Over the greater part of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, South-Eastern Bengali is used
as a kind of Lingua Franca, in addition to the many Tibeto-Burman languages current
in that area. Among the wilder tribes, to the east even this means of inter-communi-
cation is absent, and a case is on record in which a woman of the Khami Tribe once
gave evidence in her own language, knowing no other. This was interpreted into Mru,
which was again interpreted into Maghl, which was finally interpreted into South
Eastern Bengali, from which version, the Magistrate translated the evidence into
In the central portion of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, ia the Chakma Chief's Circle,
situated in the country round the Earnaphuli River, a broken dialect of Bengali,
peculiar to the locality, and of a very curious character, is spoken. It is called Chakma,
and is based on South-Eastern Bengali, but has undergone so much transformation that
it is almost worthy of the dignity of being classed as a separate language. It is written
in an alphabet which, allowing for its cursive form, is almost identical with the Khmer
character, which was formerly in use in Cambodia, Laos, Annam, Siam, and, at least, the
southern parts of Burma. This Khmer alphabet is, in its turn, the same as that which
was current ia the south of India in the sixth and seventh centuries* The Burmese
character is derived from it, but is much more corrupted than the Chakma. The resem-
blance between Chakma and Khmer does not, however, extend to the typical peculiarity
of the former that the inherent vowel of the consonants is a, not a9 though even in this,
there are noteworthy points of resemblance. The Khmer sign for j& has not the hook on
the right hand side possessed by the Chakma jd. This hook represents the d> Similarly
the hooks on the side of the Chakma t&9 fhd, and ra, are all relics of the old sign for d.
Chakma is spoken by about 20,000 people.
The following account of the Chakma alphabet is based on information provided
by Dewan Kristo Chandra, a gentleman of Cbakma nationality, and forwarded to me
by Mr. J. A. Cave-Browne, Assistant Commissioner, Ctuttagong Hill Tracts.
The Chakma alphabet is as follows ; —
op r& n -&> £
Tea khd gd ghd no.
cfid (sd) chhd jd jhd
<^ <^ i Z
ta thd da dhd na