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To avoid possible confusion, this is NOT a page belonging to the linguist Tanmoy Bhattacharya. He is my namesake, one amongst the many described in my homepage, and is much better qualified to write a page like this, but since he has not done so, I write this very small page.

This page will probably remain incomplete because my namesake actually wrote a page! You may want to hop on over to his article instead of wasting time here.

There is also a page describing the origin of this language, and one describing the script.

Bengali Grammar

Phrase Structure

Bengali belongs to the SOV family of languages: i.e. commonly the word order inside a sentence is subject, object, and then verb. Thus, one would say ‘Ami Am khAi’, a word-for-word translation of which would be ‘I mango eat’. Similarly adverbs usually come before the verb: e.g. ‘tArAtAri khAo’ with the translation ‘quickly eat’. Adjectives are however still before the noun: ‘miSTi Am’ ‘sweet mango’.

Gender and Number

Bengali has two genders (masculine and feminine) and two numbers (singular and plural). Adjectives change according to gender, but not number. These days it has become usual for the masculine adjectives to be used for both masculine and feminine nouns. Pronouns do not mark the gender, but do change according to person, familiarity, proximity, and number.

Case system and Prepositions

Bengali does not have real prepositions; instead the function is taken over by two separate constructs. First, nouns and pronouns are sometimes marked by declenational suffixes indicating its grammatical role. Thus, ‘bAD.i’ is house and ‘bAD.ite’ is ‘house-in’, ‘Ami’ is ‘I’ and ‘AmAke’ is ‘I-to’. English uses the decletaional endings only for the possessive: ‘phal’ is ‘fruit’, ‘phaler’ is ‘fruit’s'. The case system in Bengali is nominative-accusative, i.e. it contrasts the subject of both transitive and intransitive verbs against direct and indirect objects of transitive verbs. It also has a number of other cases demonstrated as follows: ‘phal’ fruit or fruits, ‘phal-gulo’ the fruits becomes ‘phal-ke’ and ‘phal-gulo-ke’ in the oblique cases, ‘phal-e’/‘phal-ete’ and ‘phal-gulo-te’ in the locative case, ‘phal diYe’ and ‘phal-gulo diYe’ in instrumental case, ‘phal-er’ and ‘phal-gulo-r’ in the possessive form. Animate nouns also have a plural in ‘-era’ and the corresponding instrumental and possessive of the form ‘-eder diYe’ and ‘-eder’ respectively. After a stem ending in ‘-A’, the ‘-e’ becomes ‘-Y’, and ‘-e-’ becomes ‘-Ye-’.

Second, there are various postpositions that can be used with the possessive. Thus, ‘chAd’ is the ‘roof’ and ‘chAder upor’ means ‘on (or over) the roof’, ‘ghar’ is ‘room’, and ‘gharer bhitar’ is ‘inside the room’. Similarly ‘kAche’ indicates near, ‘janya’, for, ‘sambandhe’, about, ‘Age’, before, ‘pare’, after, ‘dike’, towards, ‘paryyanto’, till, ‘saGge’, with, and ‘theke’/‘hote’, from. Other such postpositions indicate directions like ‘sAmne’ (in front of), ‘pechane’ (behind) etc.

Pronouns

There is one first person pronoun, it is Ami (I), AmAY/AmAke (to me), AmAte (in me), AmAr (my), AmrA (We), AmAder (to us, our), AmAderke (to us). There are three second person pronouns: the first familiar tui, toke, tote, tor, torA, toder, toderke is used towards kids, inferiors, familiar juniors, and close friends. It is also used for family members where closeness, and family tradition, competes with seniority or politeness which demands one of the other two forms. The second middle form tumi, tomAY/tomAke, tomAte, tomarA, tomAder, tomAderke replaces the first form in polite settings, and the highest form in familiar ones. It is also used almost exclusively by couples for their partners, except young people today sometimes use the familiar form, and traditionally wives used to use the polite form for their husbands. The third polite form Apni, ApnAke, ApnAte, ApnArA, ApnAder, ApnAderke is used in the rest of the settings. There are three pairs of third person pronouns: the first of these: familiar se, tAke, tAte, tAr, tArA, tAder, tAderke and polite tini, tenAke, tenAte, tÃr, tÃrA, tÃder, tÃderke is for more remote references than the second proximate: familiar o, oke, ote, or, orA, oder, oderke, and polite uni, õke, õte, õr, õrA, õder, õderke, and the third demonstrative: familiar e, eke, ete, er, erA, eder, ederke, and polite ini, e~ke, e~te, er, erA, eder, ederke. The forms cited are actually the commonly used forms; in older literary language, the tA-, tÃ-, õ-, and e- retain the original tAhA-, tÃha-, onA-, enA- forms.

verbs

The verbs carry not only the mood, tense and person, but also the familiar/polite distinction of the pronouns. They don't change for gender and number. All the polite forms (Apni/ini/uni/tini) take the same form in the indicative, interrogative and conditional (all of which have the same verb forms). Thus from shon-A/shon-bAr (hearing/for hearing) one gets the present infinitive shun-te (to hear), perfect infinitive shun-e (having heard), conditional infinitive shun-le (if hear(s)), and

