Skip to main content

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

See other formats

Assamese is the name o* the Aryan language spoken in the Assam Valley in and
Where spoken,         between the districts of Lakhimpur and Goalpara.   In the
latter district it gradually merges into the Bengali spoken
in Western G-oalpara and in the adjoining district of Bangpur.   In the area in which
it is spoken, it is not by any means the only vernacular.   It lives side by side with a
number of non-Aryan languages which will be dealt with in their proper places.   It is
a language of the Valley only*   Everywhere its home as a vernacular is bounded by the
hills lying on the north and on the south, between which the Biver Brahmaputra takes
its western course.   There are also stray colonies of Assamese people in Sylhet, Cachar
and Manipur, who still retain their ancestral language in a more or less corrupted form.
The word * Assamese' is an English one, built on the same principle as * Cingalese/
. .   ,               * Canarese * and the like.   It is based on the English word
Name of the Language.                    ,                                                                                   D
* Assam, which is a corruption of  * Asam/ the Bengali
name of the tract which consists of the Brahmaputra Valley. To spell the name of the
language * Asamese/ is to concoct a hybrid word half Bengali and half English. No
one ever dreams of calling the country * Asam/ and, till this is done, I prefer to call
the language by its accepted English name, The Assamese themselves call their native
country Asam, with the vowels in both syllables short. The name is said to be the term
given by them to the Shans or * Shams' who commenced invading the country from the
east in the thirteenth century, and whose ancient language is still called * Ahom.* This
word is popularly, but incorrectly derived from the Assamese word aJmm^ which means
* unequalled/ being the same as the Sanskrit asama. As derived from c Ahom,' the local
name of the Assamese language should be written * Ahamiya/ but it is spelt ^sRfjpfl,
with, however, the irregular pronunciation * OsSnriya.'
Assamese, like its neighbour, Bengali, belongs to the Eastern Group of the Indo-
Piace of the Language in re-   Aryan vernaculars.   Of these f orins of speech it is the most
Su%es? °ther   Ind°-Aryan   eastern outpost.   * Except   on the west, where it meets
Bengali, it is surrounded on all sides by speeches belonging to altogether different fami-
lies, of which the principal are the Tibeto*Burman and the Kbassi.
It has long been a matter of dispute whether Assamese should be considered as a
mere dialect of Bengali, or as an independent language. At the present dayf its
speakers stoutly deny the claim to pre-eminence advanced on behalf of Bengali, and most
scholars now admit the validity of their arguments. The result is neatly put by
Mr. Nicholl on page 72 of his Assamese grammar,
* Assamese is not, as many suppose, a corrupt dialect of Bengali, but* distinct and co-ordinete tongue,
having with Bengali a common source of current vocabulary. Its Sanskrit did not come to it from Bengal,
but from the upper provinces of India—this all who carefully examine the matter will readily admit/
Whether Assamese is a dialect or a language is really a mere question of words which
is capable of "being argued ad iyfinitum; for the two terms are incapable of mutually
exclusive definition. Like * hill * and * mountain/ they are convenient methods of expres-
sion, but no one can say at what exact point a hill ceases to be a hill and becomes a
mountain. It must be con f essed that if we take grammar alone as the basis of comparison,
it would be extremely difficult to oppose any statement to the effect that Assamese was
nothing but a dialect of Bengali. The dialect spoken in ChittagoBg, which is universally
Bengali.                                                                                                    3 *