Historically, Bangla is a member of the eastern group of the Indo Aryan languages of Indo-European Family. The Indo-Aryan Speakers are said to have migrated from Afghanistan and entered India through the northwestern frontier. From the point of view of phonetics and vocabulary, primitive Indo European dialects were classified into two broad groups- centum and satəm. The centum group consists of: - 1. Greek, 2. Germanic, 3. Italic, 4. Celtic, 5. Hittite (later researches have shown that it should be claimed to be a sister language of Indo European and not a daughter language) and 6. Tokharian. The Satəm group consists of 1. Indo-Iranian 2. Balto-Slavic 3.Armenian and 4. Albanian. Some of the Indo European tribes, speaking the satəm languages characterized by the palatalizing and spirantising of the sounds, came down to the eastern part of the plateau of Iran, by 2000 B. C. They were settled in Eastern Iran for some time and came in India. By this time their language was characterized by a stage of development, which has been called Indo-Iranian. This Indo-Iranian form of Indo-European is the immediate source of the Aryan languages in India.
Chatterji (1926: 16) divides the Indo-Aryan Speech into three broad periods considering the main phonetic and morphological trends. They are as follows:
(1) The old Indo Aryan (OIA), when the language was most copious in both its sound and forms;
(2) Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA), when there was a movement towards simplification of older consonant groups, and a general curtailment of grammatical forms. The MIA period may further be subdivided into an early, a second and a late stage, with a transitional stage between the early and the second stage;
(3) New Indo-Aryan (NIA), when the total character of the language was altered and the vernaculars of modern Indo Aryan came into being. As regards the definite dates of the language history, OIA period is considered from the time of the composition of the Vedic Hymns, that is from 1500/1200 B.C. to the 557-477 B.C., the time immediately preceding Gautam Buddha. From 600 B.C. to about 1000 A.D. is said to be the MIA period, which is divided into First MIA stage, the Transitional MIA stage, the second MIA stage and the third or late MIA stage. The first MIA stage is attested by inscriptional Prakrits and Pali, the second MIA stage by literary Prakrits, and the late MIA stage by Apabhramṁ̰śa and Avahattha. The NIA period starts from 1000 A.D. approximately from about 900 to 1000 A.D. Bangla is said to have been evolved from Magadhi Apabhramṁ̰śa-Avahattha along with Asamiya, Magadhi, Maithili, and Bhojpuri. Bangla belongs to the earlier group of the Magadhan subfamily along with Asamiya & Odiya.
The origin of script in the Indian context is traced to Brahmi and Kharosthi. James Princep was the first to decipher the Aśokan Inscriptions in archaic Brahmi. Scholars like Biihler, Kielhorn and G.H. Ojha opine that Brahmi is of Phoenician origin. David Diringer (1968: 262) says, "All historical and cultural evidence is best coordinated by the theory which considers the early Aramaic alphabet to be the proto- type of the Brahmi script."
The Brahmi script has three stages of development: 1.Old Brahmi or archaic Brahmi (3rd century B.C. to 1st century B.C.) 2.Middle Brahmi (1st century A.D. to 3rd century A.D.) and 3.Late Brahmi (4th century A.D. to 6th century A.D).
From 7th century A.D. to 10th century A.D. Siddhamatrika lipi were found throughout India. In eastern India Siddhamatrika developed into Gaudi or Proto Bengali script which is perceptible in documents of the period between 11th to 13th century A.D. from 14th century A.D. and particularly in the 15th century A.D. Modern forms of Bangla alphabet is found in manuscripts and epigraphs (upto 17th century). From 18th century onwards full-fledged development of the Bangla script took place, which is attested in the relevant documents.
Historically speaking, the Bangla language has been divided into three periods as evident from various sources:
The specimens of this period of Bangla are the following:
(i) 47 Carya songs composed by the Sahajiya Buddhists, which were discovered by Mahamahooadhyay Hara Prasad Sāstri from Nepal. It was published in the name of Hājār Bacharēr Purāṇa BāṅgālāBhāṣāy Bauddha Gān ō Dōhā. The first one of the four manuscripts printed in this book, is the caryācaryaviniścaya , which has the prime importance for the study of the origin of the language.
Of the other manuscripts, the second and the third are the Dohākōśa of Saraha and the Dohā kōśa of Kanha which are in Apabhraṃśa dialect, lacking the specific Bangla linguistic traits, have an important bearing in the development of NIA languages. The last manuscript Ḍākarṇava attests a third variety of Prakritic speech.
