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Bengali, Spoken and Written. Sayamacharan Ganguli (1877). শেষ কিস্তি ।।

কিস্তি ১ ।। কিস্তি ২ ।।

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পুরাটা একটাই লেখা। সো, কিস্তি ১ থিকা পড়া শুরু করাটা বেটার। আর আগের দুইটা কিস্তি পড়া থাকলে এইটা থিকাই শুরু করতে পারেন।

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The points discussed, and the results arrived at, may here be summarized. The i grammar of written Bengali differs considerably from the grammar of current Bengali. For familiar words understood by all, everyone who learns to read has to learn Sanskrit substitutes, and in many cases old Bengali substitutes likewise, which, having dropped out of colloquial speech, still retain their place in the language of books. The Sanskrit words in use in Bengali books are for the most part Sanskrit only to the eye, but none to the ear; for, though written just as they are in Sanskrit, they are pronounced in such a way is to make the almost unintelligible to those unfamiliar with the corrupt pronunciation of Sanskrit that prevails in Bengal.

All this of course has not been the work of a day. It has been the slow growth of ages. It has grown out of the mental characteristics, and the historical antecedents of the race. The question now is, whether the present is a state of things likely to last. The conviction of the present writer is that a change of a radical character is inevitable. The desirableness of a change is indeed so patent, that it is really matter for wonder that the attachment to the established order of things is still so strong that Sir George Campbell’s now historically famous language minutes evoke all but universal denunciations from Bengalis.

Bengali, in common with the other Indian vernaculars, derived from Sanskrit, has borrowed most freely from the latter, under influences similar to those which have caused Arabic to be so largely drawn upon by Persians and Turks, and Latin and Greek by the nations of Western Europe. Sanskrit has been in India the language of literary culture and of religion. The Brahman priesthood has always affected a Sanskrit phraseology. Reverence for Sanskrit as a sacred language, however, will be a factor of continually decreasing importance as time rolls on. The Hindu religion will inevitably breakup before the onset of western science, and with the Hindu religion a large part of the reverence inspired by Sanskrit will disappear. It will ever command, however, another kind of reverence. Its absolute importance as a language, and its rich literature, serving particularly as a key to the past history of the Aryan race, will ever make it a valued branch of learning. National feeling, too, will impel towards Sanskrit. To continuing to reverence Sanskrit, however, it is by no means necessary that we should, as at present, hold Bengali, Hindi &c.,in contempt. The tendency will certainly be to avail ourselves as largely as possible of the living stores of our vernacular tongue, and not to unreasonably prescribe them as vulgar, because they are in use among all classes of the people. The entire Pandit class in Bengal at one time largely employed, in colloquial speech, numerous Sanskrit words, in lieu of their Bengali equivalents. This is now going out of fashion. The language in which eminent Pandits like lswar Chandra Vidyasagar and Taranath Tarkavacbaspati converse differs in no wise from that of Bengali gentlemen possessing no knowledge of Sanskrit. Among Brahmans of the priestly class alone, does a Sanskrit phraseology yet linger in some measure, and the priests, as before remarked, are a gradually decaying class. The indications are quite clear, therefore, that the purely Sanskrit element in Bengali is destined to be greatly curtailed in future.

The arguments of the advocates of the present system of Sanskrit borrowing demand an examination in detail. The main argument are the following: –

1. The dialectic varieties of Bengali are so many, and so conflicting, that without Sanskrit there would be no common standard of purity, no bond of union.

This argument, unfortunately, proves too much. It proves that without the purely Sanskrit element in Bengali there would be no common language for Bengal. If this be the fact, then Bengal by all means should have several written languages instead of one. Convenience-human happiness-must be the plea for cultivating the Bengali language at all. If, by ceasing to borrow from Sanskrit words of the commonest kind, we are to dissolve the linguistic unity of the people of Bengal, by all means let such factitious unity be dissolved at once. Popular education would spread better, and so human happiness would be better promoted; if the different sections of Bengal set up each its own dialect as the language of writing. The fact, however, is that there is a general grammatical correspondence among the different dialects of Bengal, and the vocables in common use too, are in general the same all over the country. The language of the Maldah, Dacca and Barisal Districts are quite intelligible to people in Calcutta, as the present writer can say from his own experience. Besides, the people of Bengal generally now look upon the metropolis and the districts lying along the Bhagirathi as the parts where Bengali is spoken in its greatest purity.

