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A History of Bengali Grammar (A Rare Book)

A History of Bengali Grammar (A Rare Book)
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Item Code: NAE628
Author: Dr. Anita Bandyopadhyay
Publisher: Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar
Language: English
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788192210209
Pages: 250
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 370 gms

‘A History of Bengali Grammar’ has long been a desideratum. In the Name of ‘History of Bengali Grammar’. I have starting from the earliest Bengali grammar written by European (Portuguese) scholar in 1743, I have tried my best to include almost all the important Bengali grammars till the publication of the Bhasa-Prakas Bamla vyakaran of Professor Suniti Kumar Chatterji (1939-1942).

The reason for writing this book needs some explanations. Actually, it was in the year 2006 when being lecturer in the Department of Linguistics, Sanskrit College, Kolkata, I submitted a proposal for a Minor Research Project entitled as ‘History of Bengali grammar’ to the University Grants Commission. In this proposal I clearly mentioned the views and the objectives of my study. My whole work was divided into two broad divisions. In the first part, I discussed the brief life history of each Bengali grammarian as far as possible together with the content-study of their writings, through which we would get a general outlook of each Bengali grammar. The second part of my project work was more elaborative and exhaustive. It was a thorough comparative study. Here I would give emphasis on the comparative analysis of grammatical ideas of each Bengali grammarian. In fact, that part of the work would be both comparative as well as historical. However, finally the University Grants commission approved my project and I started my work from July 2006. For this type of project work the University grants commission fixed up the time limit for two years. So following the rules of the Commission I completed the report along with the work to the commission. In fact, this is the background history of the present book. In my I have applied Indo-European or Old Indo-Aryan method in Bengali to maintain the structural analysis of Indo-European or Aryan grammatical Structure coming up to through the modern Bengali language. I have given the notes and references at the end of my book, because it is easy to print the text and avoid the unnecessary increase of footnotes at each page. With regard to bibliography. I have tried my best to include only those books which are relevant to my work.

Then I have made a conclusion where a brief resume of each chapter has been given. After that basically for the benefit of the later researchers or readers and for the development of the subject, I have given a chronological list of Bengali grammatical texts which I have mainly incorporated into my work. As this treatise is historically important. I have generally given the examples of the Bengali language exactly in the way it is given in the respective treatises and side by side, I have also given the modern spellings in the bracket (where necessary), so that present day readers may not find any difficulty in reading them. The same principle is followed in the Bengali grammars written by European scholars.

For the completion of this work I am greatly indebted to my Professor Dr. Satya Ranjan Banerjee. Quondam Professor of Linguistics, Calcutta University He has ungrudgingly helped me whenever I solicited his favor.

I can humbly say that I have dedicated my book to my parents owing to the fact that whatever things I have learner in my life are due to their blessings and affection, and which, I want to solemnize with this dedication.

I shall be failing in my duty if I do not mention the name of our Principal Dr. Anandi Kumar Kundu who has shown his interest in the completion of my work and its publication.

I am also grateful to Dr. Jayanta Chakraborty, the then Officer-in-Charge of the Sankrit college, at whose time this project was submitted to the University Grants Commission. I am also grateful to my departmental colleagues Projessor Dr. Kishor Kumar Rarhi and Dr. Upal Sen, for their Interest shown to my work.


‘A language, the grammar of which is completed for ever must have no further evolution and is, therefore, dead’, observed Rabindranath Tagore in course of commenting on progressive development. Each living language, in fact, gathers in each age a lot from social surroundings inclusive of changing social custom and neighbouring tangues and therefore necessitates progressive grammatical analysis. Sanskrit languages, for example. In their journey of more than two thousand years at different regions of the Indian sub-continent gave rise to a plethora of schools of grammar pre-Panini an, the last having comprised Katantra, Samksiptasara, Mugdhabodha, Jainendra, sarasvata, prayogaratnamala, supadma and the like. A comparative study of various data explored in those schools definitely shows how Middle Indo-Aryan and vernaculars contributed to acquisition of peculiarities of Sanskrit through ages. The same is the case with Bengali the oldest specimens of which go back to more than one thousand years back although writing a grammar of the language started in the middle of the Seventeenth century A.D.

