Thursday, March 3, 2011

Colloquialisms in Bangladesh Weave A Beautiful Tapestry


(In the above image) this colloquialism, prevalent in the north
of Dhaka city, says: "Emra dia naa gia hemra dia jaao"
(Instead of going this way, go by the other way)

This colloquialism, prevalent in the south of the Dhaka city,
says: "Noor parbar noisos ke?" (Why are you running?)

Layout and design of the two images (Toronto: Feb. 28, 2011) © Jerome D'Costa

The examples in the above images are rustic colloquialisms prevalent in two areas of Bangladesh, which has a myriad of colloquialisms. Each district or region has its own peculiar conversational Bangla (Bengali). Some are understandable, others are not. Some sound foreign to others as these are coloured by Arabic accents influenced by Arabic-speaking sufis (mystics) and traders who came to those areas hundreds of years ago.

Colloquialism is a conversational or spoken language that is typical of a particular area. It varies from one locality to the other even though they speak the same main language. The British, Americans and Australians speak the same language -- that is, English -- but there’s a vast difference in their accents, pronunciations, and usages and meanings of words. Siminarly, in Bangladesh, we have Dhakaia (of Dhaka), Chittagainga (of Chittagong), Syleitta (of Sylhet), Noakhailla (of Noakhali), Dinajpuira (of Dinajpur), Kushtia (of Kushtia), Borishailla (of Barisal), and Faridpuira (of Faridpur) bhasha (colloquial languages). Colloquialisms are not acceptable in formal or written communication.

In Bangla (Bengali), we have a saying, “Ek desher buli, aarek desher gaali” (one locality’s lingo is another locality’s cursing). One such example will suffice: In a rural area, south of Dhaka city, they use the word ‘aara’ for a small and shallow pond. The same word, in the north of Dhaka, means certain male private parts!

In the mid-sixties, I had come across a Bengali dictionary by famous linguist Dr. Mohamamad Shahidullah. Its name was Bangla Ancholik Bhashar Ovidhan (Bangla dictionary of regional colloquialisms). Dr. Shahidullah used a story in formal written Bengali first, then he showed, by examples, how the same story is told in different district colloquialisms. It was a fascinating reading indeed.

The diversity in colloquialism gives the language an interesting colour and beauty. That’s how a language is enriched. None should be ashamed of his or her own colloquialism in comparison to any other's but should feel proud of his or her own heritage.

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