From the Back of the Book
The Bengalee may be considered as more nearly allied to the Sungskrita than any of the other languages of India
four fifths of the words in the languages are pure Sungskrita. Words may be compounded with such facility, and to so great an extent in Bengalee, as to convey ideas with the utmost precision, a circumstance which adds much to its copiousness. On these, and many other accounts, it may be esteemed one of he most expressive and elegant languages of the East.
It is a pleasant news that the first volume of "The Modern Bengali Dictionary for Non-Bengali Readers' has come out from the press after a little delay for some unavoidable circumstances. A few years back the late Professor Sukumar Sen had advised the authorities of the Asiatic Society to Publish an exhaustive bilingual Bengali Dictionary for the benefit of non-Bengali as well as foreign readers. The Editor, along with a junior Research Fellows, has prepared the first volume which contains about 5000 words with Bengali initial vowels. It is presumed that the Project would be complete in six volumes with about 75,000 words. Any reader will be able to find out pronunciation, sources of words, different shades of meaning, grammar, usage, proverbs, phrase-idioms and citations collected from classical and modern Bengali literature. Some information on the Bengali personalities have also been incorporated in it so that the readers from other language-groups would feels attracted towards Bengali culture. I hope this lexicography will also help the Bengali readers to know their language more intently.
In this connection I am glad to convey my heartiest thanks to Professor Asit Kumar Bandyopadhyay, Editor of this Project and his associates for undertaking such a stupendous task.
At the outset some readers may raise a question : What is the utility and relevance of this Dictionary ? There are many Bengali dictionaries, monolingual (Bengali to Bengali), bilingual (Bengali to English and vice versa), even trilingual (Sanskrit - English - Bengali) current in Bengali-reading public. Then what is the necessity of add- ing another ? The reason for compiling a Bengali bilingual dictio- nary is this that non-Bengali learners, including foreigners, face' some difficulty in mastering the language from the usual Bengali dictio- naries which are mainly meant for Bengali readers. The present vol- ume of The Modern Bengali Dictionary for Nan-Bengali Readers was mooted by the late Professor Sukumar Sen, the eminent linguist of our country, with a view to reduce the inconvenience of those readers whose vernacular is not Bengali. According to his advice and instruction the present Dictionary Project was started some years ago by the authorities of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta. It was decided to publish a bilingual (Bengali to English) dictionary in six volumes stressing on the needs of non-Bengali readers. Hence, in this Dictio- nary unnecessary details, archaic usages, antiquated vocabularies and lexicographical complexities have been restricted to some extent.
There is another question which intrigues us and which is related to our enquiry. Was there no Bengali dictionary in early and medi- eval Bengal? The answer is in the negative. No specimen of Bengali dictionary has been found, dating before the beginning of the 18th century. But the study of Sanskrit grammar and the use of dictio- naries were practised in Eastern India from the late Maurya Period (c. 321 Be - 232 BC) to the early Gupta Period (c. 319 AD - 467 AD). During the reign of the Palas (c. 750 AD - 1155 AD) and Sena kings (c. 1125 AD - 1202 AD), Sanskrit grammar and dictionaries were in great demand within the priestly community and also in the society of scholars. To master a language a dictionary or a familiarity with its vocabulary is indispensable. Among the lexicons, Amarakosa ('Namalinganusasana') compiled by Amarasinha, was very popu- lar in Bengal in the tenth and subsequent centuries, even till the modern time. Bengal was known to be the seat of Sanskrit learning from the 5th century AD, if not earlier. The Chinese pilgrims - Fa- Hien (c. 401 AD-410 AD), Hiuen Tsang (c. 600 AD- 604 AD) and Itsing (c. 675 AD) learnt Sanskrit literature, Indian Philosophy and sabda-vidya (grammar and dictionary) while staying at Tamralipti (modern Tamluk in the district of.Medinipur, West Bengal). Hence it may be easily surmised that Radha country was a centre of Sanskrit learning from the 5th century of the Christian era. This tradition continued and gained momentum in early and medieval periods as is evident from the study of Sanskrit epics (the Ramayana and the Mahabharatas, Puranas, Smrtisastras, grammar and lexicographies. But we do not find any trace of Bengali dictionaries before the 18th century. Bengali literature, however, began to de- velop from the 10th century (literary specimen as recorded in Carya gitikosa) to the middle of the 18th century (Bharatchandra . Raygunakar, 1712 - 1760); but no trace of Bengali dictionary and grammar could be found between