(ii) Specimens of Old Bangla can be had from the glossary of over 300 words in a commentary on the Amara kōśa by Pandit Vandya - ghāṭiya Sarvānanda written around 1159 A.D.
(iii) The Rāma Carita of Sandyakara Nandi, of 11th century attests some place names which belong to the inscriptions and old books of the first half of the 5th century. Though these names are highly sanskritised, some tadbhava and dēśi words can also be distinguished.
This period is subdivided into three stages.
a. Transitional Middle Bangla (1200-1300 A.D): There are no genuine specimens of the language that can be related to the period. The national legends of Bengal, the stories of Gopī-canda, Behula-Lakhindar, khullana- Dhanapati, Phullara-kālketu, Lausena, can be treated as the works taking shape during this century.
b. Early Middle Bangla (1300- 1500 A.D): Bangla language and literature were fully established by this period which is considered as
classics of the period. The Śrī kṛṣṇa kīrttana of Caṇḍi dāsa is the philologically most significant
document of the period. Rāmāyaṇa was rendered by Kṛtti vāsa into Bangla during the period.
c. Late Middle Bangla (1500-1800 A.D): This period is attested by the development of Vaisnava literature with the influence of Sree Chaitanya Deva and his disciples. Bangla literature was being enriched by the addition of biography as a genre.
This period is marked by the introduction of Phrase in the written form for the first time. Chatterji (1926: 135) mentions,"the colloquial of Calcutta made its first éclatant advent in the Hutōm Pēcar Naksā (1862). Sketches of the 'Hooting Owl' of Kāte Prasanna Sinha, which is one of the raciest books in Bengali, a work which is full of life, being sketches of social life in Calcutta in the middle of the 19th century, written in the choicest colloquial spiced with slang term and unconventional expressions such as a man about the town would use. The books written by the writers of Fort William College, Christian missionaries, works of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Datta, Rabindranath Tagore, and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay are the remarkable documents of the period. The actual spoken form of the mass ushered into literature. A most noteworthy factor of the New Bangla was the enormous influence of English in vocabulary, idioms, expressions, etc. The contamination of the Sanskrit Sācha-chāca was carefully avoided. The use of samskrita was given a different footing. In order to meet the necessity of having synonyms for the terms of western life, science and technology, Sanskrit vocables were used for coining those new words. The influence of intellectual Calcutta spread all over Bengal as a result the Calcutta variety of Bangla also spread all over Bengal and influenced the various dialects.
The decision of using the regional language instead of Farsi, the then official language of India, in the year 1837 gave rise to the individualistic attitude of the different regions. But at that time it was difficult to give recognition to each of the regional languages because till then there were a number of scientific researches regarding the development of the modern Indian languages from Prakrit and Apabhrṁśa stage. There was even no clear-cut demarcation of the regional languages. During this period, the controversy regarding whether Odiya and Asamiya are the dialects of Bangla gave rise to the movements for individual languages. In the year 1816 samples of thirty modern Indian languages were collected for study and in 1872 John Beams in his book A Comparative Grammar of the Modern Indian languages of India discussed in detail the Indo Aryan languages. By 1903, the language movements of the Asamiya and Odiya people led to the recognition of Asamiya and Odiya as languages different from Bangla. In 1905, the partition of Bengal into east and west Bengal took place in spite of the radical political movement against the partition. This Bangabhanga Andolon opened a new vista in the Indian political horizon. The demand of provinces based on language proved its depth and clarity. Later, during 1956, the reorganization of the Indian linguistic states was clearly defined and West Bengal came to be recognized as the linguistic state representing the Bangla language.
Genetically, Bangla is a New Indo Aryan language that has evolved from Indo European through Indo Iranian.
Typologically, Bangla is an inflexional analytic language.
Areally speaking, Bangla is an eastern Indian language in South East Asia bordering a number of non-Indo-Aryan languages, viz: Malto (a Dravidian language spoken in eastern Bihar), Ahom (a Tai language of neighbouring Assam), and Garo (a Tibeto Burman language spoken in the northern part of Bengal). There are also languages, which are affiliated with the Munda languages (a sub family of Austro - Asiatic) like Santali and Mundari spoken in the border regions of the Bangla speaking area.
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