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Bengali Language At Cornell
Language Information Courses Other Resources

Language Contact Person: Sreemati Mukherjee
Phone: 255-0718        Web
Office: 184 Rockefeller Hall
It is the Fifth Most Widely Spoken Language in the World today with more than 189 million people speaking Bangla.

Bengali or Bangla is the national language of Bangladesh and an official language of India. In India it is the official language in West Bengal , Tripura , the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the districts of southern Assam: Silchar, Karimganj, and Hailakandi.

The national anthems of India “Jana Gana Mana” and Bangladesh "Amar Sonar Bangla" are in Bengali.

Bengali or Bangla is an Eastern Indo-Aryan language of the Indo-European language family. Its immediate predecessor was ‘Magadhi Apabhransha’. From this emerged the three languages - Bengali, Oriya and Assamese.
Bangla exhibits a strong case of diglossia between the formal, written language and the vernacular, spoken language. The two standard written forms of Bangla, Shadhubhasha and Choltibhasha, stand in sharp contrast with the spoken forms of Bangla, often referred to as Ancholik Bangla ("Regional Bangla"). Choltibhasha (literally, "the current language") comprises the standard pronunciation of Bangla and thus serves as the basis for the orthography of most Bengali writing today. It is modeled on the form of the dialect spoken in the Shantipur region in Nadia district, West Bengal and districts bordering on the lower reaches of the Hooghly River.

Old Bengali: (950 - 1350 AD)
The oldest document of Bengali literature - ‘Caryapada’ was written during this time. It is a collection of 47 songs religious and philosophical in nature.
Middle Bengali: (1350-1800 AD)
Chandidas’s ‘Sri Krishna Kirtan’represents the Bengali language of the early middle period. The Vaishnava influence is visible in the development of the language. Various Vaishnava Padavalis (verses) and the tradition of writing biographies started. During the later middle period Mangal Kavyas that eulogized non-Aryan Gods - Manasa, Chandi and Dharma were written.The Ramayana (by Krittivas Ojha)and the Mahabharata (by Kasiramdas) were translated into Bengali.
Modern Bengali: (1800 AD - )
This period witnessed the development of Bengali language as we speak it today. It developed through the writings of Bankim Chandra, Sharatchandra, Rabindranath Tagore and others. Michael Madhusudan Dutt introduced blank verse. Jibanananda Das and Sukanta Bhattacharya were influential poets in the post - Tagore period. The language developed further through the works of novelists like Tarashankar, Bibhutibhushan Banerji, Premendra Mitra, Buddhdeb Basu, Banaphool, Manik Bandopadhyay, Ashapurna Devi, Mahasweta Devi, Nabanita Dev Sen, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhyay, and many other great writers of Bengal and Bangladesh.

The Bengali Language At Cornell
Bengali is taught at four levels of proficiency at Cornell.

Elementary Level: BENGL 1101-1102 (reading, writing, listening and speaking skills introduced)

Intermediate Level: BENGL 2201-2202 (all language skills developed while emphasis is on oral skills)

High Intermediate Bengali: BENGL 2205-2206 (not offered every year)

Advanced Level: BENGL 3301-3302

Directed Studies: BENGL 4431-4432

Students with prior exposure to Bengali should consult the instructor or take a placement exam to determine at what level they should start.

Cornell Area Program Affiliation: South Asia Program
The Mission of the South Asia Program is to bring attention to South Asia in the form of courses, faculty, research, libraries, art exhibitions, language learning, resources, student organizations, and exchange programs. In addition to our pluralistic structure, the South Asia Program sponsors numerous lectures and events on South Asia, administers outreach programs, and contributes widely to academic work through our own publication series.
  • FLAS Scholarships
    Cornell's South Asia Program (SAP) offers Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS). It is funded by the USDE under Title VI. It assists undergraduate and graduate students to acquire a high level of language ability in languages like Bengali.
  • Bangla Language Fellowships from AIIS to India
    At the end of ONE year of language training in Bangla students are eligible to apply for fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies and continue further training in Kolkata, India. For detailed information check the AIIS web site.
  • Bangla Language Fellowships from AEBS to Bangladesh
    Applications are encouraged from all college and university students - Undergraduate, MA, and PhD - in all disciplines including business, engineering, science, the social sciences and humanities. Undergraduate students must have completed at least one year of college course-work by program start date. Students who during the summer will be between degrees (and therefore between institutions) also qualify for the scholarships. No prior Bangla language training is required for beginning students.
  • Teach for Bangladesh

    in the process of recruiting next year's INTERNS and VOLUNTEERS!

    Intern: If you are interested in a 1-3 month internship opportunity with TFB, please email your resume to with “Internship” in the subject line.

    Volunteer Volunteer with Fellows in the classroom or work with TFB staff. If you can give 1-5 hours per week please email your request to with “Volunteer” in the subject line. Get Involved

Last edited by sm138 on Sat Feb 22 2014 at 09:52 AM.