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Full text of "Linguistic Survey Of India Vol V Part I Indo Aryan Family Eastern Group"

1C                                                                                  BENGALI.

represented by its spelling. The vocabulary of the modem literary language is almost
entirely1 Sanskrit, and few of these words are pronounced as they are written. Bengalis
themselves struggle vainly with a number of complex sounds, which the disuse of
centuries has rendered their vocal organs unable, or too lazy, to produce. The result is a
number of half-pronounced consonants, and broken vowels, not provided for by their
alphabet, amid which the unfortiinate foreigner wanders without a guide, and for which
his own larynx is as uiisuited as is a Bougali's for the sounds of Sanskrit,2 All this has
already bocu said, and in far greater detail, by Balm Syamacharan Ganguli in an
excellent article in tho Calcutta Jteciew for the year 1877.a He sums the matter up in
the following words, which are of special value as coming from a well-known scholar,
whose native language is Bengali : —

fc Tht* grammar of writ ion Ut'njrult tliftVrs considerably from the grammar ol current Bengali. For familiar
v/nniii. uwlmihmtl by all, rvory <»iu» who IcaniH to road has iu k-aru Sanskrit Hnbstihih's, aiul in many CHHOK old
iM'ii^ali siiWiluk's likewise, which, having dropped mtf of culloquml Hpccdh, Killl retain {heir place in the
lanjjfuii^v <-f hoolcw. The Siuii-krit wurcls hi UKO in Bengali hoolcs are for fh<» most purl Waiwkvit only <*> the eye,
\tM\ »«we i*> 4 ho t-iir ; fur though wrilten just its thoy an1 in Snnski'ii, they are pronounced iu Kucli a way aK to
•jjiakii (ht'iu almost immMlii'iblf to flmtwj unfamiliar \viih ihu corrnpf proaunrlatioa of Santtoifc that prevail**
!a Ut'iij.f«il,*

Hi'ugali hus a fairly voluminous* literature* dating from prehistoric times.   According

to the latest authority, its oldest literary record is the song of

enc:ai '          §            Manik-chandra, which belongs to the days of the Buddhists,

though it has no doubt heen considerably altered in the, course of centuries through trans-

mission by word of mouth.    Of tlw well-known authors, one of the oldest and most

admired is ClmmJWlus, who flourished about the 14th century, and wrote songs of con-

siderable merit iu prniso of KriKhnu.   Since his time to the commencement of the present

century, there has been a succession of writers, many of whom are directly connected

with the religious revival instituted by Cbaitanya (early part of the 10th century)*   In

the 15th century KasI-rSm translated the Maha-bh&rata and Kritti-b&s the Hamayana

into the vernacular.    The principal literary figure of the 17th century was Mukunda-ram

who has left us the two really admirable poenxs entitled Chandl and Srlmanta *Saud&gar.

It is the greatest pity that these two iine works are not available to readers in an English

dress-   With Bhamt-ehandra, whose much admired but rather artificial Bidyfcsundar

appeared iu the 18th century, the list of old Bengali authors may be brought to a con-

clusion.   Their language offers a marked contrast to the Pandit-ridden language of

tlio present century.   They wrote in genuine nervous Bengali, and the conspicuous

success of many of them shows how baseless is the contention of some writers of the

present day, tliat Bengali needs the help of its huge imported Sanskrit vocabulary to

express anything except the simplest ideas.   The modern literary Bengali arose early in

the present century, and each decade it is becoming more a slave of Sanskrit than

1 If wo tako a well-known standard work, the Puru*ha-pa**k*b& wtaai counting of the words on the fir*t .page
tbat eighty-eight per cent* ate pure Sanskrit, and do not belong to the Bengali language. "If we wish to know how much fc
due to the modem Smpetua given to literature hy the Faults, we can apply * similar te«t to the ar*fc page of the old poet
ChaajJV-das (14th century ), and we shall End that only thirty per cent of the word* are Sanskrit, that these are all words of
the simplest character, and that, save a few proper n«mes> an attempt is made to spell them as they are pronounced.
* I am aware that almost identical remarks might he made regarding the foreign* who has to learn English. But
that fact does not diminish the difficulties of the pronunciation of literary Bengali. To an uneducated peawmt of the delta
the pronunciation of these words is as difficult, at it is to an Englishman. I hare several times seen a woman in the w"tn«sa-
hox hreak into a series of hysterical giggle*, when heing sworn, and told to say the word prat&fal, ajirmation. It is
needless to say that that word is nat pronounced by educated Bengalis as ft is spelled* Defenders of the spelling and
vocabulary of modern literary Bengali call them * Conservative.' But this is mere playing with words. If that is the
meaning of tiie term, the* an English Conservative is a powon who wishes to retain all the civilisation, and all the complex
national existence of this year of grace 1899, -hul to administer them hy the laws of In* of Wesoex. To cliauge the
all means H writers of Bengal write in Sanskrit if they like (and if they can); but they have no right
own vernacular by sending her out Into the world masquerading in the clothe of lu»r great^m>attiof lu-r,