the 10th and the 12th century. Perhaps there were rigorous methods of imparting Sanskrit knowl- edge in tole and cat-uspathi conducted by Sanskrit scholars and pandits. Young boys used to obtain a rudimentary knowledge of San- skrit from those private institutions. But how could these young learn- . ers acquire some knowledge of Bengali? The learning of the ver- nacular was a private and domestic affair, which could be managed from the village pedagogues. But no documentary evidence has been found as yet. It may sound very curious that a full-fledged language like Bengali, which is about one thousand years old, having a long well-developed literary history, reveals no written evidence of any Bengali dictionary and grammar in ancient and medieval Bengal (10th -18th century). But there are a few examples of Bengali words in Tikasaruasva, a commentary of Amarakosa, made by Vandyaghatiya Sarvananda in 1159 AD. About three hundred Bengali words, which were coined by him, are used even today.
There is another reference to Bengali words in Ratnavali or Desina . mamala, prepared by Hemachandra Suri (1088-1172).Though it is a Marathi dictionary, curiously enough, it contains some Bengali words also.
The spoken language may be learnt from the family or society of the language group without the help of grammar or dictionary. But foreigners intending to learn any second language in order to speak and write it correctly, must consult both dictionary and grammar. Hence the Christian missionaries of Europe and America, both Ro- man Catholic and Protestant and the 'writers' and officers of the East India Company felt it a necessity to learn the spoken dialect and the written language of Bengal. The first batch of Portuguese missionaries was despatched from Goa to eastern and southern Ben- gal with a view to convert the natives, Hindus and Muslims alike. Three Jesuit missionaries - Antonio Vaz, Pedro Dias and Jaliarno Perevaira appeared in Bengal in 1576 for evangelical purposes; whether-they were acquainted with the Bengali language is not known. One Marcos Antonio Santucci, reached East Bengal in 1676 for the same purpose. He first felt that no conversion of the. natives was possible without a knowledge of their language, both spoken and written. His primary attempt was therefore, to collect Bengali words by free association with the common folk as well as the learned society and to make a makeshift arrangement for a bilingual Bengali dictionary (Portuguese-Bengali). His manuscript, containing several hundred pages, is kept in the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. After going through the pages of the said manuscript I have come to the conclusion that Santucci had a fair knowledge of the Bengali language, vocabulary and the ways and habits of-the village people.
The second Portuguese evangelist Father Manoel da Assumpsaon, Rector of a village church at Nagori under Bhawal, a few miles from Dhaka city, who had considerable experience of the Bengali lan- guage, prepared a bilingual Bengali grammar and a small dictio- nary, entitled, Vocabulario em Idioma BENGALLA, E' Portuguez, This was printed and published from Lisbon in 1743. Perhaps he got the chance of brushing up his knowledge by corning in close contact with a Bengali convert Dom Antonio de Rozario of Bhushna (now in Bangladesh). The Vocabulario was divided into two parts ("Divido em duas partes"). Its grammatical portion ("Beve compendo da grammatica Bengale") contains only forty printed pages, and the dictionary portion ("Vocabulario em Lingua Bengale") comprises 262 pages. It was printed in Roman character as Bengali types for print- ing had not been devised at that time. From this collection it seems that Manoel got a good opportunity to collect Bengali words and ru- dimentary grammar by associating himself with the common people. Of course his Bengali pronunciation was marred by his Portuguese intonation. Moreover, he had no knowledge of Sanskrit. Hence his 'Vocabulario' and 'Grammatica' inevitably had many lapses. Be that as it may, his sole object was to come to the aid of Portuguese mis- sionaries who sought to master the Bengali language. His second contribution Crepar Xaxtrer Orth’ bhed, the first Bengali printed book, was also published in 1743 from Lisbon along with 'Vocabulario.' Sometimes the language and manner of expression of the above mentioned books seem queer, but a few anecdotes, parables, sermons and allegorical stories of the Bible recorded by him in Bengali, (though some of them smack of faulty construction and un-Bengali idioms) are the earliest Bengali printed prose specimens composed by a foreign missionary writer. Perhaps he obtained some help from Dom Antonio de Rozario, his predecessor. In comparison with Manoel's style Dom Antonio's composition in his Brahman Roman Catholic Samvad - a dialogue between the Roman Catholic Father and the Gentoo Bramene ("argumento e disputa sobre a Laye entre hu Christao, ou Cathelo Romo, e hu bramene ou me dos genitos'), is more natural as far as syntax and word-arrangements are concerned.
