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Bengali /bɛŋˈɡɔːli/ (Bangla [ˈbaŋla] ( listen)) is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written using the Bengali script. With about 220 million native and about 250 million total speakers, Bengali is one of the most spoken languages (ranked sixth) in the world. The National song and the national anthem of India, and the national anthem of Bangladesh were composed in Bengali.

Along with other Eastern Indo-Aryan languages, Bengali evolved circa 1000–1200 CE from eastern Middle Indo-Aryan dialects such as the Magadhi Prakrit and Pali, which developed from a dialect or group of dialects that were close, but not identical to, Vedic and Classical Sanskrit. Literary Bengali saw borrowings from Classical Sanskrit, preserving spelling while adapting pronunciation to that of Bengali, during the period of Middle Bengali and the Bengali Renaissance.

With a rich literary tradition arising from the Bengali Renaissance, Bengali binds together a culturally diverse region and is an important contributor to Bengali nationalism. In former East Bengal (today Bangladesh), the strong linguistic consciousness led to the Bengali Language Movement, during which on 21 February 1952, several people were killed during protests to gain its recognition as a state language of the then Dominion of Pakistan and to maintain its writing in the Bengali script.

Like other Eastern Indo-Aryan languages, Bengali arose from eastern Middle Indo-Aryan dialects of the Indian subcontinent. Magadhi Prakrit and Pali, the earliest recorded spoken languages in the region and the language of Gautama Buddha, evolved into the Jain Prakrit or Ardhamagadhi "Half Magadhi" in the early part of the first millennium CE. Ardhamagadhi, as with all of the Prakrits of North India, began to give way to what are called Apabhraṃśa ("Corrupted grammar") languages just before the turn of the first millennium. The local Apabhraṃśa language of the eastern subcontinent, Purvi Apabhraṃśa or Abahatta ("Meaningless Sounds"), eventually evolved into regional dialects, which in turn formed three groups: the Bihari languages, the Oriya languages, and the Assamese-Bengali languages. Some argue that the points of divergence occurred much earlier—going back to even 500 but the language was not static: different varieties coexisted and authors often wrote in multiple dialects. For example, Magadhi Prakrit is believed to have evolved into Abahatta around the 6th century which competed with the ancestor of Bengali for a period of time.