Learning Bengali (A Self-Tutor with Roman)

Item Code: NAD694
Author: Dr.Alibha Dakshi
Publisher: Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar
Edition: 2003
Pages: 350
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 450 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

This book is intended mainly to introduce and instruct the standard colloquial,forms of the Bengali language, the national language of Bangladesh and thf state language of West Bengal. It aims at imparting particularly a proficiency in speaking, understanding, reading and writing skills to the language learners. It is a humble attempt to represent an empirical exposition in the field of applied linguistics covering the total range of language concern, say, its script, pronunciation, sound pattern, structure, vocabulary written and colloquial forms of the Bengali language.

'Learning Bengali-A Self-Tutor on a Phonetic Basis' is a complete course for the beginners. It’s clear and logical approach makes it convenient and useful to cater to the needs of the students, be Indians or foreigners. This book includes:
i) The Bengali script, pronunciation and sound system,
ii) Conversations in real life situation,
iii) Explanations of Bengali structure in graded fashion from simple to complex, iv) Relevant vocabularies,
v) Plenty of exercises forthe purpose of practice,
vi) Discussions on grammatical differences from written Bengali (old, nineteenth century) to colloquial Bengali (spoken forms) and
vii) A few specimens from literature.

After finishing this course students acquire the proficiency in conversation and will be able to take part in the daily life and culture of the Bengali speaking people.


About the Author

Dr. Alibha Dakshi, an eminent linguist of the present time, teachers in Visva-Bharti, Santiniketan.

Born in 1951 in Kolkata she was graduated from Sanskrit College and did her M.A in Comparative Philology and Linguistics from the University of Calcutta in 1971. She was awarded Ph.D degree from the same University in 1992. Dr.Dakshi was prompted to author this primer for foreigner and non-Bengalee students learning Bengali to enable them to comprehend the language in totality. This book has been well received in the country and abroad. Her long experience in language teaching and suggestions from students and experts have helped her to enrich this second edition and make it authoritative.

Her other books are viz…
1) Aspect in Bengali, Kolkata 2000.
2) Bangla dhvanyatmak shabda, Kolkata 2001.
3) Bengla bhasabijnan abhidhan Kolkata 2003.


The Bengali language draws a special attention due to its historic, cultural and strong literary heritage. All over India and abroad more and more people are taking interest in learning the Bengali language. In a multi-lingual country like India language is a handicap to understand each other's cultural, religious and social systems which stand on the way to build amity and unity of the people. Thus, learning each other's language and literature helps to build national integrity and oneness among the people. It is, however, hoped that this book will prove useful to cater to the needs for the non-Bengalee students of our country. Foreigners, too, will find this book a comprehensive guide to learn the Bengali language.

This book aims at imparting particularly a proficiency in speaking, understanding, reading and writing skills to the language learners. It is my humble attempt to represent an empirical exposition in the field of applied linguistics covering the total range of language concern, say, its script, pronunciation, sound pattern, structure, vocabulary, written and colloquial forms of language concern, etc. This book is intended mainly to introduce and instruct the standard colloquial forms of the Bengali structure.

The present book comprises three parts. The first part introduces the Bengali script. The letters have been grouped according to their similarity in shape. There is a detailed description of Bengali vowels, diphthongs and consonants and a detailed exercise in the study of conjuncts and their pronunciation is also given. In the transcription, the signs are those of the International Phonetic Association (IPA).

The second part deals with basic structure of the Bengali language. It discusses the simple sentences and then the complex and compound sentence structures. Lessons are generally presented in the form of conversation. In each lesson free English rendering is given. At the end of each lesson the structure has been explained in a simple way and the relevant vocabulary has been appended to each lesson as easy reference.

In the third part, the structural difference between written ! and colloquial forms of Bengali with excerpts is given. At the end the mode of addressing letters, list of common Bengali verbs and Bengali idioms have been appended.

It is believed that this is an introductory book in the sense that it does not presuppose any formal training to the readers. This will prove beneficial to foreigners or non - Bengalee speakers in learning the language without any assistance of a teacher. But it does assume that the reader's educational background will be such at least he or she is prepared to make a certain intelligent effort in order to understand the use of symbols given in the book. This book, on the whole, gives a total picture of the Bengali language which should enable students to acquire and grasp a sound working knowledge of it.

Despite my best efforts to make the book as exhaustive as possible, some detailed accounts of the language are still to be left out. I hope that will not deter my book in any way. Some printing mistakes have crept into it, and I believe that the readers will be able to correct them as they go along with the book. The variation of script-writing in print, such as cannot be avoided. As we have various types of spelling systems found in the writings of different authors, I have tried to follow here one variety of spelling throughout. I know my limitations and feel responsible for any of the shortcomings of the book. However, suggestions, corrections and opinions will be received with gratitude and with a pledge to improve this book in the next edition.

