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394                                                               ASSAMESE.
classed as a form of the latter language, differs far more widely from the grammar
of the standard dialect of Calcutta than does Assamese.   If grammar is to be taken as
a test, and if on applying that test we find that Assamese is a language distinct from
Bengali, then we should he compelled with much greater reason to say the same of the
Chittagong patois.   If, however, we apply another test, that of the possession of a
written literature, we can have no hesitation in admitting that Assamese is entitled
to claim an independent existence as the speech of a distinct nationality, and to have a
standard of its o\rn, different from that which natives of Calcutta would wish to impose
upon it.   Assamese literature is as old, if not older, than that of Bengali, and, down to
the commencement of the present century, was as copious.   If the printing press has not
heen so fruitful in Sibsagar as in Calcutta during the past hundred years, we must not
forget that the press, as it has been used, has not been an altogether unmixed blessing,
and that it has done much to reduce Bengali literature from being national to becoming
the mental pabulum of a specially educated class,   Crescit indulgent sibi dirus hydrops.
Bengali, as it has progressed since the introduction of printing, has become more and
more Sanskritised, while Assamese, under the wise conduct of the local missionaries, has
escaped the fate of its sister language.   Assamese literature is essentially a national prod*
uct.   It always has been national and it is so still.   The genius of its people has led it
along lines of its own, and its chief glory—history—is a branch of study almost unknown
to the indigenous literature of Bengal.   Whether the nation has made the literature, or
the literature the nation, I know not, but, as a matter of fact, both haye been for cen-
turies and are in vigorous existence, Between them they have created a standard literary
language which, whether its grammar resembles that of Bengali or not, has won for
itself the right to a separate, independent existence.
The standard dialect of Assamese is that form of speech which is prevalent in and
about Sibsagar,   Over the upper part of the Assam Valley
Dialects.             ...         °     .                   rrjt  r                                     '
the language is everywhere the same.   As we go west, we
find a distinct dialect, which I call Western Assamese, spoken by the people of Kamrup
and Eastern Goalpara. In Manipur, and in isolated villages in Sylhet and Cachar
where there are settlements of Manipuris, the Mayangs speak a mongrel form of
Assamese, called by the name of the tribe. There are said to be about a thousand of these
people in Manipur, while the number in Sylhet and Cachar is estimated at 22,500.
Round the base of the Garo Hills, a kind of «pigeon* Assamese, locally known as
' Jharwa' is used by the ruder tribes as a language of commerce. It is described as a
mixture of Bengali, Garo, and Assamese, and is hardly worthy of being called a dialect of
any language. It has not been found possible to get specimens of it, which, however, is
a matter of small moment. It is estimated that it is spoken by about 9,000 people.
Standard Assamese is reported to be spoken as a vernacular by the following
number of people :—
Name of District*                                                   of
Darran*.........       .       . 185,400
TOTAI       , 859,950