Bengali Language Profile

Language Identification: ISO 639-3 ben

Other Names: Bangala, Bangla-Bhasa

Local name:  বাংলা‎ (Bangla)

Pronunciation: [bɛŋˈɡɔːli]

Region: Eastern South Asia

Ethnic Population: Bengalis

Bengali users: L 1 speakers: 230 million (159,000,000 in Bangladesh, 96,500,000 in India; 21,100 in Nepal)

L2 speakers: 37 million: 29,000,000 in Bangladesh (2017); 7,750,000 in India (2001 census); 2,880 in Nepal (2011 census).

Language family: Indo-European; Indo-Iranian; Indo-Aryan Eastern Group; Bengali-Assamese

Early forms: Prakrit; Magadhi Prakrit; Abahattha; Old Bengali

Language Status: Official language in Bangladesh (1972, Constitution, Article 3); State language in India (in West Bengal, Tripura, Assam’s Barak Valley, Jharkhand)

Dialects: Barisal, Noakhali, Khulna, Mymensingh (in Bangladesh); Barik, Bhatiari, Chirmar, Kachari-Bengali, Lohari-Malpaharia, Musselmani, Rajshahi, Samaria, Saraki, Siripuria (Kishanganjia) (in India)

Typology: Head-final language whose main word order is SOV (Subject – Object – Verb).

Writing system: Bengali alphabet or (Bangla) script

Image from Wikipedia


Bengali, also known as Bangla (বাংলা) is a modern Indo-Arian language belonging to the eastern branch of the Indo-Iranian languages. With approximately 230 million native speakers and another 37 million as second language speakers, Bengali is the fifth most-spoken native language and the seventh most spoken language by total number of speakers in the world. It must be said that the colloquial standard of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh is different from that of Calcutta, the capital of Indian Bengal, just as the dialect of Chittagong, a city in the south-eastern part of Bangladesh is different enough to be considered a separate language. .


Bengali developed around 900 A.D, most likely from Sanskrit. Bengali literature is one of the most rich and varying literary traditions in Asia. The Bengali language movement from 1948 to 1956 demanding Bengali to be an official language of Pakistan fostered Bengali nationalism in East Bengal leading to the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971.

In 1999, UNESCO recognised 21 February as International Mother Language Day in recognition of the language movement. The Bengali language is the quintessential element of Bengali identity and binds together a culturally diverse region.

Geographical distribution

The Bengali-speaking area is mainly located in the areas of the great Ganges delta, presently divided between the Indian state of Bengal and the present-day nation of Bangladesh. It is also spoken in the neighbouring Indian states of Orissa, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Tripura (an Indian territory). There are also significant Bengali-speaking communities in Nepal, the Middle East, the United States, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Italy.

The official status of Bengali

Bengali, is the only national language of Bangladesh sanctioned by article 3 of the 1972 Constitution. Bengali is also one of the 23 official languages currently recognized by Annex VIII of the Indian Constitution and is the official language of the Indian States of West Bengal, Tripura and the Barak Valley region in Assam. Moreover it is the second official language recognized in the city of Karachi in Pakistan. and was made an official language of Sierra Leone in order to honour the Bangladeshi peacekeeping force from the United Nations stationed there. In 2009, the Indian state assembly of West Bengal passed a resolution in support of Bangladesh’s call for Bengali to become one of the official languages of the United Nations.

Both the national anthems of Bangladesh (Amar Sonar Bangla) and India (Jana Gana Mana) were written in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet, musician, pedagogue, awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913.


Bengali has two distinct linguistic varieties which are Literary language and spoken language This diglossia between the written and spoken forms of the language involves two styles of writing and somewhat different vocabularies and syntax.

The dialectal varieties in Bengali represent a linguistic continuum of Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bangla, Marathi, Gujrati, Bhojpuri, Chakma and so on. Bengali dialects are generally classified in four groups which roughly approximate the ancient political divisions of the Bengali-speaking world, known as Radha (West Bengal proper); Pundra, or Varendra (the northern parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh); Kamrupa (northeastern Bangladesh); and Bangla (the dialects of the rest of Bangladesh).

