Bengali language

"Bangla" in Bengali script
Pronunciation[ˈbaŋla] (About this soundlisten)
Native toBangladesh and India
Native speakers
260 million (2011 census – 2015)[1]
Early forms
  • Old Bengali
Bengali alphabet
Bengali Braille
Bengali signed forms[2]
Official status
Official language in
 India (in West Bengal, Tripura and Assam's Barak Valley).
Regulated byBangla Academy
Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi
Language codes
ISO 639-3ben
Bengalispeaking region.png
Bengali-speaking region of South Asia
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Part of a series on
Montage of Bengal.jpg
A series of picture stories narrated in Bengali

Bengali (i/),[4] also known by its endonym Bangla (UK: ə/; বাংলা), is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken by the Bengalis in South Asia. It is the official and most widely spoken language of Bangladesh and second most widely spoken of the 22 scheduled languages of India, behind Hindi. In 2015, 160 million speakers were reported for Bangladesh,[1] and the 2011 Indian census counted another 100 million.[5]

The official and de facto national language of Bangladesh is Modern Standard Bengali (Literary Bengali).[6][7][8][9] It serves as the lingua franca of the nation, with 98% of Bangladeshis being fluent in Bengali (including dialects) as their first language.[10][11] Within India, Bengali is the official language of the states of West Bengal, Tripura and the Barak Valley in the state of Assam. It is also spoken in different parts of the Brahmaputra valley of Assam. It is also the most widely spoken language in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal,[12] and is spoken by significant minorities in other states including Jharkhand, Bihar, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Odisha. With approximately 250–300 million total speakers worldwide,[13] Bengali is the 6th most natively spoken language in the world and 7th most spoken language by total number of speakers.[14][15]

Bengali has developed over the course of more than 1,300 years. Bengali literature, with its millennium-old literary history, has extensively developed since the Bengali renaissance and is one of the most prominent and diverse literary traditions in Asia. The Bengali language movement from 1948 to 1956 demanding Bengali to be an official language of Pakistan fostered Bengali nationalism in East Bengal leading to the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971. In 1999, UNESCO recognized 21 February as International Mother Language Day in recognition of the language movement.[16][17] The Bengali language is the quintessential element of Bengali identity and binds together a culturally diverse region.


Silver coin with proto-Bengali script, Harikela Kingdom, circa 9th–13th century

Ancient language of Bengal

Sanskrit was practiced by the priests in Bengal since the first millennium BCE. But, the local people were speaking in some varieties of Prakrita languages. Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee coined it as "eastern variety of Magdhi Prakrita". But, Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah argued that the language spoken by the then Bengalis was distinct from Magdhi Prakrit. He named it "Purbo Magdhi Prakrita" and explained that it included more non-Indo-Aryan vocabulary. Humayun Azad suggested that Purbo Magdhi Prakrita (defined by Shahidullah) had substantial Dravidian and Austro-Asiatic words. During the Gupta Empire, Bengal was a hub of Sanskrit literature.[18] The Middle Indo-Aryan dialects were influential in Bengal in the first millennium when the region was a part of the Magadha Realm. These dialects were called Magadhi Prakrit spoken in current Bihar state of India. Purbo Magdhi was close to but distinct from Magdhi Prakrita. The Magdhi Prakrita eventually evolved into Ardha Magadhi and become more distinct from the languages of Bengal day by day.[19][20] Ardha Magadhi began to give way to what are called Apabhraṃśa languages at the end of the first millennium. Then Bengali language evolved a as distinct language by the course of time.[21]

Emergence of Bengali

Along with other Eastern Indo-Aryan languages, Bengali evolved circa 1000–1200 CE from Sanskrit and Magadhi Prakrit.[22] The local Apabhraṃśa of the eastern subcontinent, Purbi Apabhraṃśa or Abahatta ("Meaningless Sounds"), eventually evolved into regional dialects, which in turn formed three groups of the Bengali–Assamese languages, the Bihari languages, and the Odia language. Some argue that the points of divergence occurred much earlier – going back to even 500,[23] but the language was not static: different varieties coexisted and authors often wrote in multiple dialects in this period. For example, Ardhamagadhi is believed to have evolved into Abahatta around the 6th century, which competed with the ancestor of Bengali for some time.[24] Proto-Bengali was the language of the Pala Empire and the Sena dynasty.[25][26]

Middle Bengali

Silver Taka from the Sultanate of Bengal, circa 1417

During the medieval period, Middle Bengali was characterized by the elision of word-final ô, the spread of compound verbs and Arabic and Persian influences. Bengali was an official court language of the Sultanate of Bengal. Muslim rulers promoted the literary development of Bengali.[27] Bengali became the most spoken vernacular language in the Sultanate.[28] This period saw borrowing of Perso-Arabic terms into Bengali vocabulary. Major texts of Middle Bengali (1400–1800) include Chandidas' Shreekrishna Kirtana.

Modern Bengali

Language Martyr's Memorial at Silchar Railway Station in Assam, India.

