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(bĕngäl`ē) or


(bäng`lä), language belonging to the Indic group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. See Indo-IranianIndo-Iranian,
subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages, spoken by more than a billion people, chiefly in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (see The Indo-European Family of Languages, table).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the language of the Bengali people, prevalent in the Indian state of West Bengal and in East Pakistan. It is also spoken in the Indian states of Assam, Bihar, and Orissa. About 100 million people speak Bengali (1967 estimate). It is related to the Indo-Aryan group of Indo-European languages and is divided into four dialectical groups: western, eastern, northern, and northeastern. The ancient period of the history of the language in Bengal was the period of the tenth, 11th, and 12th centuries. The period of the formation of basic structural features of the Bengali language was from the late 15th century to the early 17th century, and the period of the emergence of modern Bengali was from the late 18th century to the 19th century. Since the 1947 division of Bengal between India and Pakistan, the Bengali language in East Bengal, which became part of Pakistan, has been marked by a greater use of Arabic and Persian words than the language in the western part of Bengal, which became the Indian state of West Bengal.

The characteristics of the phonetic structure of the Bengali language are vowel harmony, the presence of nasal vowels opposed to nonnasal vowels and aspirated vowels opposed to unaspirated vowels, the doubling of consonants, and the pronunciation of unstressed “o.” The grammatical structure is based on an agglutinative type of word formation and word change, the use of auxiliary words, and reduplication and juxtaposition of grammatical and semantic conjunctive particles. The leading word is postpositioned in word combinations, as is the auxiliary element in morphological and syntactic formations. Words are formed by means of suffixes and compounds. Prefixes are used in Sanskrit words. The inflection of substantive nouns and pronouns varies according to case and number, and verb forms change according to tense and person in the indicative and imperative modes. There is no gender distinction. There are distinctions between animate and inanimate and definite and indefinite, which are reflected in the formation of declensional forms and in the use of definite and demonstrative affixes—that is, particles added to nouns and pronouns. There is a developed system of tense forms. Word groups with auxiliary verbs prevail (verbal-verbal and verbal-nominal). Pronouns and adverbs do not have negative forms.

The writing system of Bengali is Banglakkhor, and, like the Devanagari and Gurmukhi systems, it can be traced back to the Brahmin system of writing. There is a rich Bengali literature.


Bykova, E. M. Bengal’skii iazyk. Moscow, 1966.
Chatterji, S. K. The Origin and Development of the Bengali Language. Calcutta, 1926.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a member of a people living chiefly in Bangladesh and in West Bengal. The West Bengalis are mainly Hindus; the East Bengalis of Bangladesh are mainly Muslims
2. the language of this people: the official language of Bangladesh and the chief language of West Bengal; it belongs to the Indic branch of the Indo-European family
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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