It remains for me to acknowledge my indebtedness to all those who have assisted me in writing this book. I owe a special debt to Professor Satya Ranjan Banerjee of Calcutta University whose valuable advice, criticism and constant co-operation in improving my writing have contributed much to the shaping of this book. I am highly grateful to Dr D.P. Pattanayak, former Director of the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, under whose guidance I started my career and learnt their method in language teaching which, of course, has immense value to enlighten me in this field of study.

I would, particularly, like to convey my thanks to my former students Dr Jeanne Opens haw and Nathaniel Bowles who have assisted me in rendering the English version. I am grateful to my colleagues of the department of Bengali, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, for their co-operation and comments. My thartks are also due to authorities of different libraries: viz. Visva-Bharati Library, Santiniketan National Library, Calcutta and C.I.I.L. Library, Mysore. I convey my sincere thanks to Mr Gour Paul and the staff of the Press whose painstaking labour has earned much appreciation.

I must acknowledge the forbearance and patience of my husband and of my son who have been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration for writing this book.

My endeavor will be amply rewarded, if this book creates interest to the reader.



Understanding the immense need of the studfnts I was prompted to embark upon this project to provide the students an opportunity to have a general comprehension about the Bengali language and special efforts have been made to help them in those areas where they need most. It is well over a decade that I started writing this book and revised it thoroughly on my own findings.

My long experience in teaching Bengali to foreigners and non-Bengalee Indians has exposed the following difficulties and weaknesses faced by them : (i) in correct pronunciation of Bengali sounds; (ii) in correct way of writing the Bengali scripts; (iii) in understanding the correct relation between spelling and pronunciation and (iv) in understanding the structure of the Bengali language.

In reality, the existing books on learning Bengali are found to be somewhat incomplete and inadequate to meet the needs of the learners. Hence, I felt the necessity of a book like the present one.

This book is intended to depict the total range of language structure comprising its phonology, morphology and syntax. At the outset of Part I following Indian alphabetic system, all vowels, diphthongs and consonants are shown in a table along with their pronunciation written in IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). The modern trend based on commonly accepted principles of language teaching has also taken care of in introducing the Bengali script. Scripts are taught according to their similarity in shape. As we all know the scripts are not always pronounced in the same way as they are written, so the pronunciation of the scripts and the sound system of Bengali are illustrated thoroughly.

Part II comprises 20 lessons. Lessons are generally presented in the form of conversation taking different situations in common. These are introduced in such a way that the learner is supposed to be acquainted to every day's activities in Bengali speaking area. In this connection it should be borne in mind that the Bengali structure presented in each lesson cannot be claimed to be very exhaustive. A conscious attempt has been made in this book to present and establish graded language structures from simple to complex and to use appropriate content as a means to this end. Nouns and pronouns are taught only in their nominative, possessive forms at first and gradually in other forms, such as, accusative, instrumental, dative and ablative and, so on. Similarly verb forms are graded like present indefinite, present imperative, present continuous, present perfect, future, past indefinite, past continuous, past perfect and, so on. The number of the structures is controlled and systematised in formulating its morphological and syntactic complexities. In such lessons structures are explained and the list of vocabulary pertaining to the relevance of each lesson has been given much importance as a structure.

Part III, of course, provides examples from literature to show the proper usage of whatever taught in the preceding lessons and a brief note on literary and colloquial Bengali is also appended.

A brief survey of the Bengali language and literature
Language: Bengali belongs to the eastern group of Indo- Aryan language family. It has been directly descended from the Magadhi Apabhrarnsa and. Magadhi Prakrit which has been originated from Sanskrit or, so to speak, from the spoken variety of Old Indo-Aryan language. It is one of the richest and highly developed languages in India. It is also the national language of Bangladesh.

Bengali is spoken by more than two hundred million people in the world; around eighty million people in West Bengal, over two million in Tripura, a few millions in other states in India and abroad and about one hundred million people in Bangladesh.

Some language peculiarities
So far as the name is concerned the word 'Bangala' has been derived from Sanskrit word 'Vanga' meant Eastern and Central Bengal. In modern times it is applied to mean the country and the state where Bengali is spoken. As regards the characteristics of the Bengali language proper the commonest peculiarities are as follows.

