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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

9 Differences between Sylheti and Bengali Languages

Over the years I have often encountered several questions regarding connection between Bengali and Sylheti languages. Very often translation service buyers consider Sylheti and Bengali are the same and any Bengali translator can also do Sylheti translation. The truth is that a Sylheti translator can translate into both Bengali and Sylheti but the opposite is not always true. Here are the 9 differences between these two languages, the knowledge of which would help translation seekers to choose proper translators.

1. Sylheti (native name Siloti; Bengali name Siletee) is the language of the Surma valley region, consisting of most of Sylhet Division in Bangladesh and Cachar District in Assam, India and is spoken by over 9 million people. Large expatriate communities in the UK, USA, Canada and the Middle East also speak it.
2. Over 90% of the 220,000 Bangladeshi people in Britain can trace their roots back to this one district Sylhet region in northeastern Bangladesh.
3. Sylheti has never been recognized as a language in its own right, even though it is quite different from standard Bengali, in its sound system, the way in which its words are formed and in its vocabulary.
4. The Sylheti script is not related to Bengali. The Siloti Nagri alphabet is derived from the Kaithi script of Bihar, though with a number of differences. The script, Sylheti Nagari, was never officially recognized, despite having been widely used.
5. Sylheti is unique among Indian languages in having its first printing font designed, and its subsequent printing and publishing industry developed, by nationals.
6. Approximately 70-75%% of the Sylheti vocabulary is derived from Bengali, while the rest from Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Assamese and some of the other Bengali dialects and has its own distinct grammar.
7. Sylheti is the chosen language of not only villages, but also of urban Sylhetis who are fluent in both the languages.
8. Sylhet has a rich heritage of literature in the Siloti Nagri script going back at least 200 years. Books in Siloti Nagri, whether manuscript or printed, are known as ‘puthis’. Sylheti is the only regional language related to Bengali, which developed its own folk literature in its own Script.
9. The Sylheti language as spoken by the rural population residing in their home district is largely unintelligible to other Bengalis.