Bengali (Bangla)

Bangla (also known as Bengali) is spoken in Bangladesh and in part of India, primarily in the state of West Bengal. With over 250 million speakers, it ranks among the top 10 of world languages. The standard colloquial language spoken and written by educated Bengalis is termed pramita, “standard,” Bangla.

The history of Bangla and its literature is divided into three periods. The prime example from the old Bangla period (c 1000-1350 A.D.) is the celebrated manuscript of Buddhist songs, the Caryapada or Caryagiti. A vast body of literature from the middle period (1350-1800) exists, devoted to both Hindu and Muslim themes. Modern Bangla dates to the 19th century, when the Bengali Renaissance produced many great writers. The best-known figure is Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 and was the first Nobel laureate from Asia.

Bengali identity is tied closely to the country’s language and literature. The struggle for the independence of Bangladesh can be traced to the Bengali Language Movement (bhasa andolan), which advocated for the recognition of Bangla as an official language within what was at the time the Dominion of Pakistan.


The department offers three years of instruction in Bengali, with opportunities for independent study as well.

Students can choose to emphasize the study of Bengali as part of the following programs:

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