Spoken and literary varieties

The standard spoken form today, accepted in both West Bengal and Bangladesh, is based on the West-Central dialect of Nadia District, located next to the border of Bangladesh The farther away is a region from Nadia, the more deviant is the spoken variety of that region. The varieties of the Chittagong and Sylhet regions have only a vague superficial resemblance to the standard colloquial form and are difficult to understand by the speakers of other regional varieties.

In some cases speakers of Standard Bengali in West Bengal will use a different word from a speaker of Standard Bengali in Bangladesh. For example, the word salt is নুন nun in the west which corresponds to লবণ lôbôn in the east

Diglossia is widespread, with many speakers being able to use both formal standard Bengali and their own regional dialect. There are two styles of speaking which exist side-by-side: conservative high-style literary language which frequently uses borrowings from Sanskrit, and informal everyday language. They are associated with social class, educational level, religion and geographical location. The standard form of Bengali, accepted in Bangladesh and in West Bengal, is based on the West-Central dialect as spoken by educated people in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) back in the 19th century.

Written language

Shadhu Bhasha: (elegant or pure language) is a refined literary form of Bengali, which came from the archaic forms of medieval Bengali of the sixteenth century. Much of his vocabulary derives from Sanskrit. Shadhu Bhasha is not considered appropriate for everyday conversation and its use is limited to literary and formal contexts only. Songs such as Jana Gana Mana, the Indian national anthem by Rabindranath Tagore and Vande Mataram, the Indian national song by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay were originally composed in Shadhu Bhasha. Today it is an obsolete form and, apart from the written Constitution of Bangladesh, its use is limited to government communications, legal affairs, some literal and editorial genres of some newspapers.

Cholit Bhasha: (current or colloquial language) has entered literary use since the beginning of the twentieth century and at the beginning of the twenty-first century became the dominant literary language as well as the standard colloquial form among educated people. It is interesting to note that Cholit Bhasha : is a vernacular form modelled on the dialect spoken in the Shantipur region of Nadia District, West Bengal. This standard written form was advertised primarily by the literary giants of Kolkata, including Peary Chand Mitra, Pramatha Chowdhury and Rabindranath Tagore (in his later works). Nowadays, it is used both in formal writing (including common literature) and in conversation.

The Bengali alphabet

The Bengali alphabet (ব ল বর ণম ল , bangla bôrnmala or বাংলা লিপি bangla lipi), derived from the Brahmi alphabet, is closely related to the Devanagari alphabet from which it began to diverge in the 11th century. It is the fifth most popular writing system in the world. It is used to write other languages such as Meithei and Bishnupriya Manipuri and Assami

The Bengali alphabet 29 consists of consonants and 11 vowels. It is written from left to right: it is a syllable-based system, known as abugida, a script with letters for consonants, diacritics for vowels, and in which an inherent vowel (অ ô) is assumed for consonants if no vowel is marked. The peculiarity of the Bengali alphabet as well as of the devanagari is the horizontal line that covers almost all the letters.

Unlike the Latin alphabet, in which the letters, vowels and consonants follow a random sequence, the Bengali alphabet, just as the Devanagari script, follows a precise phonological criterion in which the vowels come first, then diphthongs and finally consonants that also follow a precise pattern.

Vowels and vowel diacritics

Bengali vowels can be short or long. In addition, each vowel can become nasal with the addition of diacritical signs placed above the horizontal line that covers the vowel.

a [ɔ]/[o]
ā [a]
i [i]
ī [i]
u [u]
ū [u]
e [e]/[æ]
ai [oi]
au [ou]
ng [ŋ]
◌̃ [~] (nasalization)


The consonant ক (kô) with the diacritic form of the vowels অ, আ, ই, ঈ, উ, ঊ, ঋ, এ, ঐ, ও and ঔ
কা কু কূ কৃ কি কী কে কৈ কো কৌ
ka ku kṛ ki ke kai ko kau