In the development of literary languages political capitals have in the past exercised but too much influence. Provincialisms have not been allowed fair play. They have but too frequently been kept out of the literary language, simply because they have been provincialisms. A better course than this would be to absorb into the cultivated dialect all that is of value in the several kindred dialects. Such absorption would be more real enrichment of a language than thoughtless borrowing under the bias of learning. If this principle were admitted and acted upon, provincial peculiarities would, generally speaking, have a chance of being incorporated into the literary language, in proportion to the mental activity of the people who speak such dialects. Local centres of culture may thus have their due share of influence on the literary language of a country.

To turn again to Bengal. Supposing even that the Calcutta dialect were to thoroughly over-ride all provincial dialects, there would be much loss human unhappiness than under the present regime. On this supposition, the people within a certain radius of Calcutta, at any rate, would not have to learn new names for familiar, things; and the people of the rest of Bengal would have to learn far fewer words than if Sanskrit were to be drawn upon, as now, without stint or limit. There would be nothing like the trouble now entailed on all Bengalis who learn to read.

If falling back upon the past be the best means of finding a common ground for all, the remoter this past the better. A revival of Sanskrit, grammar and all, would secure unity all over Aryan India, and not over Bengal alone. Why not seek to make are vivid Sanskrit the language of the educated throughout Aryan India, and thus secure a united Indian nationality? No one has been venturesome enough to propose such a thing. Besides, the immeasurable difficulty that would attend such a revival of Sanskrit, a replacing of the handier vernaculars by the cumbrous parent tongue. Would be decidedly a step backward. A replacement of the comparatively handier Bengali words by their Sanskrit representatives would likewise be a step backwards, at the same time that it would demand a meaningless waste of brain-power from all who learn to read.

2. Another argument urged by the advocates of a Sanskritised Bengali style is, that such borrowing has been quite spontaneous, and that this spontaneity must be taken as a proof that the course of development followed by the language could not, and should not change. To this, the answer would be that all that happens in the universe is in consequence of the operation of natural forces, and that things will change, as they have changed ere this, when other forces prevail over those that brought them into being. If Sanskrit-borrowing has been natural, the revulsion of feeling that such borrowing produces in the present writer and others among his countrymen is also natural, and the question can only be, which of the two opposing forces is likely to prove stronger in the end. This question has already been touched upon.

3. It has been urged again and again that Bengali, being a direct descendant of Sanskrit, has every right to borrow from the parent tongue, and that Sanskrit vocables more readily coalesce with the current vernacular tongue than do words from any other source.

As regards the first part of this assertion, it does not at all touch the position taken up by the present writer. He does not denounce all borrowing. Be further bolds that in most cases Sanskrit should be the best source to borrow from, and his reasons will be given hereafter. It is the extent of such borrowing that forms the main point at issue between him and the advocates of the present regime. As stated already, he holds that borrowing should be limited by necessity.

As regards ready coalescence, people’s notions about this have much to do with their own acquired mental associations. In the colloquial tongue, we find that English, Persian and Arabic vocables very readily unite with home-grown expressions, and one would think that what happens in the spoken ought to happen in the written language as well. Men’s notions of written style are, however, derived from books, and as Bengali books, as a rule, eschew non-Sanskrit words, no wonder that the dogma should spring up that non-Sanskrit words will not readily coalesce with native Bengali. The best refutation of the dogma is the fact that English, Persian and Arabic words do mingle very kindly with the current phraseology. The question, in what respects it would be preferable to borrow from Sanskrit rather than from any other source, will be discussed hereafter.

The discussion carried on by the press, when the world of Bengal was thrown into a ferment by Sir George Campbell’s Bengali and Urdu minutes, betrayed in some instances a. curious confusion that the writers made between words of Sanskrit derivation, and words bodily transferred from Sanskrit. To the former class of words there can of course be no possible objection, the latter are open to many, and, as they appear to the present writer, insuperable objections.

