This article is about the Bengali language. For the script, see Bengali script.
Bengali(বাঙালী) is the language spoken by almost all the population of Bangladesh, and the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal. There are also significant Bengali-speaking communities in Assam (another Indian state also neighboring Bangladesh), and in immigrant populations in the West and the Middle East.
Bengali is an English word referring to both the language and the people speaking the language; in Bengali the language is called Bangla and the people are called Bangali. The traditional area of habitation of Bengali peoples is called Bengal in English and Bongo in Bengali. The region is now broken into two fragments, the western part (West Bengal or Poshchim-Bongo) being a state in India and the eastern part (Bangladesh or East Bengal or PurboBongo) being an independent country.
During the period 1947-1971, when Eastern Bengal (present-day Bangladesh) was part of Pakistan, the Bengali language became the focus and foundation of the national identity of the people of East Bengal, leading ultimately to the creation of the sovereign state of Bangladesh. Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh, administrative and official work in Bangladesh is carried out in Bengali.
Around 1950-52, the emerging middle classes of East Bengal underwent an uprising known later as the "Language Movement", and 21st February is celebrated as the "Language Martyrs' Day", in memory of students and activists who (on 21st February, 1952) walked into military fire in demand of the Bengali language being honored as a national language of erstwhile Pakistan. Bengali is thus arguably the only language for which people have sacrificed their lives.
19th May, 1961, in Silchar, a small town of South Assam in North East India witnessed another fight for Bengali language and 11 people died in police firing to protest against the forcible imposition of Assamese on the Bengali speaking people there as a state policy. The martyrs of 19th May gave their everything for the language and later the Government had to back down.
Bengali is usually written in the Bengali script. This is a Brahmic script, very similar to the Devanagari used for Hindi and Sanskrit. Each base symbol represents a syllable, and other symbols can be added to change (or suppress) the vowel of that syllable. Consonant clusters are often indicated by ligating two symbols.
The spelling system is based on an older version on the language without some vowel merges that have taken place in the spoken language, thus it cannot be described as a phonemic orthography.
Bengali is an Indo-European language.