Discussions on learning Bengali.
Differences between modern and medieval sadhu-bhash -
Madhava - Sat, 02 Jul 2005 23:41:53 +0530
I'm sure many of us are reading texts such as Chaitanya Charitamrita or Chaitanya Bhagavat and the songs of Narottama Das Thakur, along with the works of other old padakartas, in the course of our studies.
Now, I understand that there are differences between the two. Could someone be so kind as to highlight the main differences between modern sadhu-bhash and the medieval Bengali used by these authors? Moreover, are there noteworthy differences between their languages?
Jagat - Sun, 03 Jul 2005 01:39:55 +0530
Medieval languages (including European ones) are distinctive for their fluid nature. Thus, where in modern English, we may have one form with one spelling for one verb tense, in the medieval language, there may have been a great deal of variation. Some of this would have been attributable to regional dialect, etc. Even today, Bengal has hundreds of dialects and variations in pronunciation, but the spellings have been standardized according to the pronunciations of the Nadia-Calcutta corridor.
The Bengali of the Chaitanya Bhagavata and Chaitanya Charitamrita comes from this classical Bengali language area, so there are more similarities with the modern language in its sadhu bhasha form than, let's say Midnapore or some older language forms such as found in Chandi Das's Sri Krishna Kirtan.
Some things to look for:
- interchangeability of J and y, so kariyA (often shortened to kari') may become kariJA. (or haiyA to haJA, etc.)
- final -re as a locative or accusative ending.
- interchangeability of various a's and o's, e's and oi's, N's and n's, R's and ri's or r's and D's, etc.
- verb endings, use of -bA instead of -bo, or -lA instead of -lo or -le.
Books have been written about this. The most famous is ...
Bhaktivinoda Thakur was the first to print Sri Krishna Vijaya and he standardized the spellings to make them more modern. Look in Haridas Das's dictionary in the Brajbuli and Padyavali dictionaries, which will clue you in to many of the forms. Most of the other medieval books (such as Sri Krishna Kirtan, etc.) now also have some kind of glossary at the back.
Madhava - Mon, 04 Jul 2005 01:16:44 +0530
Thank you - I'll have to look into that, though I wonder how much of Haridas Dasji's dictionary will be available with my current skills regarding such topics - topics I am not all that familiar with. I'm sure I'll come across some more questions as I skim through all these medieval texts. In your view, how much of an aid will they be in learning contemporary Bengali? Will one, adopting phrases from such texts, sound rather archaic, if not at times outright incomprehensible? I find that while I do understand medieval Finnish and English, some expressions elude me, and in general I have to do quite a bit of more thinking to make sense of it.