4. It has been maintained again that as book Bengali is intelligible to all Bengalis with the aid of a dictionary only, the question of the difference between book and spoken Bengali, is quite an immaterial one. Intelligible with the aid of a dictionary only; this involves most momentous issues. Every book in English would be similarly intelligible, with the aid of a dictionary, if for all the principal English words in the book German equivalents were substituted. The sort of burden that the present practice of substituting Sanskrit equivalents for even the commonest Bengali words imposes on all who learn to read, has already been fully described, and need not therefore be here dwelt upon.

5, Lastly, it has been maintained that, whatever be the character of written Bengali at present, the State should not by any means interfere with its development. Languages grow spontaneously, and it does not rest with Caesar, however absolute the power with which he is armed, to mold or modify it.

Fully admitting that language is an organic growth, and therefore not to be coerced into any shape at the fiat of authority, it may quite consistently be maintained that the present is a case which calls for State action. The laissez faire argument would have weight, if Government never interfered in the matter at all. It has however interfered in disseminating a knowledge of book Bengali by the establishment of schools and the institution of competitive tests, by the award of scholarships and so forth. Things have not been allowed to work themselves out spontaneously. Interference iii necessary, at least, as a consequence of past interference still continued. Government again is not prepared to withdraw from the work of popular education; and the interests of millions are involved in the question whether the medium of popular instruction is to be the real vernacular of the country, or the artificialised language in which books are at present generally written. The dumb millions cannot judge, or speak for themselves. If they could, they would with one voice denounce the pedantic jargon that now presses so heavily on them as a dead weight. Governments are most bound to look to the interests of those who cannot take care of their own Interests. In a country, again, in the situation of India, the guidance of Government would, in several cases, be on the whole preferable to that of the ‘natural leaders of society.’ It is only because such lead has failed that the English arc in the country at all. If, in respect of all that concerns the preservation of society and its advancement, English guidance has done for the natives of this country what they could never have done for themselves, ii the presumption ought to be that, in the matter of language too, English guidance would be beneficial.

It must not be understood that in maintaining it to be the duty of Government to interfere in the matter under discussion, the present writer means any such thing that the Government should interdict the publication of any books in the present book language. The great mass of Bengali readers relish Sanskritised Bengali. The State should not curtail the happiness of such people by so unwarrantable an act of tyranny as putting their literary language under a ban. It is clearly the duty of the State, however, to take effective measures for the dissemination of useful knowledge among the people through the real vernacular of the people; and by the real vernacular is meant here the language in which the upper and middle classes of the Bengali community converse, and which the language of the lower orders too constantly tends to approach.

To recognise this as the exclusive language of books intended for primary instructor would certainly not be to patronize a newly created language. It would amount only to an interdiction of any unnecessary Sanskrit infusion into the language of books intended to convey elementary knowledge. This, in the interest of the masses, the State is bound to do; and for the rest the struggle between the two styles may be left to be fought out between themselves. Of the ultimate issue of such a struggle there can be no manner of doubt. If the fitter is to survive, though the cumbrous learned jargon can have no chance in the long run against the far more economical language that is now the current speech of Bengal.

The State may, further, do one thing more. It may take steps for making the European officers employed in Bengal thoroughly familiar with the current grammar and the current vocabulary of the Bengali tongue. As officers of Government, their utility would be greatly enhanced if they understood the language in which the people actually converse with one another.

