A.Speech Community


Bangla is the official language of West Bengal and Tripura and is also considered as the regional official language of the Cachar district in Assam. A considerable number of Bangla speakers are found in the neighboring states of Assam, Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. According to 1991 censes 69, 595, 738 were mother tongue speakers in terms of Bengali.

Bangla speakers have been noted to be competent bilingual speakers of Hindi, English, Asamiya, Oriya, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Maithili, Nepali, Punjabi, Gujarati, Rajasthani, so on and soforth.


There are a considerate number of other language speakers who use Bangla fluently for the functional purpose. A lot of people whose mother tongues are Hindi, Asamiya, Oriya, Rajasthani, Gujarati, Nepali, Tamil, Manipuri, Telugu, Malayalam, Punjabi, etc. belong to this functional group.



The following chart contains the number of Bangla speakers (above 10,000) , according to the 1991 census.

	States					Number of speakers
	West Bengal 			   	58, 541, 519 
	Assam				   	4, 856, 532
	Bihar 				   	2, 523, 040
	Tripura					1, 899, 162
	Orissa 				    	442, 971
	Uttar Pradesh 			    	263, 917
	Madhya Pradesh 			    	250, 794
	Maharastra 			    	161, 497
	Meghalaya 			    	144, 261
	Delhi				    	121, 938
	Arunachal Pradesh 		    		70, 771
	Andaman & Nicobar Islands 	    		64, 706
	Mizoram 			    		59, 092
	Nagaland 			    		38, 280
	Andhra Pradesh 			    	30, 281
	Rajasthan 			    		28, 133
	Karnataka 			    		20, 926
	Gujarat 			    		20, 809
	Manipur  			    		19, 385


According to the 1991 census, the distribution of the functional group of Bangla ie, people who use Bangla as second language in India is as follows .

	     Name of First Language 		Number of speakers speaking 	
					Bangla as second language 	
		Adi 				54	
		Angami				6	
		Ao 				4	
		Arabi/Arbi 				399	
		Assamese		      		11, 71, 689	
		Bhili/Bhilodi			933	
		Bhotia				80	
		Bishnupriya		   	34, 607	
		Bodo/ Boro		   	46, 197	
		Coorg/kodagu			4	
		Dimasa		   		17, 959	
		Dogri 				29	
		English 		      		2, 067    	
		Gangte				33	
		Garo		    		23, 336	
		Gondi				404	
		Gujarati		       		4, 887	
		Halam		       		9, 680	
		Hindi				9, 31, 407	
		Hmar		       		3, 076	
		Ho		       		7, 885	
		Kabui				257	
		Kannada 				161	
		Karbi/Mikir				25	
		Kashmiri				3	
		Kharia		       		1, 557	
		Khasi		       		3, 869	
		Khond/kondh 			4	
		Kisan 				11	
		Koch		        		3, 376	
		Koda/kora		      		11, 682	
		Konda 				310	
		Konkani				76	
		Korwa 				192	
		Koya				544	
		Kuki				959	
		Kurukh/Oraon			41, 484	
		Lahnda				6	
		Lepcha				6	
		Lushai/Mizo			462	
		Malayalam		   		1, 518	
		Malto		   		6, 197	
		Manipuri				40, 899	
		Mao				1	
		Maram 				15	
		Marathi		    		1, 040	
		Mishmi				12	
		Mogh		    		9, 699	
		Munda		   		16, 729	
		Mundari		   		35, 964	
		Nepali		   		31, 977	
		Nissi/Dafla 			4	
		Oriya		   		74, 369	
		Paite				10	
		Parji				4	
		Punjabi		     		5, 576	
		Radha		     		5, 000	
		Rengma				702	
		Sanskrit				12	
		Santali		       		11, 63, 063	
		Savara 				651	
		Sema 				2	
		Sherpa				6	
		Sindhi				495	
		Tamil		      		1, 885	
		Tangsa				596	
		Telugu 		      		6, 509	
		Thado 				21	
		Tibetan				344	
		Tripuri				2, 95, 932	
		Tulu				9	
		Urdu				2, 06, 356	
		Other Languages		     	28, 338	


At the international level, Bangla diaspora is found in the countries like Bangladesh (100, 000, 000 - 1994), Nepal (27, 712) Singapore (600), United Arab Emirates (70, 000), United States of America, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia (15, 600), Malawi, Canada, Australia, France, etc.

At the national level, Bangla diaspora is evident in the states like Assam, Bihar, Tripura, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Megalaya, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat and Manipur.


The ethnic composition of Bangla identity group is neither migrant nor nomadic. Rather it can be said to be sedentary in nature. The ethnic composition of the speech community is constituted of leoth rural and urban population.

