency division (including the city of Kolkata and the Nadia district), the Southern half of Burdwan division and the district of Murshidabad.

2. Bangali dialect: Bangali is the most widely spoken dialect of Bengali language. It is spoken across the Khulna, Barisal, Dhaka, Mymensingh and Comilla Divisions of Bangladesh and the State of Tripura in India.

3. Varendri dialect: This variety is spoken in Malda division of India & Rajshahi division of Bangladesh (previously part of Varendra or Barind division). It is also spoken in some adjoining villages in Bihar bordering Malda, West Bengal.

4. Manbhumi dialect: Manbhumi is spoken in westernmost Bengali speaking regions which includes the whole of Medinipur division and the northern half of Burdwan division in West Bengal and the Bengali speaking regions of Santhal Pargana division and Kolhan division in Jharkhand state.

5. Rajbanshi dialect: This dialect is spoken in Rangpur division of Bangladesh & Jalpaiguri division of West Bengal, India and its nearby Bengali speaking areas in the bordering areas of Assam and Bihar.

6. Sundarbani dialect: Some linguists have also mentioned this.[3] Dialect of the Sundarbans region in the Satkhira District of Bangladesh and the North & South 24 Parganas districts of West Bengal don't share some common features with the neighboring Bangali & Rarhi dialects. So this dialect is classified as a unique dialect. This is also the southernmost dialect of Bengali.

In addition to the six above, there is also Sylheti, which is considered by some as a dialect while others consider it as a separate language due to the history of the Greater Sylhet region and the fact that the language has had its own script in the past as well as its own 4 dialects. Secondly, there is the Chittagonian language which also does not fit the other categories due to its being equally similar to both the Bengali language and the Rohingya language.

Spoken and literary variants[edit]

More than other Indic languages, Bengali exhibits strong diglossia between the formal, written language and the vernacular, spoken language. Two styles of writing, involving somewhat different vocabularies and syntax, have emerged :[4][5]

  1. Shadhubhasha (সাধুভাষা) is the written language with longer verb inflections and a more Sanskrit-derived (তৎসম tôtshôm) vocabulary (সাধু shadhu = 'chaste' or 'sage'; ভাষা bhasha = 'language'). Songs such as India's national anthem Jana Gana Mana (by Rabindranath Tagore) and national song Vande Mātaram (by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay) were composed in Shadhubhasha, but its use is on the wane in modern writing.
  2. Choltibhasha (চলতিভাষা ) or Cholitobhasha (চলিতভাষা), a written Bengali style that reflects a more colloquial idiom, is increasingly the standard for written Bengali (চলিত cholito = 'current' or 'running'). This form came into vogue towards the turn of the 19th century, in an orthography promoted in the writings of Peary Chand Mitra (Alaler ghare dulal, 1857),[6] Pramatha Chowdhury (Sabujpatra, 1914) and in the later writings of Rabindranath Tagore. It is modelled on the dialect spoken in the districts bordering the lower reaches of the Hooghly River, particularly the Shantipur region in Nadia district, West Bengal. This form of Bengali is sometimes called the "Nadia standard".[7]

Spoken Bengali exhibits far more variation than written Bengali. Formal spoken Bengali, including what is heard in news reports, speeches, announcements, and lectures, is modelled on Choltibhasha. This form of spoken Bengali stands alongside other spoken dialects, or Ancholik Bangla (আঞ্চলিক বাংলা) (i.e. 'regional Bengali'). The majority of Bengalis are able to communicate in more than one dialect – often, speakers are fluent in Choltibhasha, one or more Ancholik dialect, and one or more forms of Gramyo Bangla (গ্রাম্য বাংলা) (i.e. 'rural Bengali'), dialects specific to a village or town.

To a non-Bengali, these dialects may sound or look vastly different, but the differences are mostly in phonology and vocabulary, and not so much a grammatical one, one exception is the addition of grammatical gender in some eastern dialects. Many dialects share features with the so-called Shadhu Bhasha or "pure language", which was the written standard until the 19th century. Comparison of Bengali dialects gives us an idea about archaic forms of the language as well.

During standardisation of Bengali in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the cultural elite were mostly from the regions of Kolkata, Hooghly, Howrah, 24 Parganas and Nadia. What is accepted as the standard form today in both West Bengal and Bangladesh is based on the West-Central dialect. While the language has been standardised today through two centuries of education and media, variation is widespread, with many speakers familiar with or fluent in both their socio-geographical variety as well as the standard dialect used in the media.