Bengali has 29 consonants, depending on the analysis. There is a contrast between aspirated and unaspirated voiceless and voiced stops We will have, first the series of gutturals, articulated at the height of the palatine veil; the palatals, the cerebral or retroflex articulated between the palate and the alveoli; the dental and labial. The order in which the letters of the alphabet are arranged is used for many other Indian and Asian scripts.




kh [kʰɔ]



gh [ɡʱɔ]


ng [ŋɔ]








jh [dʒʱɔ]























dh [dʱɔ]






ph [pʰɔ]



bh [bʱɔ]

m [mɔ]




















h [ɦɔ]


Bengali Numbers

0 শুন্য (ʃunno)
1 এক (æk)
2 দুই (d̪ui)
3 তিন (t̪in)
4 চার [ʧaɾ]
5 পাঁচ [pãʧ]
6 ছয় [ʧʰɔj]
7 সাত [ʃat̪]
8 আট [aʈ]
9 নয় [nɔj]
10 ১০ দশ [d̪ɔʃ]
11 ১১ এগারো [ægaɾo]
12 ১২ বারো [baɾo]
13 ১৩ তেরো [t̪æɾo]
14 ১৪ চৌদ্দ [ʧoud̪d̪o]
15 ১৫ পনেরো [pɔneɾo]
16 ১৬ ষোল [ʃolo]
17 ১৭ সতেরো [ʃɔt̪eɾo]
18 ১৮ আঠারো [aʈʰaɾo]
19 ১৯ ঊনিশ [uniʃ]
20 ২০ বিশ [biʃ]



The order of words in Bengali is SOV (Subject – Object – Verb).

The construction of the sentence and the order of the elements in the sentence usually follows the following scheme: subject + temporal phrase + locative phrase + indirect object + direct object + adverbial phrase + verb.

When present, the negative particle comes at the end of the sentence. The copula, or verb linking the subject and predicate, is often omitted. Six cases are generally recognized. Compound verbs, comprising a stem or root and a suffix, are a special feature. There are 3 verb tenses, but their subdivisions make them 10. There are two moods, indicative and imperative, and two numbers, singular and plural. The first, second, and third persons are expressed through six forms because they have both ordinary and honorific referents. Gender is natural, and there is no special declension for feminine and neuter. Adjectives are usually not modified according to the number or case of the nouns they qualify.


In Bengali, as in all Indo-Aryan languages, the noun is not preceded by the definite article. The use of the indefinite article can be replaced in front of countable names by ordinal and cardinal numbers.

In Bengali nouns and pronouns are inflected for cases . generally grouped into 4 categories. Gender is natural, and there is no special declension for feminine and neuter There are two numbers: singular and plural. Plural markers are added only to count nouns with animate or definite referents.

Nouns are marked for case: nominative, accusative, genitive, and locative–instrumental. Bengali uses classifiers when counting nouns e.g., panch-jon-chatro ‘five-human classifier-students’.

Adjectives are usually not modified according to the number or case of the nouns they qualify.

Personal pronouns are invariable by gender, but present alternative forms for the singular and plural; Bengali has 3 different forms for the third person: the first used for someone who is nearby, the second for someone further away and the third for someone not present.

The second and third person pronouns have a familiar form and an honorific form; the second person also has a “very familiar” form that is used when talking about particularly close friends or family members, or when addressing subordinates. It is always preferable not to use this pronoun, especially if you are a foreigner or do not know the person you are addressing, because the interlocutor might consider it offensive.

In Bengali postpositions placed after the noun are used instead of the prepositions.

Bengali verbs agree with their subjects in person and status category. There are three persons (1st, 2nd, 3rd).There are three status categories in the 2nd person (despective, ordinary, honorific) and two status categories in the 3rd person (ordinary, honorific). There are three moods: indicative, imperative, conditional. Two aspects are distinguished: imperfective and perfective. Verbs have three tenses: present, past, future. Bengali verbs use a post-verbal negative particle.