Last & Least
State of Bangla today
Dr Binoy Barman
IF we look at Bangla closely today, we can identify several specialties in its use. We get three kinds of Bangla, depending on these special uses. These are: Sadhu Bangla (SB), Standard Colloquial Bangla (SCB) and Corrupt Colloquial Bangla (CCB). We can identify them correctly from the verb forms, although other features are also available. For example, the verb 'khawa' (eat) in its first person present perfect form will be 'khaiyachhi' (SB), 'kheyechhi' (SCB) and 'khaichhi' (CCB). Another example with the verb 'kora' (do) in the first person past indefinite: 'koriachhilam' (SB), 'korechhilam' (SCB), 'korchhilam' (CCB). These three kinds of Bangla are used side by side, with their own advantages and limitations.
SB is used mainly in literature by a small number of writers. It is also used in legal affairs and editorials of some newspapers. Otherwise it is almost obsolete. But this Bangla was in vogue in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was respected because of its close affinity with Sanskrit and widely employed for writing literature, although it was seldom used in daily conversation. It fact, it was so dominant that the colloquial Bangla which was spoken by people in general had to struggle for finding its place in written text. But we know the history. The language of mouth defeated the language of scripture. Colloquial Bangla was accepted as a language of writing and a standard was set for it (known as SCB now).
CCB is rather a recent phenomenon. Its use has been widespread in the last few decades. Now it is the most widely used variety of Bangla. But its use is still restricted to speaking only and has just started to spill over to writing in narrow stream. People in Bangladesh now feel comfortable to utter 'aichhi'-'gechhi' (CCB), meaning 'coming' and 'going' in perfect tense, rather than 'eshechhi'-'giyechhi' (SCB). This is a very popular trend and threatens to replace SCB in its own might. SCB is also used in West Bengal of India; and the two varieties of Bangla of the two countries are not very different. The difference however widens now as CCB gets into greater coinage in Bangladesh.
With the passage of time the gap will increase further. The SCB of West Bengal takes a course of corruption of its own as the SCB in Bangladeshi does.
Many linguists term the co-existence of SB and SCB as 'diglossia'. Then, what should we call the linguistic situation where three kinds of Bangla co-exist with special use of their own. May we call it 'triglossia'? Probably so. SB is extremely a written language and CCB is extremely a spoken language. SCB, having both written and spoken forms, falls in between the two. SB is used in special literature, SCB in common literature and formal verbal exchange while CCB in everyday casual speech. The three have three distinct places on the total plane of usage.
Now, should we call CCB 'corrupt' at all? Speaking in CCB is not probably anything scandalous. Its use is spontaneous and without any affectation. It sounds quite natural to the users. At the first approach, it may be found as deviating from the standard of traditional grammar. But in consideration of its own structural richness, it is quite all right and there is nothing objectionable to it. Only the prescriptivists and purists may find in it something inferior.
In fact, nowadays 'aichhi'-'gechhi', with brevity of form and alveolarisation of palatal consonant ('chh'), is so powerful that its use can hardly be resisted with prescription and proscription. It is the language of the majority of people in Bangladesh. The young generation is exercising it without any hesitation. They may be accused of lacking in any sense of aesthetics or linguistics, though they seem to feel quite easy with it. Sometimes it is seen as merely carelessness or callousness on part of CCB user. When the ease of communication counts, it is the best channel they find at their disposal. They find SCB difficult, bookish or genteel. They have adapted to the new variety of Bangla called CCB.
The linguists may disagree with me. They may ask: Is not the distinction of SCB/CCB a manifestation of formality? The former may be considered as a formal register and the latter as informal register. Their observation might be right. But my observation is that CCB has gone beyond the threshold of 'register'. It has already attained some features of formality and hence people do not hesitate to use it even in formal situations.
The CCB in question must not be confused with the other corrupt variety called 'Banglish', which is a wanton mixture of Bangla and English, in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar, whereby English dominates. The main accusation against Banglish is that it makes Bangla impure and undermines its dignity. Therefore, those who tend to mix Bangla and English, intentionally or unintentionally, are held in utter disrepute. CCB has no relationship with Banglish. CCB has developed from SCB through a natural process in the geo-social reality existing in Bangladesh. There is no influence of English on CCB whatsoever.
One may wonder how could CCB emerge and come into so wider use. Is it any regional dialect or social dialect? Originally, of course it is a regional dialect. But it is very difficult to say which particular region it has come from. It seems Dhaka and its adjacent areas have given rise to the CCB. But it shows the influence of many other districts in terms of phonology, lexis and syntax. People from different parts of the country have come to Dhaka and contributed to its development. It is probably the result of verbal transaction in the capital city. It is like a lingua franca for speakers of different dialects. We may hence call it 'Metropolitan Colloquial Bangla' (MCB). It is now a social dialect used by cross-sections of people from all over the country.
As the strength of CCB or MCB is felt now, it may some day totally replace SCB the way SCB replaced SB about a century ago. It may happen in one or two hundred years or so. It will then be used in literature and even in media (in fact media walks ahead of literature to grab change). Books will be written in it and radio and television will also broadcast programmes in it. SCB will be archaic and out of fashion, following the fate of SB. No misunderstanding, by the way. I do not relish in the change. I just state the change in an indifferent mood. I am no advocate of CCB, though like many others I use it in most of the day-to-day verbal exchange.
I differ with those who are all against CCB, though I have no lack of respect for their feelings. What I believe is that the variety which is used by the maximum number of people of a speech community at a given time should set the standard. And text should also be written in that language. Initially it seems impossible. The new linguistic phenomenon faces strong opposition. But in the long run it wins the race. Change becomes viable as inherent beauty becomes visible and is at last accepted by all. The truth is that any living language is like a flowing river. It lives through constant changes.
(The writer is an Assistant Professor and Head, Department of English, Daffodil International University.)