Interestingly, it is not the native speakers but European missionaries who pioneered writing a grammar of the Bengali language. The name of Manoel Da Assumpsam, a Portuaguese, stands foremost in the respect. His crepar xastrer Orthobhed (1743), the first ever literary prose text in Bengali and vocabulario emitidioma Bengalla e Portuguez, basically a dictionary offer we well a collection of grammatical rules of Bengali after the Latin model. He was followed by Nathaniel Brassey Halhed who authored his grammar (in eight chapters) in 1778 and William carey who authored grammars of Bengali (1801) Marathi (1805) Sanskrit 1806), Punjabi (1812), Telinga (1814) and Bhotia (1826),the first of being captioned as 'A Grammar of the Bengalee Language' in eleven sections. Gerasim Stepanvic Lebedeff too came out with his grammar in the same year in 19 sections. He was followed by MrityunjayVidyalankar (1807), G.C. Haughton (Rudiments of Be ng ali Grammar-1821), Raja Rammohan Roy (Gawj.iya Vyakarar;w - 1833), Bhagavaccandra Visarad ( Sadhubhasar Vyakarm:ta Sara Samqraria - 1840), Kshetramohan Du tta (1841), William Yates ( Introduction of the Bengali Language - 1847), Shyamacharan Sharma (1850), Nandakumar Roy (1852), Brajakishore Gupta (1853), Duncan Forbes (1862), Rajendralala Mitra (1871), Jadunath Chatterjee (1879), Haraprasad Shastri (1882), G.F. Nicholl (1885), Loharam Shiroratna (1886), John Beames (1891), Nakuleswar Vidyabhusan (1898), Madhusudan Tarkalankar (1912), Yogesh Chandra Roy (1912), Mathuranath Tarkaratna (1913)., W.S.Milne (1913), Kedareswar Gangopadhyay (1917), Ramendra Sundar Trivedi (1930), Suniti Kumar Chatterji (1939,1942) and the like over several decades.

Dr Anita Bandyopadhyay has prepared a thorough survey and intensive analysis of this long journey in her dissertation. She has pointed out the peculiartties. merits and demerits, of each work. While some of the grammarians followed the Latin model. some others followed Sanskrit one. There were still others who tried to find out a distinct path for interpretation of the Bengali language. There were divergences in respect of content and treatment thereof too. None other than Manoel, for example, treated labial b and semi-vowel vas two different sounds in Bengali. Rammohan Roy incorporated prosody in his vyakarana. Shyama Charan and Loharam followed suit. The latter added rhetorics by way of discussing alamkara; quna; dosa and rasa, all relating to literary criticism in ancient Indian tradition. Enumeration of sounds by lswarchandra Vidyasagar is another important landmark. He treated d, dh. in two ways - intervocalic and otherwise and therefore counted them as four sounds; t with and without vowel came to be two sounds to him. Yogesh Chandra Roy classified Bengali verbal roots into seven groups viz. karadi, khadi etc. Mathuranath Vidyaratna classified past tense into five viz. abhyasta bhilt (habitual past), suddha. bhut (simple past)' asampiima bhilt (incomplete past) etc. Distiction between Chaste literary Bengali isiidhu. bhiisa) and Rural Bengali iqriunuo: bhiisa) was taken notice of by many including Kedareswar Gangopadhyay. Ramendra Sundar Trivedi took this up as that between literary Bengali and colloquial Bengali (laukik / katfiyal. He strongly pleaded for a Bengali grammar free from the Sanskrit one since the former is a different language which claims separate treatment.

Sm Anita in part two of her dissertation presents a comparative analysis of form and content of the Bengali grammatical works on areas of alphabet and pronunciation of sounds, noun and its characteristics viz, number, gender, cases and case-terminations and declension: pronouns - demonstrative, relative, interrogative, indefinite and reflexive; verbal system viz, root, voice, mood, tense, augment, reduplication, aspect, participle, gerund, causative, denominative etc. She has consulted nearly 50 works which have been mentioned in the final part of her work.