                     Ami          tui         tumi        se          polite
indicative:
 simple present:     shun-i       shun-is     shon-o      shon-e      shon-en
 present continuous: shun-chi     shun-chis   shun-cho    shun-che    shun-chen
 present perfect:    shun-echi    shun-echis  shun-echo   shun-eche   shun-echen
 future:             shun-bo      shun-bi     shun-be     shun-be     shun-ben
 simple past:        shun-lAm     shun-li     shun-le     shun-lo     shun-len
 past continuous:    shun-chilAm  shun-chili  shun-chile  shun-chilo  shun-chilen
 past perfect:       shun-echilAm shun-echili shun-echile shun-echilo shun-echilen
   

The imperative and optative, have special forms only for the present 2nd person shon-/shon-o/shun-un, and 3rd person shun-uk (both familiar and polite). There is no clear subjunctive in Bengali, the controlled verb stays in its appropriate mode. In literary writing, the -ch- forms were -itech-, the -ech- forms were -iYAch-, -l- forms were -il-, the -b- forms were -ib-, and the participles had -ite, -iYA and -ile. The hyphens here mark the affix part for clarity, but are not actually written. The o-u-u (the last form is used for the -ech- forms, the simple past, and the infinitives) weakening observed here is actually quite regular, and actually most verbs show an alteration in sound. There are actually three stages of sound change: represented here by o-u-u. The change is sometimes in its spelling e.g. e-i-i forms lekhA - likhte (to write) - likhe - likhle, a-a-e forms khAoA - khete (to eat) - kheYe - khele and sometimes in pronounciation, e.g. karA - karte (pronounced korte) to do - kare - karle, dekhA (pronounced as in cat in English) - dekhte (pronounced as in let in English) to see - dekhe - dekhle. When the verb stem ends in a vowel (like yAoA-yete-giYe-gele to go, khAoA-khete-kheYe-khele to eat, gAoA-gAite-geYe-gAile to sing, pAoA-pete-peYe-pele to get, dhoYA-dhute-dhuYe-dhule to wash), the -ch- infix becomes -cch- (yAcchi, khAcchi, pAcchi, dhucchi, except gAichi), 3rd person -e becomes -Y (yAY, khAY, gAY, pAY, dhoY), perfect participle -e become -Ye (kheYe, geYe, peYe, dhuYe, except giYe), the -ech- becomes -Yech- (kheYechi, geYechi, peYechi, dhuYechi, except gechi short of giYechi), the -is becomes -s (yAs, khAs, gAs, pAs, dhus), the -un becomes -n (yAn, khAn, gAn, pAn, dhun), and -uk becomes -k (yAk, gAk, pAk, dhuk). In the literary usage, -itech-, -iYAch-, and -uk forms are used even with the stems ending in vowels.

The causative is formed by changing the stem: shon gives shon-A-no/shon-A-te/shun-i-Ye/shon-A-le (literary forms shun-A-no, shun-A-ite, shun-A-iyA, shun-A-ile) whose polite forms in the various tenses are: shon-A-n, shon-A-n, shon-A-cchen, shun-i-Yechen, shon-A-ben, shon-A-len, shon-A-cchilen, shun-i-Yechilen in the indicative and shon-A-k in the optative 3rd person, (the literary forms use shun-A- throughout, and the usual literary suffixes). Note that the simple past maintains the strong form of the causative stem in non-literary usage.

The verb haoA-hote-hoYe-hole (to be/become) is not used in simple present indicative statements with a complement. Otherwise, one asserts presence by using the defective verb stem Ach- (forms Achi/Achis/Acho/Ache/Achen in the present and chilAm/chili/chile/chilo/chilen in the past). The other moods and tenses are covered by forms of the verb thAkA-thAkte-theke-thAkle (to stay) and raoA-roite-roYe-roile (to remain). There is no verb corresponding to have: one asserts the presence of the owned object instead. Thus one says ‘AmAr nAm tanmaY’ (my name tanmoy), ‘tumi khub sundar’ (you very beautiful), ‘Ami bAD.i Achi’ (I home am; one could also have said ‘bAD.ite’, i.e. at home, but that case ending is unnecessary for words like bAD.i in this context. Compare English I go to the market versus I go home), ‘AmAr ekTA gAD.i Ache’ (my one-quantity car is: i.e. I have a car).

Other ideas are expressed by auxiliaries: shonA haY (is heard), shonA jAy (can be heard), shunte haY (has to be heard), shunle haY (may be heard, with a weak connotation of let's hear), shonA thAk (let it be heard, in the sense that one should hear it), shune thAki (I hear it repeatedly; in conditional clauses, if I have heard), shunte thAki (I continue hearing it), shonA gelo (it was heard), shune gelo (he went on hearing), shunte gelo (heard in the sense of bothered to hear)

conjunctions

The conjunctions joining words are ‘Ar’/‘ebaG’ and, ‘kimvA’ or. These can also join coordinate clauses, as can ‘kintu’ but. Subordinate clauses can be introduced by ‘yehetu’ because, ‘yadi’ if, and ‘tA hale’, then; the ‘yadi’ often sits immediately after the subject instead. There are also the relative pronouns, ‘ye/yini’ (singular) and ‘yA(hA)rA’ (plural) which match up with ‘se/tini’ and ‘tA(hA)ra’. ‘ye’ introduces a dependent clause as in introducing a quote, whereas ‘bale’ is attached to end of a clause that supplies a reason for the succeeding principal clause.

interrogative

An indiative statement can be turned into an interrogative one by introducing the particle ‘ki’ after the subject. One can also use the interrogative number ‘kata’ or interrogative pronouns ‘ke’/‘kini’/‘kArA’, or the interrogative adverbs ‘keno’ why, ‘kokhon’ when, ‘kothAY’ where, or ‘kibhAve’ how.

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