The ethnic composition of Bangla functional group is basically migrant by nature. Both the rural and urban people of various speech communities like Gujarati, Rajasthani, Marwari, Oriya, Asamiya, Bihari, Tamil, Telugu, Malayali, Nepali, Sindhi, Punjabi, Iranian (kabuliwala), Chinese, etc. migrated in West Bengal for the purpose of business, service, etc.


Bangla speech community has language contact with different Indian languages as well as with many foreign languages. Significant language contact of Bangla is evidenced with the Indian languages, like Hindi, (official language of India) Oriya of Asamiya (having the areal contact leaving the neighboring speech communities). A tendency of Bangla-Hindi pidginisation has been noticed in the Purulia, Birbhum regions where it from the western border of west Bengal. Bangla has contact situations with Maithili, Magahi of Bhojpuri.

As far as foreign languages are concerned, Bangla has great deal of contact with English language at all levels. Having English as the dominant language for two hundred years Bangla attests both code mixing and code switching from English.

Code mixing from both English and Hindi is evident in Bangla. English code mixing is essentially found in the field of scientific, medical, engineering, technological, judiciary & administrative terminologies. Code switching to English is also quite prevalent among the speakers of the Bangla speech community especially in the field of education, administration, etc. Code mixing and code switching in Hindi can be observed in the field of trade and commerce. In the interactive field of romance and violence, Hindi code mixing and code switching are also evident as an influence of Hindi films.


Bangla attests convergence with Sanskrit on the morphophonemic level. The tatbhva words that originated from Sanskrit developed into different forms giving rise to the formation of a number of Homonyms and Homophones in Bangla which can be cited as an instance of language convergence.

In Bangla, borrowing of vocabulary items is found from Pharsi, Portuguese, Arabic, Sanskrit (tatsama), Hindi and most significantly from English. Chatterji (1926) points out that the ratio of Bangla vocabulary and the borrowed words is 50 : 50. The foreign elements in Bangla vocabulary constitute a major portion of vocabulary in the language. Instances of borrowing in Bangla from other Indian language can also be observed. Diffusion has not been significantly observed in Bangla.


The social structure of the Bangla speech community though varied, is not rigid. Caste system comprising the castes like Brahmin, kayastha, Vaidya, Vaisya, Mahisya, Namasudra, Tili, Tanti, sunri, Barujibi, Bagdi, etc. is existent.

In some rural areas the caste system is maintained in case of marriages, cooking food, etc. In different rituals like Sraddha, performing pujas, the role of Brahmin (not any other caste is still maintained in both the rural and urban areas. Otherwise the caste system is not rigidly maintained (as it was in the earlier period) in the speech community. Only in case of arranged marriages this caste system is maintained, that too only to some extent by some of the families.

Apart from the caste system, the religious system that comprises Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Buddhist, Vaishnava, etc are found to be existent in the social structure.


Bangla speech community exhibits institutionalization in the fields of child birth 'annaprasan' (first rice feeding of the child); education general academic institution, Tol, Madrasas, etc.); initiation 'upanayan' (in case of Brahmins and vaidyas the learning of 'gayatri mantra' and having the holy thread 'paite'); marriage 'vibaha' ; and Death 'sraddha'.


The functional group who speak Bangla for functional purposes like trade, commerce, occupation, etc. is usually found to maintain their identity as well as loyalty towards their mother tongue. For education, they either opt for English or mother tongue. As regards states and attitude of the functional group it can be said that it is maintenance-prone and positive.


The sociopolitical economy that governs a language from the point of view of sociopolitical power is evident from the differentiation that exists between Bangla and English. The Bangla language is affected by the mastery of the English language to some extent which is due to its colonial past. Though Adam's report in 1854 clearly recommended mother tongue to be the medium of instruction at the primary level, Macaulay's minute of 1935 damaged the sentiment of the Bangla speakers by giving importance to the English language as a medium of instruction. It was observed by the Hunter commission in 1882 that with the establishment of the Universities in 1857, the affinity towards English education become widespread at the primary level also. With this hegemonic attitude in the background, the linguistic awareness regarding their mother tongue was developed among the members of the Bangla speech community inspite of accepting English for the official purpose and as a link language especially for the relative importance of the English language that is characterized by socio-economic crisis for the Bangla language. As a result the consciousness for the promotion of Bangla has taken a new shape. Though in the fields of education, medium of instruction, literature, song, drama and in such other cultural performances Bangla finds its due place, the inclination for the promotion of Bangla in the fields of administration, higher state government jobs, government and private corporate sectors, multinational sectors, has taken place. The multinational corporate sectors have already started using Bangla for their clients which is evident from various Bangla creative advertisements of their products. The domains of English and Bangla language usage need to be specified as a subject matter of language planning.


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