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The- lower ranges of the Himalayas form the northern boundary of Bengali.
They are* inhabited by wild tribes speaking various Tibeto-Burman languages. ^The
line runs along the north of the Tarai in the Districts of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri, till it
meets .the eastern boundary in the north of the District of Goalpm in Assam.
Both in regard to its measure of cultivation, and to the number of people who speak
Place of the language in con- Jt> Bengali » «* ™>st important of the four languages,
nexion with the other indo-Aryan Assamese, Bengali. Oriya and Bihari, which form the Eastern
languages* /» JT T » *
group of the Indo-Aryan family. Like other members of
the group, and like Marathl, it is more structurally developed than the languages of
Hindustan Proper, The latter decline their nouns with the aid of postpositions, much as
in English we perform the same function with the aid of prepositions. They freely use
participles in the conjugation of verbs, and use the passive construction in conjugating
the past tenses of those which are transitive. They do not say, * I killed him,' but
•he was killed by me.' In Bengali, all this is in process of disappearing. The
postpositions have been worn away by centuries of attrition, and have become simple
terminations. The use of the participles in the conjugation of verbs has been similarly
disguised by the addition of personal suffixes, which, a comparatively few generations
ago, were separate pronouns used with the participles as in English at the present day.
Although philologists tell us that the passive construction of the past tenses of
transitive verbs still exists in the language, all sense of this has been lost in the literary
language taught in grammars, and the verb is conjugated, according to English ideas,
as straightforwardly as any in Latin or Italian.1 The details of Bengali grammar will
be given subsequently* I shall only mention here one more important peculiarity
which the language shares with the others of the Eastern group. Bengali grammar
has a very feeble sense of the distinction of number. In the case of Nounsy the distinc-
tion is hardly observed at all, except in the case of those referring to human beings;
at most a kind of plural being formed by the addition of some noun of multitude.
Thus, if a Bengali wishes to say s dogs,' he must say, * dog-collection,' or some such
phrase.3 In Pronouns, the singular of the first and second persons is not used in the
literary language, except in expressing familiarity or contempt. In the third person,
the singular pronoun is only used when respect is not intended, or when referring to an
inanimate object. In all, the plural form is commonly used instead of the singular when
referring to human beings. In the third person, when respect is intended, it is intimated
either by the use of a special word, or by simply nasalising the pronunciation of the pro.
noun. The plural being used for the singular, if it is necessary to emphasize the idea
of multitude, the original plural is treated as if it was a singular noun, and a kind of
1 In the dialectic language of the common people, an interesting relic of the passive construction of the transitive verb
survives in many parts of Bengal The third person singular of the past tense differs in Transitive and in Intransitive verbs*
In Transitive verbs, it ends in S9 a corruption of hi,' meaning' by him' or * by them.1 Thus, IchalG, lie ate; pucUUUt he asked.
In In transitive verbs, hovever, the third person ends in a (5), or is sometimes without any vowel termination.lt is here
simply the past participle, without any pronominal termination. Thus, g$la (gelo), or ff$lt he went For the-benefit of my
brother students I may add that in these dialects, the Past Conditional (which is formed from the Present Participle) is always
treated as if it belonged to an Intransitive verb, even in the case of Transitive ones*
* The Nominative plural in rS used with nonns expressing human beings is the only exception to this statement and,
pMlologically speaking, it is hardly an exception.