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Bengali is spoken in the region historically known as Bengal, now lying in both India and Bangladesh. In the latter it is spoken by virtually the entire population of 125 million; in India it is spoken by about 80 million people in the state of West Bengal. With its more than 200 million speakers, Bengali ranks sixth among all the languages of the world; only Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish, and Arabic have more.
Bengali is one of the Indic languages, a part of the Indo-European family. It is most closely related to Assamese and Oriya, particularly the former. The alphabet is based on, but is distinctly different from, the Devanagari of Sanskrit.
The largest Bengali-speaking city is Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal. The dialect spoken there is considered the standard; the one spoken in Bangladesh is somewhat different. The word Bangladesh is a combination of the words for “Bengali” and “country.”
Bengali literature is dominated by the great writer and poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.
Authorized from the original edition of The Languages of the World 3rd edition by Keneth Katzner published by Routledge, a member of the Taylor & Francis Group.
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