Grammar In the ancient and medieval periods, the main grammar used in Bengal was sanskrit, though prakrit grammar was also used sparingly. The most popular grammar texts were the abridged versions of Astaddhyayi Sutra by Panini (c 5th century BC), such as Katantra, Bopdev's Mugdhabodhvyakaran, Kramadishvar's (13th century) Sangksiptasar and Maharaj Jumarnandi's (14th century) Brtti Rasavati. Two similar 19th century texts include Vyakarankaumudi (1853) by iswar chandra vidyasagar and Katantrachhandahprakriya (1896) by chandrakanta tarkalankar.
The first Bangla grammars were written by Europeans, who, in fact, wrote the first grammars of almost all regional Indian languages. These early grammars were mainly written by foreigners for missionary and proselytising purposes. This was also the case with the first Bangla grammar, Vocabolario em idioma Bengalla, e Portuguez dividido em duas partes, written by Manoel da Assumpcam, a Portuguese missionary, in Portuguese. Assumpcam wrote this grammar between 1734 and 1742 while he was serving in Bhawal. The Vocabolario is in two sections, the first being a brief grammar of the bangla language and the second a Bangla-Portuguese and Portuguese-Bangla dictionary. Published in 1743 from Lisbon, the Vocabolario, which is based on the model of Latin grammar, uses Roman script for writing Bangla words.
The second grammar of the Bangla language was A Grammar of the Bengal Language (1778) written by nathaniel brassey halhed (1751-1830). Halhed knew Sanskrit quite well and he believed that Bangla developed from Sanskrit. Although Halhed modelled his grammar on the pattern of
English grammar, his grammar is heavily influenced by Sanskrit grammar, which Halhed used to explain Bangla grammar. Although Halhed's grammar was written in English, it was the first to print Bangla letters, based on the fonts developed jointly by Charles Wilkinson and panchanan karmakar for their printing press. This book is thus invaluable as an example of early Bangla printing. Halhed also printed some long poems in Bangla in this book.
Apart from these two texts, no other Bangla grammar seems to have been written in the 18th century. The 19th century, however, saw a proliferation of Bangla grammar books. In the first half of the century, there were two types of Bangla grammars: those grammars, written in English by foreigners, the primary purpose of which was to help foreigners learn the language, and those grammars written in Bangla by Bengali writers for use as school texts. Prominent among the English grammarians were william carey (1761-1834), Graves Chamney Haughton, William Yates and John Wenger. The Bengali writers who wrote in Bangla for students of both vernacular and English medium schools were in most cases Sanskrit teachers of these schools, and their grammars were heavily influenced by Sanskrit
grammar. rammuhun roy, who wrote a grammar book in English, did not fit into either category. A Bengali, he wrote in English and, instead of analysing the relationship between Bangla and Sanskrit, he focused on the idiosyncracies of the Bangla language itself.
The second half of the 19th century also saw the publication of a number of Bangla grammars, most of which continued to be heavily influenced by Sanskrit grammar. However, the spoken and local aspects of the language were also discussed in some grammars. Thus, writers like Shyamacharan Sarker, Duncan Forbes and John Beams discussed the local aspects of the language while showing its close connections with Sanskrit. It was about this time that the comparative and historical basis of Bangla grammar was laid through the efforts of local and foreign linguists like John Beams and Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar. The creative writings of bankimchandra chattopadhyay, Shyamacharan Gangopadhyay, Indranath Banerji, rabindranath tagore, ramendrasundar trivedi and haraprasad
shastri also brought out the idiosyncracies of the Bangla language.
William Carey's A Grammar of the Bengali Language was published in 1801. Though influenced by Halhed's grammar, Carey paid greater emphasis to nouns, verbs and particles. Graves Chamney Haughton (1788-1849), Professor of Sanskrit and Bangla at the East India College at Hailybury, published Rudiments of Bengali Grammar from London in 1821. He wrote this book mainly for the students of Bangla at his college. In writing this book, Haughton took the help of other Bangla grammars written by local and foreign grammarians.