(i) So far script is concerned Bengali possesses 50 letters (11 vowels and 39 consonants), but in actual pronunciation there are 7 vowels, 27 consonants and 4 semi-vowels. As a result we -find some sort of discrepancies between scripts and their pronunciations.
(ii) Unlike Sanskrit, Hindi and some other Western Indo-Aryan languages, Bengali has the pronunciation of the first letter as like ball, fall, tall, etc., in English. It is pronounced in certain contexts as
(iii) Out of eleven vowel letters some vowels are short and some are long in writing, but in pronunciation some of the long vowels are short, such as, t as i, u as u.
(iv) In consonants n and n are pronounced alike; s, s and s are merged together into s; y and j are pronounced as j and, so on.
(v) The pronunciation of some conjuncts has been deviated from their Sanskrit origin.

(i) Words are formed by the addition of endings. These are used to denote different case-relations, such as, nominative, objective, dative, possessive and locative and also for plural number.
(ii) Instead of prepositions in English, Bengali possesses post-positions which occur after the nouns and pronouns (Seelesson6).
(iii) Unlike English the finite verbal endings have no concordence with the number.
(iv) The negative particle na follows the finite verb and precedes the non-finite verb e.g. se bhat khay na' he does not eat rice', but se bhat na kheye skule gela 'he went to school having not eaten rice.'
(v) A large number of onomatopoetic words are used as noun, adjective, adverb 'and also verb after being compounded with the auxiliary kar 'to do' (see lesson 16).

(i) Bengali sentence is mainly based on SOV structure (Subject+Object+Verb).
(ii) Unlike English, Bengali has the peculiarity in using the sentences where the copula verb 'to be' is understood, such as, tomiir (your) niirri (name) ki (what) what is your name? tomiir (your) btiri (house) kothay (where) where is your house?
(iii) Interrogative sentences are formed by adding interrogative pronouns, but yes-or-no interrogative is determined either by intonation or, by using interrogative pronoun 'hi' (unstressed) or by using negative phrase ruihi (see p. 135).

Bengali has undergone many changes and modifications and enriched itself through adoption of words from foreign languages in the span of last one thousand years. Bengal was under the domination of the Pathans and Mughals for about six hundred years and under British rule for nearly two hundred years. The Portuguese, Dutch and Danes invaded the land off and on. As a result, we have Arabic, Persian, English, Portuguese, Dutch and Danish, etc. words in Bengali. But the influence of Sanskrit has remained strongest till recent times. A large number of Sanskrit words known as tatsama are found in Bengali along with the words of varying degrees of phonetic modification and changes in pronunciation known astadbhaua. In addition to these two, Bengali contains a large number of des: (native) words whose origin can be traced sometimes from Dravidian and Munda families. Thus, the non-Aryan influence is seen in its phonetics and morphology.




Preface XVI
Introduction XVII-XXX
A brief survey of Bengali language and literature XVIII
Part I : Script, pronunciation and sound system 1-54
How to write Bengali script 7
Vowels 16
Diphthongs 22
Consonants 25-41
Consonant conjuncts and their pronuciation 41
Joining or Euphonic Combination 50
Part II: Lessons, Structures and Vocabulary 55-279
Lesson 1. First class room meeting 55-62
Lesson 2. Greetings and enquiry 65-72
Lesson 3. Visiting a friend's house 73-84
Lesson 4. Buying fruit in the market 85-101
Lesson 5. A meeting between a student and his teacher 102-113
Lesson 6. To The Doctor 114-122
Lesson 7. Shopping 123-139
Lesson 8. A holiday in Kolkata 140-153
Lesson 9. An accident 154-162
Lesson 10. Booking a room in a hotel in Kalimpong 163-173
Lesson 11.A telephone talk 174-187
Lesson 12. Pous-mela at Santiniketan 188-200
Lesson 13. Story of a great man-Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar 201-210
Lesson 14. Arranging a picnic party 211-223
Lesson 15. A letter to a friend-about spring festival at Santiniketan 224-234
Lesson 16. An idle evening 235-247
Lesson 17. Durgapujo-the biggest festival of Bengalees 248-253
Lesson 18. The climate and seasons of West Bengal 254-262
Lesson 19. T'ravelling in a train 263-270
Lesson 20. On tour at Santiniketan 271-279
Part III : Grammatical Differences Between Sadhu and Calit Bengali 280-286
A few speciments from literature 287-301
Appendix I : Mode of Addressing Letters 302
Appendix II : List of A Few Common Verbs 303
Appendix III: Idioms 306
Appendix IV: List of Grammatical Terms 311
Abbreviations 315
Bibliography 316
Grammatical Index 319


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