All necessary data have been thoroughly analyzed and arranged in charts by the authoress. Information gathered and supplied by her is authenticated by reference to sources. Of course, there is scope of further review in view of the fact that some relevant documents so far unnoticed have come out by now. A short but well- documented biography of Shyamacharan Sarkar (published recently) by his descendant viz. Debashis Sarkar, for example, 'can help a lot in assessing Sarkar's contributions to the development of Bengali grammar.

In fine, I congratulate Dr Anita Bandyopadhyay on her successful completion of a research programme of much importance and hope that the work in its published form shall attract favourable attention of scholars in India and abroad.


Indian Grammatical Tradition
Grammatical studies in India and in Europe have been a very much fascinating subject from time immemorial. In India, apart from Pantru (400 B.C.), there were innumerable grammarians whose works are lost, except their names and views recorded by later Sanskrit grammarians. Before Panini, we have hosts of Sanskrit grammarians. Sanskrit grammar started with the MaheSa VyakarQJ).a in the hoary antiquity. After that we have Aindra VyakarQJ).a written by Indra, a mythological personage. In a similar way, we have the grammars of Bhaguri. Karmandi, Kasakrtsna. Seriakiya, Kasyapa, Sphotayana, Cakravarrnan, Apisala, Vyadi, Sakalya, Bharadvaja, Galava, Sakatayana, Gargya and many others whose names are only found in different books of grammar. Though all these books are not available, their views are sometimes mentioned inter alia in stating some of the rules of Sanskrit grammar. So also Yaska (500 B.C.) who in his Niruktas has mentioned the names of several teachers and s ch o o ls of grammarians, such as, Audumbarayana, Aurnavabha, Upamanyu, Kraustuki, Paraskara, Varsayani, Sakapunl. Sthaulastivi, and many others whose works are not available till today, but whose views on 'the Sanskrit language have been recorded by him. Panini (400 B.C.) has incorporated in his A~~adhyayi the views of Bh ar advaja , Sph ot.ayan a , Ga.lava, Sakatayana, Sakalya, Apisali and many others. The most important elements of these names are the facts that Panmi has included their views in his grammar as one of the features of the Sanskrit language. Though this fact shows the catholictty of Panini in recognising the views of others as a part and parcel of the Sanskrit language, this also shows that Panini has registered some of the traditional views current in his time. Besides, he has also mentioned some features of the Sanskrit language as were current in different parts of India, such as, east (pracami, west (pracim). north (udiciim) and so on. Patanjali (150 B.C.) has mentioned some more regional features of the Sanskrit language, such as, priuoiaddhiiah. dak!?iI).atyaJ:i, which show that these ancient Sanskrit grammarians have not forgotten in recording the views of some of the features of Sanskrit as were current in different schools and parts of India. After that we have hosts of Sanskrit grammarians beginning from the l st century AD. down to the 18th century, some important of them being Kalapa (1st or 2nd c. AD.), Candragomin (between 470-600 AD.), Jinendra (by 678 AD.), Sakatayana (between 814-877 AD.), Bhojaraja (11th c. AD.), Hemacandra (1088-1172 AD.), Kramadisvara (12th and 13th c. A.D.), Vopadeva (l3th c. A.D.), Padm anfibh ad a tta (1375 A.D.), Anubhutisvariipa (l3th / 14th c. AD.), Jiva Goswami (16th c. AD.) and Purusottama Vidyavagisa (17th c. AD.) and many others. In this long tradition beginning from pre-Paninian hoary antiquity down to the 18th c. AD., we have thousands of Sanskrit grammatical treatises whose history can only be written in so many volumes.

In India, apart from Sanskrit grammar, the tradition of Prakrit and Pali grammars was also followed and in both the languages we have cartloads of Prakrit and Pali grammatical literature which continued till the middle of the 17th century. These grammars were composed after the model of Sanskrit grammars.