The first Bangla grammar that included linguistics was Introduction to the Bengali Language (1847), written by Rev. W Yates (1792-1845). Yates' grammar is in two parts: the first part discusses Bangla grammar, while the second part is a compilation of poems by Bengali poets and excerpts from contemporary bangla literature. Yates was influenced by Carey's grammar, but he was far more conservative than Carey. A Grammar of the Bengalee Language by Rev. J Keith was meant for students and teachers and is in the form of questions and answers.
Rammohun Roy's Bengali Grammar in the English Language was written in English and published in 1826 from Calcutta's Unitarian Press. Unlike Carey or Haughton,
Rammohun did not stress the relationship between Bangla and Sanskrit. He was the first to discuss, even though briefly, the principles of the use of nouns, adjectives and verbs for the benefit of his readers. At some places he used the familiar definitions and vocabulary of Sanskrit grammar. However, he also devised new definitions and coined new vocabulary to suit the needs of Bangla. His opening chapter on the origin of the language was quite revolutionary for his times. He regarded grammar as descriptive rather than prescriptive, as an instrument to explain or describe the language rather than as an erudite treatise.
The second half of the 19th century saw the establishment of a number of English and Bangla schools and madrasahs which also contributed to the growth of Bangla grammar. Up to this time, Bangla grammars had been written mainly to teach the language to foreigners, but now these institutions needed grammar texts for their students. However, as most of the teachers of these institutions were Sanskrit scholars, these new grammars were Sanskrit-oriented.
One of the members of the calcutta school society was radhakanta
deb who believed that without the knowledge of Sanskrit it was not possible to read, write or speak Bangla correctly. His Bangala Shiksagrantha (second edition 1821) was essentially tied to Sanskrit grammar. Radhakanta was the first Bengali to write a Bangla grammar in Bangla. However, though Radhakanta explains the Bangla letters, their pronunciation, words, conjunctions etc, his book is not a full-fledged grammar.
The first full-fledged Bangla grammar by a Bengali was gaudiya vyakaran (1833) by
Rammohun who wrote it in 1830 at the request of the School Society. The book was essentially a translation of
Rammohun's English text, Bengali Grammar in the English Language. Although it was not a new venture, it was a fuller attempt to develop a grammarian's vocabulary in Bangla. Despite
Rammohun's originality in writing a Bangla grammar and his remarkable analysis, later grammarians continued to write Sanskrit-oriented Bangla grammar.
Several other Bangla grammars written by Bengalis were published in the 1830s, among them Vyakaran Sanggraha (1836) by Gopalchandra Churamani, Vyakaran Sar by Taraknath Roy and Vyakaran (1839) by Purnachandra De. A number of Bangla grammars were also written in the 1840s, among them, Sadhu Bhasar Vyakaransar Sanggraha (1840) by Bhagabachchandra Visharad, Bangabhasa Vyakaran (1840) by Brajakishore Gupta, Shishusebadhi (1840) by Ramchandra Vidyavagish, Gaudiya Vyakaran (1841) by Kshetramohan Datta and Banga Bhasar Vyakaran O Dhatu Sanggraha (1846) by John Robinson.
Bhagabachchandra's grammar is based on Sanskrit grammar and its language is highly Sanskritised. Brajakishore Gupta's grammar is also heavily influenced by Sanskrit grammar. Kshetramohan's grammar is a rewriting of
Rammohun Roy's Gaudiya Vyakaran, while Robinson's grammar is more or less a Bangla translation of William Carey's grammar.
The second half of the 19th century saw the publication of more than fifty Bangla grammars. Of special significance is Shyamacharan Sarker's (1814-82) Introduction to the Bengalee Language (1850), written in English, and Bangala Vyakaran, a Bangla version of the text, published in 1852. Shyamacharan follows
Rammohun in focusing on the Bangla language itself unlike other contemporary grammarians. Shyamacharan was the first to reflect on the local dialects of Bangla and on the presence of foreign loan words from Arabic, Persian, and Portuguese etc.
