Compound Phrasing in Bangla (notes from Syed Mujtuba Ali)

I was reading a short essay by Syed Mujtaba Ali titled “ভাষা”। In it he points out the peculiar feature of Bangla where we create compound words where the first term is Bangla and the second term is a same word in another language. This second words tend to come from Arabic, Hindi, Farsi, English, or Urdu. He provides this list at the begining:

These compoints are interesting because they list repetitions of the same word. I would not even say they are similar concepts or synynyms in that they have different nuances. They are literally the same word. So why do we have them in this way? Seems redundant.

Ali points out this same feature as extant in English. He evidences how English also has similar feature because of the Norman conquest in the 10th century and the subsequent infusion of Norman French into the English Anglo-Saxon lexis. He lays out that after new rulers came into power in England, the people had to speak to both the rulers and the ruled simulatanously and therefore used a compound form that each audience could understand.

He says this sort of compound phrasing became normalized in language use and incorporated into syntax in the spoken speech. At first it was still improper for formal and written situations – this did not really matter because both English and Bangla were not formal registered and so lacked formal rules. When both matured into languages these norms became rules.

It’s interesting to me to think about the fact that English and Bangla are both mutt-languages but for different reasons. Continuous interactions and infusion of other languages and other cultural influences in the spaces where it operated is a part of its development – neither existed prior to these mixings. While English did eventually spread and became global (after its nature as a mongrel was fused into its structure) and picked up terms from other places it moved through (i.e. it picked up semantic terms), the case for Bangla (i.e. the dialect spoken in Bangladesh or Muslim Bengalis) was the opposite. Our language changed because other people came in and ruled and their presence and the need to speak to them and ourselves meant our language changed.

This feature of the compound phrasing seems to also point towards a phenomenological and rhetorical nature of language. We like to call this translingual practice too in rhetoric and composition.


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