Dialect diversities | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 17, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 17, 2018

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Dialect diversities

The diversity that lies within Bangladesh can be witnessed through the many dialects of the same but very different Bengali spoken in the different regions. It is also a surprise that people from one region do not understand the dialects of people from another region because of the heavy accents, despite the relatively small size of the country.

It is still debated whether some of these dialects may become individual and official languages with separate alphabets. For instance, in Sylheti, there are many words that are so phonetically different from those that the rest are accustomed to. In fact, there are no proper alphabets in the Bengali script to use if the words are to be literally interpreted on paper.

Stories of people who have been to Chittagong and faced the quick and seemingly twisted tongues of the 'Chatgaiyaor' speakers come to life in conversations, full of laughter.

Coming from a Sylheti family and having spoken Sylheti all my life at home, when for the first time I had to direct my school-bus driver to our home, I said, “Khala gate o thaimmun” (Stop at the black gate). Everybody in the bus laughed at me for speaking funny.

Confused and embarrassed, I got off and went home. What I did not expect was the sheer number of requests the next day from my friends to hear just one or two lines spoken in Sylheti. The delight they experienced was surprising, to say the least, and I delivered to their requests, albeit slightly awkwardly. As I grew up, it became a permanent condition where my friends would become silent to hear me when my mother called and I unconsciously switched to Sylheti.

Over time, I find that the longer someone has been away from the core areas where these dialects are spoken, they do not practice it at home. The consequence is that over two or three generations, the children no longer know how to speak those dialects and lose touch with a significant part of their roots. The exercise of speaking in proper Bangla is taken in an attempt to make the children better speakers, in order that they are more accepted in the major cities.

The influences in accents and words that we use when speaking in our dialects have tied in with them the traces of history, through bloody wars and injustices, to victories and freedom, and so we must keep alive the variants that belong to us, altogether and yet separately.

The songs we sing, for example, carry a meaning which is brought about by the very words and accents, the feelings that lay in these cannot be captured in translations as has been true for the languages themselves.

The Rangupur-ian with the silent Rs and the Jessore-i with its extreme 'accuracies' while coming from opposite ends of the nation together with the variants from each division essentially make up the spoken language of Bangladesh and each adds to the language its own pleasant quirk.

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