Several foreigners continued to write Bangla grammars. reverend james long's Dhatumala was published from Kolkata in 1857. Duncan Forbes' (1798-1868) A Grammar of the Bengali Language (1861) is influenced by Haughton. Keeping the needs of foreign students in mind, GF Nicholl wrote Manual of the Bengali Language, Comprising a Bengali Grammar and Lessons, with various appendices including an Assamese Grammar (1885). The Oxford Oriental Series Grammar of the Bengali Language Literary and Colloquial (1891, 1894) by John Beams (1837-1902) is essentially the work of a linguist whose main aim appears to have been to teach foreigners colloquial Bangla.
While most of the Bengali grammarians were from Kolkata, there were also a considerable number from serampore, Krishnanagar, Hughli, Shantipur, dhaka, barisal and mymensingh. Prominent among them were Shyamacharan Sarker (Bangala Vyakaran, 1852), Nandakumar Roy (Vyakaran Darshan, 1852), Rajendralal Mitra (Vyakaran Prabesh, 1862), Krishnakishore Banerji (Saral Vyakaran, 1877) and Haraprasad
Shastri (Bangala Vyakaran, 1882). A couple of grammarians broke the traditional style: Nandakumar Roy wrote Vyakaran Darpan (1852) in verse and rajendralal mitra wrote Vyakaran Prabesh (1862) in question-answer form.
The Bangla grammars written for use as school textbooks around the middle of the 19th century were mostly translations of Sanskrit grammars and did not reflect on the character and idiosyncrasy of the Bangla language. But a number of grammarians followed the initiative of John Beams and Bhandarkar to write Bangla grammar on the basis of comparative linguistics. Among these grammarians were Chintamoni Gangopadhyay (Bangala Vyakaran, 1881), Nakuleshwar Vidyabhushan (Bhasabodh Bangala Vyakaran, 1898) and Rishikesh Shastri (Bangala Vyakaran, 1900). However, even these grammarians were unable to cast off the all-pervading influence of Sanskrit grammar.
Twentieth-century Bangla grammars are more varied and more significant. Some credit for this must be given to a number of influential organisations such as
parishad and Calcutta University, which included Bangla grammar in the syllabus. george
abraham grierson's The Linguistic Survey of India (1903-28) and the award in 1913 of the Nobel Prize to Rabindranath Tagore made the Bangla language familiar to the outside world and raised the status of Bangla. The partition of bengal in 1947, the Bangla language movement in Bangladesh (1948-52) and the establishment of the bangla academy in 1955 also contributed to the development of Bangla. The support given by the West Bengal Bangla Akademi (1985) encouraged the writing of Bangla grammar, particularly texts which applied linguistic techniques.
At a meeting of Bangiya Sahitya Parisad in 1901, Haraprasad
Shastri in his essay on Bangala Vyakaran classified the Bangla grammars of the 19th century into two 'patents': the Mugdhabodh patent and the Hailey patent. The first category of writers included Sanskrit scholars while the second category included schoolteachers. He also spoke of a third category of grammars which combined the other two. Sastri pleaded for real Bangla grammars to be written. His guidelines were followed by Ramendrasundar Trivedi and Rabindranath Tagore.
Ramendrasundar Trivedi did not write a complete Bangla grammar text, but he made a significant contribution to grammar in his book Shabdakatha (1917). In his essays such as 'Bangala
Vyakaran', 'Bangala Krt O Taddhit', Karak Prakaran', 'Na', and 'Dhvanivichar' he pointed out that it was not the purpose of grammar to help read, write or speak a language correctly, but to discover the inherent norms and disciplines of the language. Rabindranath Tagore's interest in Bangla philology is evident from the essays in his Shabdatattva (1935) and Banglabhasa Parichay (1938), in which he tried to describe the current form of the language. Lalit Kumar Banerji (1868-1929) tried to synthesise the controversies that developed about Bangla grammar towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century in 'Vyakaran Vibhisika' (1911), Sadhubhasa Banam Chalita Bhasa' (1913), 'Banan-Samasya' (1913), 'Anupras' (1913) and 'Ka-karer Ahangkar' (1915).