The modern literary form of Bengali was developed during the 19th and early 20th centuries based on the dialect spoken in the Nadia region, a west-central Bengali dialect. Bengali presents a strong case of diglossia, with the literary and standard form differing greatly from the colloquial speech of the regions that identify with the language.[29] The modern Bengali vocabulary contains the vocabulary base from Magadhi Prakrit and Pali, also tatsamas and reborrowings from Sanskrit and other major borrowings from Persian, Arabic, Austroasiatic languages and other languages in contact with.

During this period, the

  • চলিতভাষা Chôlitôbhasha form of Bengali using simplified inflections and other changes, was emerging from
  • সাধুভাষা Sadhubhasha (Proper form or original form of Bengali) as the form of choice for written Bengali.[30]

In 1948 the Government of Pakistan tried to impose Urdu as the sole state language in Pakistan, starting the Bengali language movement.[31] The Bengali Language Movement was a popular ethno-linguistic movement in the former East Bengal (today Bangladesh), which was a result of the strong linguistic consciousness of the Bengalis to gain and protect spoken and written Bengali's recognition as a state language of the then Dominion of Pakistan. On the day of 21 February 1952 five students and political activists were killed during protests near the campus of the University of Dhaka. In 1956 Bengali was made a state language of Pakistan.[31] The day has since been observed as Language Movement Day in Bangladesh and is also commemorated as International Mother Language Day by UNESCO every year since 2000.

In 2010, the parliament of Bangladesh and the legislative assembly of West Bengal proposed that Bengali be made an official UN language,[32] though no further action was taken on this matter.

Other Languages
Адыгэбзэ: Бенгалыбзэ
Afrikaans: Bengaals
Akan: Bangla
Alemannisch: Bengalische Sprache
አማርኛ: በንጋልኛ
aragonés: Idioma bengalí
অসমীয়া: বঙালী ভাষা
asturianu: Idioma bengalín
Avañe'ẽ: Vengali ñe'ẽ
azərbaycanca: Benqal dili
تۆرکجه: بنقال دیلی
Bân-lâm-gú: Bengal-gí
башҡортса: Бенгали
беларуская: Бенгальская мова
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Бэнгальская мова
भोजपुरी: बांग्ला
Bikol Central: Bengali
български: Бенгалски език
bosanski: Bengalski jezik
brezhoneg: Banglaeg
català: Bengalí
čeština: Bengálština
Cymraeg: Bengaleg
davvisámegiella: Bengalgiella
ދިވެހިބަސް: ބެންގާލީ
español: Idioma bengalí
Esperanto: Bengala lingvo
euskara: Bengalera
Fiji Hindi: Bengali bhasa
føroyskt: Bengalskt mál
français: Bengali
Gàidhlig: Bangla
贛語: 孟加拉語
ગુજરાતી: બંગાળી ભાષા
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Bengal-ngî
한국어: 벵골어
հայերեն: Բենգալերեն
hornjoserbsce: Bengalšćina
hrvatski: Bengalski jezik
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: বাংলা ঠার
Bahasa Indonesia: Bahasa Bengali
íslenska: Bengalska
italiano: Lingua bengali
עברית: בנגלית
kalaallisut: Bengalimiutut
къарачай-малкъар: Бенгал тил
қазақша: Бенгал тілі
kernowek: Bengalek
Kiswahili: Kibengali
Kongo: Kibang'la
latviešu: Bengāļu valoda
lietuvių: Bengalų kalba
Limburgs: Bengaals
Lingua Franca Nova: Bangla (lingua)
македонски: Бенгалски јазик
Malagasy: Fiteny bengali
മലയാളം: ബംഗാളി ഭാഷ
Māori: Reo Bengali
მარგალური: ბენგალური ნინა
مازِرونی: بنگالی
Bahasa Melayu: Bahasa Benggali
монгол: Бенгал хэл
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဘင်္ဂါလီဘာသာစကား
Nederlands: Bengaals
नेपाल भाषा: बंगाली भाषा
日本語: ベンガル語
Nordfriisk: Bengaals
norsk: Bengali
norsk nynorsk: Bengali
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Bengal tili
پنجابی: بنگالی
Piemontèis: Lenga bengali
português: Língua bengali
Runa Simi: Banla simi
русиньскый: Бенґальскый язык
саха тыла: Бенгаал тыла
संस्कृतम्: बाङ्गला भाषा
Simple English: Bengali language
slovenčina: Bengálčina
slovenščina: Bengalščina
српски / srpski: Бенгалски језик
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Bengalski jezik
Basa Sunda: Basa Benggala
svenska: Bengali
tarandíne: Lènga bengalese
татарча/tatarça: Бенгаль теле
తెలుగు: బంగ్లా భాష
Türkçe: Bengalce
українська: Бенгальська мова
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: بېنگال تىلى
Vahcuengh: Vahmanggyalah
vepsän kel’: Bengalan kel'
Tiếng Việt: Tiếng Bengal
Volapük: Bängalänapük
Winaray: Binengali
吴语: 孟加拉语
ייִדיש: בענגאליש
粵語: 孟加拉文
Zazaki: Bengalki
žemaitėška: Bengalu kalba
中文: 孟加拉语