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Ampersand: An International Journal of General and Applied Linguistics

Edited By R. Cann, H. Pichler, K. Van De Poel, D. van Olmen, and K. Watson

Academic Paper

Title: Triglossia in Bangla
Paper URL:
Author: Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Indian Statistical Institute
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Bengali
Abstract: This paper attempts to prove triglossia instead of diglossia in Bangla avoiding the usual method of sociolinguistic research and using a so-called “folktale” to understand the state of affairs in the colonial context of 19th century Bengal. This narration may be called, following Nandy (1983), simply a “myth¬graphical” account of past linguistic situation of Bengal. This paper scrutinized different discursive formation of the linguistic issues perceived by the then Intelligentsia arising out of the nationalist movement of last phase of 19th Century and the first phase of 20th century. Taking cue from an analogy given by Tagore (1936/1961:436) the author depicted the diglossic situation of Bangla literary language and lastly opened a file of a hidden variety, which he preferred to call “pracolit”. /L//L/Tagore used a Bengali folktale of a king who has two wives, Suorani (preferred queen) and Duorani (neglected queen). Bangla Language, the incarnated king, had also two queens: one is Sadhu bhasa and another one is colit bhasa. The Sadhu bhasa is an archaic high code used in the literary text and the colit literary text is based on the colloquial speech of Standard Colloquial Bangla (SCB). Generally this dichotomous relation is referred to as diglossia. Besides these two codes, the author argued, there was another code called Cockney (meaning, cock’s egg; this pejorative term is generally used to refer to the so-called “dialect” of the natives of the Eastern part of London.) and is renamed here as “procolit”. Thus, the king “Bangla” had another wife, totally neglected by the new language managers, emerging from Westernized Middle Class (the propounder of the colit-movement) and the Traditional Sanskritists (the Pro-Sadhu group) and was mostly spoken by the old moneyed class living in North Kolkata and was pejoratively referred to as “Cockney” as a mimic of London’s speech. There was an epistemological obstacle to understand the existential status of this defeated variety and it was categorized as an outcast, a Duorani or not at all a Duorani--she was just like an unknown “kept”. Consequently, speakers of this procolit were engaged in culture called “babu culture”, which was, as it is found in “Hutum PEMcar nakSa” (written in pracolit), exclusively related to women and wine. This variety talked overtly on sex, used so-called “obscene” and “vulgar” words as per Victorian norms. This native language of Kolkata was not accepted as a norm for Bangla, and was antagonized and rejected by the Westernized middle class of 20th century Bengal. They not only denied the existence of this defeated language but also supplemented it by censoring it with their new colit. This paper extensively discussed the vocabulary, phonology and morphology of this neglected variety on the basis of fieldwork and discourse analysis. Thus, this paper captured a moment of negotiating/choosing a standard language of Bangla nation state by analyzing the discourse of language managers of the newly born civil society in the context of 19th century colonial Bengal.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Venue: 1994. SALA XVI (20-22 May'94). University of Pennsylvania. (In Absentia)
Publication Info: South Asian Language Review XI, pp. 173-186, Omkar N. Koul and P. Umarani, eds., 1999 Sociolinguistics and Language Education a Festschrift for Dr. D.P. Pattanayak, Omkar N. Koul, P. Umarani, eds., Creative, 2001

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