From the beginning of the 20th century, partly in keeping with the development of modern linguistics, a new trend may be seen in the attitude to grammar in both Bangladesh and west bengal with reference to (1) comparative historical linguistics, (2) creative grammar and (3) dialects.
The first historical grammar of the Bangla language was Srinath Sen's Bhasatattva (1900), although it contained a number of inaccuracies. Another clearer and more comprehensive historical grammar was Bangala Bhasa (1912) by jogesh
chandra ray Vidyanidhi (1859-1956). Another example of historical Bangla grammar is The History of the Bengali Language (1920) by bijay chandra majumder (1861-1942) in which Majumdar attempted to identify historically the foreign elements in Bangla. muhammad shahidullah's essay, 'Outlines of an Historical Grammar of the Bengali
Language', appeared the same year in the Calcutta University Journal of the Department of Letters (Vol. III, 1920). suniti kumar chatterji's (1890-1977) book, the origin and development of the bengali language (1926), identified and analysed the elements of Bangla and laid the scientific basis for the study of the language.
Although most Bangla grammar texts in the 20th century have been written in the traditional way, some scholars have attempted to write in line with contemporary linguistic discussions. Among the books that deserve special mention are Bhasa Prakash Bangala Vyakaran (Suniti Kumar Chatterji, Kolkata, 1939), Byabaharik Bangala Vyakaran (Basanta Kumar Chatterji, Kolkata, 1944), Abhinaba Vyakaran (Kazi Deen Muhammad and Sukumar Sen, Dhaka, 1948), Vyakaran Manjari (muhammad enamul haq, Rajshahi, 1951), Vyakaran Parichay (Muhammad Shahidullah, Dhaka, 1953), Bangla Bhasar Vyakaran (munier chowdhury, mofazzal haider chaudhuri and Ibrahim Khalil, Dhaka, 1972).
Suniti Kumar Chatterji's Bhasa Prakash Bangala Vyakaran is the most important Bangla grammar of the twentieth century. Although it is a grammar textbook, it is based closely on The Origin and Development of the Bengali Language. It deviates from the traditional style of writing grammar and includes discussions on modern linguistics. Suniti Kumar was the first to make a selection of the principles of Sanskrit grammar instead of copying them while writing his grammar. His intention was not to prescribe rules, but to explain them scientifically
The credit for writing the first textbook on Bangla philology goes to Hemantakumar Sarker for Bhasatattva O Bangla Bhasar Itihas (1923). Another important textbook on the history of Bangla language was Paresh Chandra Majumdar's Banla Bhasa Parikrama (1929). But the most important book on the subject was Sukumar Sen's Bhasar Itibrtta (1939). Muhammad Shahidullah's Bangala Bhasar Itibrtta (1959) is also a valuable addition to the history of the Bangla language. At present, the tradition of writing historical grammar has more or less been replaced by linguistics.
Significant contributions were made by muhammad abdul hai in the field of linguistics in A Phonetic and Phonological Study of Nasals and Nasalization in Bengali (1960) and Dhvanivijnan O Bangla Dhvanitattva (1964). Hai's work proved to be a turning point in the study of Bangla linguistics. Kazi Deen Muhammad also studied linguistics and wrote Verbal Piece in Colloquial Bengali: A Phonological Study (1961). At about the same time several other Bengali scholars published valuable works on Bangla linguistics: Mofazzal Haider Chaudhuri on Some Suprasegmental Phonological Features of Bengali (1959), Munier Chowdhury on The Phonemes of Bengali (1961), Aminul Islam on A Phonetic Study of Inter-Word Relations in Bengali (1961), Rafiqul Islam on Bengali Graphemics (1960). The 70's saw further studies in this field with Abul Kalam Manjoor Morshed's A Study of Standard Bengali and the Noakhali Dialect (1975) and Humayun Azad's Pronominalisation in Bengali (1976). Humayun Azad's Vakyatattva (1984) played an important role in introducing Noam Chomsky's linguistic concepts to Bangla.