Regional dialect differences[edit]

Dialectal differences in Bengali manifest themselves in three forms: standardised dialect vs. regional dialect, literary language vs. colloquial language and lexical (vocabulary) variations. The name of the dialects generally originates from the district where the language is spoken.

While the standard form of the language does not show much variation across the Bengali-speaking areas of South Asia, regional variation in spoken Bengali constitutes a dialect continuum. Mostly speech varies across distances of just a few miles and takes distinct forms among the religious communities. Apart from the present dialects, there are a few more which have disappeared. For example, 'Bikramapuri', Sātagāiyã' (this is the name used in East Bengal for the dialect of South-western Rarh region). The present dialects of Bengali are listed below with an example sentence meaning:

English translation: "A man had two sons." (M=male indicated i.e. A man had two sons, P= person indicated, without gender, i.e. A person had two sons)
Bengali Shadhubhasha: "æk bektir duiṭi putrô chhilô." (এক ব্যক্তির দুইটি পুত্র ছিল।) (P)

West Central dialects[edit]

These dialects are mostly spoken in and around the Bhagirathi River basin, in West Central Bengal. The standard form of the colloquial language (Choltibhasha) has developed out of the Nadia dialect.

Nadia/Choltibhasha Standard: æk jon loker duţi chhele chhilo. (M)
Kolkata: æk jon loker duţo chhele chhilo. (M)

Eastern Dialects[edit]

Manikganj: æk zoner duiđi saoal asilo. (P)
Mymensingh: æk zôner dui put asilo. (P)
Munshiganj (Bikrampur): æk jôner duiđa pola asilo. (P)
Comilla: æk bæđar/zôner dui put asilo. (M-bæđar/P-zôner)
Noakhali (Sandwip): egga mainsher duga hut/hola asilo.(P)
Noakhali (Feni): egga mainsher duga hut/hola asilo. (P)
Noakhali (Hatia): egga mainsher duga hut/hola asilo. (P)
Noakhali (Ramganj): egga mainsher duga hut/hola asilo. (P)
Chittagong: ugga mainshôr dugga fua asil. (P)
Sylhet: ex betar dugu fua aslo (M)
Moulvibazar ex betar duita fua asil (M)

South Bengal dialects[edit]

Chuadanga : æk jon lokir duiţo seile silo. (M)
Khulna: æk zon manshir dui soal silo. (P)
Jessore: æk zoner duđe soal sêlo. (P)
Barisal (Bakerganj): æk bedar dugga pola alhe. (P)
Faridpur: kero mansher dugga pola silo. (P)
Satkhira: æk loker duđi sabal selo.
Kushtia: æk mansher duđi seile silo.

North Bengal dialects[edit]

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 nasalised vowels.

Dinajpur: æk manusher dui chhaoa chhilô (P)
Pabna: kono mansher dui chhaoal chhilô. (P)
Bogra: æk jôn mansher dui chhara chhoul chhilô. (P)
Malda: æk jôn manuser duţa bêţa achhlô. (P)
Rangpur: æk zon mansher duikna bêţa asil. (P)
Rajshahi: æk loker duida bæta chhilo. (P)

Western Border dialects[edit]

This dialect is spoken in the area which is known as Manbhum.

Manbhumi: ek loker duţa beţa chhilô. (M)
East Medinipur: gote loker duita toka thilo. (P)

The latter 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 eastern Bangladesh like the Hajong and the Chakma.

Closely related languages[edit]

Assamese: manuh ezônôr duta putek asil.
Hajong: ek zôn manôlôg duida pôla thakibar.
Chakma: ek jônôtun diba poa el.

Phonological variations[edit]

There are marked dialectal differences between the speech of Bengalis living on the পশ্চিম Poshchim (western) side and পূর্ব Purbo (eastern) side of the Padma River.