One of the most interesting things of the grammatical studies in India is the Ukti- Vyakti - Prakarana of Damodara (1192 AD.) which is a marvellous treatise in Sanskrit on the learning of Mahakosali. The language of the book is Mahakosali, written in the then vernacular of northern India, Kashi in particular, for learning the language. In a sense we can say this is the beginning of writing a grammar in a spoken language other than Sanskrit, Prakrit or Pali,

In the early stage of the 18th c. AD. the Europeans became interested in Indian languages and literature and sometime in the middle of the 17th c. Constantine’s Beschi (1680-1746) and Thomas Stephens (1549-1619) wrote a grammar on the Tamil and Konkani languages respectively. At that time there was no Bengali gran1ll1ar written by any Europeans. In fact, from the origin till the middle of the 18th c. AD. the Bengali language developed almost without any grammar, or if any grammar was written, it has not come down to us, till the appearance of Manoel da Assumpsam's Bengali grammar in 1743. So before 1743 there was no Bengali grammar and the publication of this book is a landmark in the history of Bengali grammar. Before the publication of Manoel's grammar only some Bengali words are illustrated in the works of the 'Eastern School of Prakrit Grammartans'. In the Prakrit grammars of Ramasharma Tarkavagish , Kramadiswara, Ravana Lankeswara and Jiva Go swami , some Bengali words, such as, kana ( krsna, keha ( kidrsa; tin (tri; machi ( maksika; hsaray ( hayati; etc. which we use even today, are found. Not only that Sarvananda in his commentary on the Amarakosa has used some nearly 400 Bengali words, such as osara37 'width of a cloth', khirisii 'sweetdish', pimpadi 'ant', sihada 'root' etc. Though the evidence of the use of some Bengali words are found here and there the attempt of writing a Bengali grammar was first made by Manoel da Assumpsam as far as it is known to us. Actually Manoel wrote his grammar in 1734 AD., though published in 1743 AD.; and later on the other Bengali grammarians (both Europeans and Native) appeared in the arena.

In this dissertation I have tried my best to write the origin and development of Bengali grammars up to 1942 (Le. the year of the publication of the second edition of Professor Chatterji's Bengali grammar published by Calcutta University), and not only that I have given a brief outlook or content of each grammar.

This book is divided into two parts. In the first part, I have normally given the brief life history of Bengali grammarians, their academic careers, their works and contributions to the Bengali language and grammar. In the first part, I have also included the contents of each grammatical work, through which the speciality of each Bengali grammar can easily be understood. In part two. I have made a comparative analysis of almost all the Bengali grammars (both European and Indian) considering their views on different grammatical aspects. This is the most important part. Everything has been discussed both historically as well as chronologically. In fact, all the grammatical expressions have a long history and this history has been traced out from the earliest grammar.

As we know that in the present day any book in Linguistics. is divided into Phonology. Morphology and Syntax. But the Bengali grammarians starting from more than 250 years ago from today till the Bengali grammars of 1900 A.D .. are not subdivided into like this. though they all have started their discussion from Bengali alphabet. its combinations into letters. pronunciation system and so on. So. the point is that, though the early Bengali grammarians did not divide their writings into Phonology. Morphology etc. like that. yet they already had the ideas in their mind; and that is why. they had followed that system unconsciously. But in my discussion I have followed the modern method of discussing a language into Phonology. Morphology order for proper understanding of grammatical sections. With this brief history of grammatical studies in India. I have linked up the studies of Bengali grammar to show how that ancient method as well as modern are combined in Bengali grammar.


Foreword VIII
Indian Grammatical tradition3
Chapter One:A Survey of Bengali Grammars7
Chapter Two:Alphabet and Its Pronunciation (Vowels and Consonants)63
Chapter Three:Noun and Adjective
INoun and Its Characteristics Number87
Cases and Case-Terminations96
Degrees of Comparison
Declension of Adjective
Chapter Four:Pronouns113
First Person114
Second Person121
Third Person126
Demonstrative Pronoun132
Relative Pronoun139
Interrogative Pronoun144
Indefinite Pronoun149
Refexive Pronoun150
ICharacteristics of finite Verbs
Chapter Five:Bengali verbal system155
10Verbal Stem-System188
11Personal Terminations193
IIISecondary conjugations
Chapter Six:Conclusion209
List of Bengali Grammars212
Notes and References214

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