A few words as to the way in which Sanskrit in the present writer’s opinion can be legitimately drawn upon to enrich Bengali may not here be out of place. The introduction of western civilisation, and the spread of education has necessitated the addition of new words to the current stock of Bengali words. Should these words be adoptions or inventions from the Sanskrit or adoptions from English? From the utilitarian, non-sentimental point of view, the fact that the latter course would inevitably stamp among real character on the language can have no weight. If there is real gain in borrowing from English, no purist feeling should be allowed to stand in the way. But the fact is that importations from English are liable to even graver objections than indiscriminate borrowing from Sanskrit. English words imported would be immensely more difficult for the people to learn than even lengthy Sanskrit compounds invented on the occasion. If the principle of borrowing from English were to be fully accepted there could be no stopping at words like oxygen, for which there are no ready-made Sanskrit equivalents; but English equivalents of already-existing Sanskrit words would likewise be introduced into Bengali. This would cause much inconvenience and frightful confusion. A scientific or philosophical nomenclature framed out of Sanskrit can, as before observed, be mastered for more easily than the corresponding English nomenclature. Borrowing from English, therefore, would be an obstacle in the way of a spread of knowledge. An illustration may make my position better understood. The Bengali boy, who knows kara’ (to do) and the Hindustani boy who knows karna’, can far more easily learn the Sanskrit word kriya’ than the English word verb, to understand the real meaning of which he must further go to the Latin verbum. KaranclKriya’ have so much in common as respects souna’ that there is much greater economy of mental effort in learning kriya’ than in learning verb. Take again such words asganit (mathematics) patiganit (arithmetic), &c.; their derivation from the same root as the Bengali gana’ and Hindi ginna’ would greatly help the memory. Some existing Sanskrit terms are again absolutely better than the corresponding ones in English. The Sanskrit sarva’nama is a more appropriate term, as Professoriii Whitney remarks, than the English term pronoun; and Professor Max Muller iv says of the grammatical terminology of the Brahmans generally, that it is in some respects more perfect than that of Alexandria and Rome.’

The existence of different scientific and philosophical nomenclatures would again help the advancement of thought. As observed by Dr. Mansel, v the possession by Germany of a philosophical nomenclature different from that of the English and of the Latin family of nations has been a help to accurate thought. When India comes to take her place among the civilized community of nations, and contributes her share to the progress of human thought, her possession of independent scientific and philosophical nomenclatures would be a no insignificant force among those that urge forward humanity in the career of advancement.

While scientific and philosophical terms would seem to be best drawn from Sanskrit, a wide door should be left open for the introduction into writing of foreign words, English or other, that under the pressure of necessity force their way into the current speech. It would be unreasonable purism to exclude from books such handy, naturalised words as map, slate (silet), pencil (pensil), and to seek to supply their place by new-coined Sanskrit equivalents.

In the case of newly introduced material objects of common use, the direct adoption of foreign words in the oral language would be the natural course, and the written language can here do not better than follow the oral. The adoption of unusual foreign words where accurate native or even Sanskrit equivalents cannot be found would again be sometimes necessary. Visvavidyalaya (Bengali pronunciation bisssobiddelae) answers very inadequately to University, in its present acceptation. A downright adoption in writing of University would be better than finding a substitute. In inventing words again out of Sanskrit elements, it ought to be further borne in mind that the compounds formed should be handy ones, fit to be used colloquially. This base in many instances been lost sight of, and the tendency has been but too strong towards compounds, often lengthy formed out of unfamiliar materials.

An enforcement of the correct pronunciation of Sanskrit in our Schools and Colleges, very desirable on other grounds, would act as a powerful check upon borrowing from Sanskrit. In enforcing correct Sanskrit pronunciation, Government would but complete the work it initiated by introducing into Bengal the Devanagari character. Sanskrit books are now read in Bengal in the Devanagari character, and the incorrect pronunciation, of Sanskrit that is allowed in all the Bengal schools and Colleges, the Sanskrit College itself included, is an evil that calls for remedy. The State has already innovated by introducing the Devanagari character. An enforcement of the correct Sanskrit pronunciation cannot, therefore, be objected to.

A word here about the large mass of Sanskrit words that popular poetry has already appropriated seem to be necessary. Such words have a right to be employed, where required, in poetry and impassioned prose; but in ordinary prose composition they should be held inadmissible, for they form no part of the living tissue of the language.লড়াইand যুদ্ধare living words, while রণ, সমর and সংগ্রামare antique and poetical.

In cultivating Bengali and the other Aryan vernacular of India, the romance languages of Europe should be our guide. There can be no reason why our vernaculars should lead more upon Sanskrit than French, Italian, and Spanish, do upon Latin.

 

SYAMACHARAN GANGULI

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