The cultivation of modern linguistics in West Bengal began some years after it started in Bangladesh. West Bengali linguists include Dwijendranath Basu (Bangla Bhasar Adhunik Tattva O Itikatha), Suhash Chatterji, Shishirkumar Das, Dipankar Dasgupta, Animesh Kanti Pal, Manjuli Ghosh, Prithwish Chakrabarti, Samir Ghosh, Sukumar Biswas and Rameswar Shaw. Those who worked on creative Bangla grammar in West Bengal include Prabal Dasgupta (Haler Pashchimi Vyakarantattva, 1974), Pabitra Sarkar (The Generative Phonological Component of the Grammar of Bengali, 1975), Udaynarayan Sinha (Charyabakya Byabachchhed Bisayak Prastab, 1979; Noam Chomsky: Sanjanani Vyakaranviplab, Bhasa, 1983) and Rameswar Shaw (Sadharan Bhasabijnan O Bangla Bhasa, 1984).
Earlier work on Bangla dialects includes Narendranath Chakrabarti's Khulna Jelar Majhir Bhasa (1924), and Sukumar Sen's Women's Dialect in Bengali (1929). However, considerable work on dialects was done later in the century with the compilation of regional dictionaries, especially Muhammad Shahidullah's Purba Pakistaner Anchalik Bhasar Abhidhan (1965). He was followed by Kamini Kumar in Laukik Shabdakos (1968). Others who have compiled regional vocabulary include Animesh Kanti Pal, Maniruzzaman and Rajiv Humayun. Two foreign scholars who have done considerable work on Bangla dialects include Jack A Dabbs (Purbabanga Upabhasa, 1965) and Norihiko Uchida (Chattragrami Upabhasa, 1969).
The work of several linguists has lately attracted the attention of scholars, among them Sukumar Sen (The Caste Dialects of the Muchis in South-western Burdwan, 1965), Prithwish Chakrabarti (Dialects of Ranakamars of Birbhum, 1965), Bhaktiprasad Mallik (Aparadh Jagater Bhasa, 1972), Nirmal Das (Uttarbanger Narir Bhasa, 1970), Afia Dil (Hindu-Muslim Dialects in Bengali, 1972), Maniruzzaman (Shishur Bhasa, 1976), Pabitra Sarkar (Bangla Galagalir Bhasatattva, 1972; Bhasa-Desh-Kal, 1985), Mansur Musa (Bhasa Parikalpanar Samaj Bhasatattva, 1985), Mrinal Nath (Samaj Bhasa Bijnaner Ruparekha, 1989), Rajiv Humayun (Samaj Bhasabijnan, 1993), Satrajit Goswami (Bangla Akathya Bhasa O Shabdakos, 2000).
As in the 19th century, in the 20th century as well some
Bangla grammars were also written in foreign languages, mainly for foreigners
learning Bangla. At least 25 such self-study books have been written in
English, German, Russian, Japanese and Czech. Some of these have been
written by Bengalis and some jointly by Bengalis and non-Bengalis. Some
of these books worth mentioning are Edward C Dimock, Jr Somdev Bhattacharji
and Suhas Chatterjee, Introduction to Bengali (1959); Punyalok
Roy, Bengali Language Handbook (1966); Walter Sutton Page, An
Introduction to Colloquial Bengali (1934); Bidhubhusan Dasgupta,
Learn Bengali Yourself (1948); Mofazzal Haider Choudhuri Colloquial
Bengali (1963). Teach-yourself books have also been written in other
languages: in German, Biren Banerji, Praktische grammatik der Bengalischen
umgangsprache (1923); in Japanese, Tsuyoshi Nara, Bengarugo nyummon
(1975); in Russian, D Litton et al, Uchebnik Danilchuk (1959);
in Czech, Dusan Zbavitel, Ucebnico Bengalistiny (1953).
Nirmal Das, Bangla Bhasar Vyakaran O Tar Kramabikash, 2nd ed, 2000;
MA Qayyum, A Critical Study of the Early Bengali Grammar: Halhed to
Haughton, Dhaka, 1982; AR Khondkar, The Portuguese Contribution
to Bengali Prose, Grammar and Lexicography, Dacca, 1979.