Bengali dialects include Eastern and Southeastern Bengali dialects: The Eastern dialects serve as the primary colloquial language of the Dhaka district. In contrast to Western dialects where ট /ʈ/ and ড /ɖ/ are unvoiced and voiced retroflex stops respectively, most Eastern and Southeastern dialects pronounce them as apical alveolar /t̠/ and /d̠/, especially in less formal speech. These dialects also lack contrastive nasalised vowels or a distinction in approximant র /ɹ/, tap ড় /ɾ/ and flap ঢ় /ɽ/, pronouncing them mostly as /ɾ/, although some speakers may realise র /ɹ/ when occurring before a consonant or prosodic break. This is also true of the Sylheti language, 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.


In the dialects prevalent in much of eastern Bangladesh (Barisal, Chittagong, and Dhaka), many of the stops and affricates heard in Kolkata Bengali are pronounced as fricatives.

Poshchim Bengali (Western Bengali) palato-alveolar affricates চ [tʃ], ছ [tʃʰ], জ [dʒ], and ঝ [dʒʱ] correspond to Purbo Bengali (Eastern Bengali) চʻ [ts]~[tɕ], ছ় [s]~[tsʰ], জʻ [dz]~[z], and ঝ় [z]. A similar pronunciation is also found in Assamese, a related language across the border in India.

The aspirated velar stop খ [kʰ] and the aspirated labial stop ফ [pʰ] of Poshchim Bengali correspond to খ় [x]~[ʜ] in some and ফ় [ɸ]~[f] in many dialects of Purbo Bengali.

Many Purbo Bengali dialects share phonological features with Assamese, including the debuccalisation of শ [ʃ] to হ [h] or খ় [x].

Tibeto-Burman influence[edit]

The influence of Tibeto-Burman languages on the phonology of Purbo Bengali (Bangladesh) is seen through the lack of nasalised vowels, an alveolar articulation for the Retroflex stops[ʈ], ঠ [ʈʰ], ড [ɖ], and ঢ [ɖʱ], resembling the equivalent phonemes in languages such as Thai and Lao and the lack of distinction between র [ɹ] and ড়/ঢ় [ɽ]. Unlike most languages of the region, some Purbo Bengali dialects do not include the breathy voiced stops ঘ [ɡʱ], ঝ [dʑʱ], ঢ [ɖʱ], ধ [d̪ʱ], and ভ [bʱ]. Some variants of Bengali, particularly Chittagonian and Chakma Bengali, have contrastive tone; differences in the pitch of the speaker's voice can distinguish words. In dialects such as Hajong of northern Bangladesh, there is a distinction between and , the first corresponding exactly to its standard counterpart but the latter corresponding to the Japanese [ü͍] sound About this soundlisten . There is also a distinction between and in many northern Bangladeshi dialects. representing the [ɪ] sound whereas represents a [i].

Comparison Table[edit]

English Standard Bengali Khulnaiya Barishali Old Dhakaiya Faridpuri Varendri Mymensinghiya Rarhi Chittagonian Sylheti Rajbanshi
will eat (first person) khabo khabani khamuoni khamu khaum khæhibo khaimu khaibo haiyyum xaimu kham
Taka ţaka ţa(h)a ţaha ţæka taha ţæka ţæa ţaka ţĩa ţexa ţeka
Dhaka đhaka đaha đaha đhaka đhaha đhaka đhaka đhaka đhaha đaxa đhaka

Other Eastern Indo-Aryan languages[edit]

English Assamese Odia Kosli Rohingya
will eat (first person) kham khaibi Khayeman khai-yum
Taka tôka tônka tanka tia
Dhaka dhaka dhaka Dhaka Daha

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Indian Journal of Linguistics". 20. Bhasa Vidya Parishad. 2001: 79. Cite journal requires |journal= (help) NB Barendra refers to Varendri
  2. ^ বাংলা ভাষা ও উপভাষা, সুকুমার সেন, আনন্দ পাবলিশার্স[full citation needed]
  3. ^
  4. ^ Huq, Mohammad Daniul (2012). "Chalita Bhasa". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  5. ^ Huq, Mohammad Daniul (2012). "Sadhu Bhasa". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  6. ^ Huq, Mohammad Daniul (2012). "Alaler Gharer Dulal". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  7. ^ Morshed, Abul Kalam Manjoor (2012). "Dialect". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.


  • আহসান, সৈয়দ আলী (2000), বাংলা একাডেমী বাংলাদেশের আঞ্চলিক ভাষার অভিধান, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, ISBN 984-07-4038-5.
  • Haldar, Gopal (2000), Languages of India, National Book Trust, India, ISBN 81-237-2936-7.