Bengali language

"Bangla" in Bengali script
Pronunciation[ˈbaŋla] (About this soundlisten)
Native toBangladesh and India
Native speakers
260 million (2011 census [India][1] – 2015 [Bangl.])[2]
20 million L2 speakers in Bangladesh (2015)[2]
Early forms
  • Old Bengali
Eastern Nagari script (Bengali alphabet)
Bengali Braille
Bengali signed forms[3]
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
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Part of a series on
Montage of Bengal.jpg
A series of picture stories narrated in Bengali

Bengali (i/),[5] also known by its endonym Bangla (UK: ə/; বাংলা), is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken by the Bengalis in the Indian subcontinent. 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.

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 usually counted as the seventh most spoken native language in the world by population.[14][15]

Dictionaries from the early 20th century attributed slightly more than half of the Bengali vocabulary to native words (i.e., naturally modified Sanskrit words, corrupted forms of Sanskrit words, and loanwords from non-Indo-European languages), about 30 percent to unmodified Sanskrit words, and the remainder to foreign words.[16] Dominant in the last group was Persian, which was also the source of some grammatical forms. More recent studies suggest that the use of native and foreign words has been increasing, mainly because of the preference of Bengali speakers for the colloquial style.[16]

Bengali literature, with its millennium-old history and folk heritage, has extensively developed since the Bengali renaissance and is one of the most prominent and diverse literary traditions in Asia. In 1999, UNESCO recognized 21 February as International Mother Language Day in recognition of the language movement in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Language is an important 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 spoken in Bengal since the first millennium BCE. During the Gupta Empire, Bengal was a hub of Sanskrit literature.[17] The Middle Indo-Aryan dialects were spoken in Bengal in the first millennium when the region was a part of the Magadha Realm. These dialects were called Magadhi Prakrit. They eventually evolved into Ardha Magadhi.[18][19] Ardha Magadhi began to give way to what are called Apabhraṃśa languages at the end of the first millennium.[20]

Emergence of Bengali

Along with other Eastern Indo-Aryan languages, Bengali evolved circa 1000–1200 CE from Sanskrit and Magadhi Prakrit.[21] 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,[22] 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.[23] Proto-Bengali was the language of the Pala Empire and the Sena dynasty.[24][25]

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.[26] Bengali became the most spoken vernacular language in the Sultanate.[27] This period saw borrowing of Perso-Arabic terms into Bengali vocabulary. Major texts of Middle Bengali (1400–1800) include Chandidas' Shreekrishna Kirtana.

Modern Bengali

The Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka commemorates the Bengali Language Movement. UNESCO commemorates the movement as International Mother Language Day.

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.[28] 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.[29]

In 1948 the Government of Pakistan tried to impose Urdu as the sole state language in Pakistan, starting the Bengali language movement.[30] 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.[30] 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,[31] though no further action was taken on this matter.

Other Languages
Адыгэбзэ: Бенгалыбзэ
Afrikaans: Bengaals
Akan: Bangla
Alemannisch: Bengalische Sprache
አማርኛ: በንጋልኛ
العربية: لغة بنغالية
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: Bangla
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