Migration and Creation of New Language Contact Situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh

Author: Razaul Karim Faquire (Institute of Modern Languages, University of Dhaka)
Speaker: Razaul Karim Faquire
Topic: Language, community, ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


This study explores the effects of language contact situation which has been recently created in the Chittagong Hill-Tracts (CHT) by means of immigration of Bangla speaking people from the other parts of Bangladesh.

The CHT, which borders India and Myanmar, has been the abode of approximately 1.5 million of people, about 50% of which are minority speech communities, including the speakers of Tibeto-Burman (TB) languages like Marma, Tripura (Kokborok), Kyang and Khumi (Faquire, 2010). The remaining 50% are the speakers of Bangla, the national and official language of Bangladesh. The new distribution of various speech communities comprising an overwhelming majority of Bangla speakers has been created by the Government of Bangladesh by a migration policy during the 1980s.

The Policy of Bangladesh Government which led to the creation of the language contact (the term carried over from Winford, 2003) situation in the Chittagong Hill-Tracts can be listed as follow.

i) That the implementation of a common education policy for which the children of the TB speech communities are to receive education through the medium of Bangla, ii) That the people of TB speech communities require using Bangla for the official, legal and business dealings under the government’s policy, iii) That the TB languages regularly come into contact with the dominant language, Bangla.

In the new situation of language contact, the spoken languages of TB speech communities have been found not to be mutually intelligible, though the speech varieties of them have a common ancestry. Again, the speakers of Bangla cannot speak any of the languages of minority speech communities. Therefore, both the speakers of minority languages as well as the Bangla speech community inhabiting the Chittagong Hill-Tracts communicate each other in Bangla, the lingua franca for them, for their daily needs. Accordingly, people of these TB speech communities are growing to be bilingual with different degrees of control in their second language, Bangla. In this way, the languages of the minority speech communities grown to be recipient languages and consequently encounter the continuing effect of language contact from the dominant language Bangla in the new contact situation. Consequently, some of these recipient tribal languages, e.g. Marma, Murong and Tripura, etc. are now showing changes at different levels of their linguistic structures by borrowing and calquing from the Bangla language due to the effect of this contact.

Keywords: Chittagong Hill-Tracts, Tibeto-Burman Languages, Language Contact , Recipient language, Language Change