We are happy to announce that The Modern Bengali Dictionary for Non-Bengali Readers 0101. Two) is brought out by the Asiatic Society. Thanks are due to Professor Asit Kumar Bandyopadhyay for attesting sincere ef- forts to give a complete shape to the present volume of the highly valuable literary piece. I hope that the Society will be able to acquire wide repute for the Volumes of this Dictionary-the path of which still remains untrodden by any scholar of any institute. I am sure that the Asiatic Society and Prof. Bandyopadhyay, with a group of scholars working under him, will be re- membered by the scholarly world for this marvellous creation.
I have not much to add to the introduction of this volume as almost all the relevant points have been incorporated in the First Volume published in 1999. Some of the non-Bengali and a few foreign readers have already informed me that they are highly benefited by this Dictionary while nego- tiating the literary as well as colloquial nuances of modern Bengali lan- guage. The First Volume consists of words with initial vowels while the present one contains words with initial consonants of K-barga (K, Kh, G, Gh). As there is no word with initial n. in Bengali language this nasal alphabet is dropped in this volume.
Almost all relevant words with grammatical and phonetic sources, coupled with different shades of meaning, have been critically examined and apt citations from the classical and the modern Bengali have been in- serted, which I hope, would help the new learners to be accustomed with the genius of this language. In this context, I like to inform my readers that literary, philosophical and scientific words used in Bengali language, have been allowed due place in this volume.
Regarding methodology the same procedure of the First Volume has been followed in this volume. The Bengali words printed in the Bengali script, have been transliterated into Roman symbols which is followed by transcription in International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) just to show the actual standard pronunciation of each word. Original forms of foreign and dest (indigenous) words have been maintained as far as possible. The In- troduction of the First Volume contains the history of Bengali language (Old, Middle and New Bengali), specimen of literary documents, syntax and word-order, the problems of Sadhubhasa (literary speech) and Calitabhasa (colloquial speech) etc., which would benefit the non-Bengali as well as for- eign readers to master the intricacies of a foreign tongue. In this connec- tion I would like to mention that the changes in the place-names have been followed as far as possible, only in the case of Kolkata the old spelling has been kept unaltered i.e. Calcutta, because the printing of this volume was almost complete before Calcutta became Kolkata.
It is said that dictionary making is a very uncharitable and thankless job which requires careful handling. It is also an admitted fact that no dic- tionary is faultless in the first edition. It needs much brush-up, addition, alteration and correction in subsequent editions. Though our Junior Fel- lows (Dr. Anita Bandyopadhyay, Sm. Arunima Chanda, Sm. Bakul Bandyopadhyay, Sm. Kakali Chakravarty) are doing their best, still few omissions and commissions may occur in this volume for which I share the entire responsibility.
I would like to convey my thanks to the office staff and the Press for their co-operation. Dr. Manabendu Banerjee, General Secretary, The Asi- atic Society, is very kind to this Project and always stretches his helping hand so that the subsequent volumes may come out at regular intervals. I am also very much indebted to my friend Shri KalisanKar Basu for his ad- vice and comments.
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