plural of a plural is formed on this basis*1 In the case o£ Verbs, all sense of number
is lost. The original first and second persons singular, are now only used in the literary
language in speaking in contempt. The plural is now used for both numbers, though
the original third person singular is employed when the subject (singular or plural) is
inanimate or spoken of without respect.
The above remarks apply fully only to the literary language. In the dialects used
by the uneducated, the singular forms of the pronouns and verbs are still used, and will
frequently be met in the following specimens.
Literary Bengali, as now known, is the product of the present century. Its direct
cultivators were Calcutta Pandits, who, however well-mean-
Genera I character of the language. . , , ,, , '* , ,, , , . T
ing, nave ruined the language by their learning. In con-
nexion with this porat, I cannot do better than quote Mr. Baines, who admirably sums up
the state of affairs in the General Report on the Census of India for 1891* He
' Ueugali has no doubt been unfortunate in the circumsUuees tbat have attended its development.
The latest of all the Prakrit offshoots to be recognised as a language at all, it dates iu that oapsasity
only from the decay of the Delhi Empire, Bengal, too, is the Province of all others in which tl .re ifi
the widest gap between the small literary castes and the masses of the people. One of the results,is
that the vernacular has been split into two sections : first, the tongue of the people at large, which, as
remarked above, changes every few miles; secondly, the literary dialect, known only through the press,
and not intelligible to those who do not also know Sansk •&, The latter form is the product of what
may be called the revival of learning in Eastern India, const jueut upon the settlement of the British
on the Hooghly. The vernacular was then found rude and pw/re, owing to the absence of scholarship
and the general neglect of the country during the Mughal rule. Juatead o£ strengthening the existing
web from the same material, every effort was made in Calcutta, then the only seat of instruction, to
embroider upon the feeble old frame a grotesque and elaborate pattern in Sanskrit, and to pilfer from
that tongue whatever in the way of vocabulary and construction, the learned considered necessary to
satisfy the increasing demands of modern intercourse. He who trusts to the charity of others, sayn
Swift, will always be poor; so Bengali, as a vernacular, has been stunted in its growth ky this process
of cramming with a class of food it is unable to assimilate. The simile used by Mr. Beames is a good one,
He likens Bengali to an overgrown cKild tied to it« mother's apron-string, and always looking to her for
help, when it ought to be supporting itself/
As regards the pronunciation of these imported Sanskrit words, an extraordinary
„ , . ^ . . * state of affairs exists,—paralleled, I believe, in no other
Result of the Importation of * r
Sanskrit words upon the pronun- language in the world. This is not the place for an elaborate
ciation of the language. , ° ® . ,, „ . . ,, T * . , , .
description of the origin of the Indo-Aryans, but, in
order to understand what has occurred, it is necessary to follow the course of the
Bengali language from its earliest stage. This was some dialect closely akin to Sanskrit
(it never actually was Classical SaMkri.t) which existed in North-Western India, when
the language of the original Aryans of India resembled that which we find in the hymns
of the Eig-veda. The speakers of this tongue gradually migrated eastwards, and
we find them in Bihar and Orissa in the year 250 B.C. We have specimens of thdr
language, for their then king, A6oka, has left us inscriptions couched in his own words.
1 Nearly all pronoun* have, in the Eastern group, lo»t their original Nominative form, and what is now used at the
Nominative was originally the case of the Agent, which should properly only be employed before the past tenses of Tran-
sitive verbs. A relio of the Agent case of Nanns is the Bengali Nominative Singular tern in 3 which can only be used before
8 P. 148.