3

Do we have ablaut in the Bengali verb system?Is it why we have vowel alternation?

4

If we take ablaut to mean the Indo-European ablaut, we do not see it in the Bengali verb system. Instead, they can be seen in derivational patterns in loanwords from Sanskrit, e.g. বিজ্ঞান /biggæn/ "science", but বৈজ্ঞানিক /boiggænik/ "scientific", where i has become the diphthong oi.

But Bengali does have vowel alternations, e.g. the infinitive কেনা /kena/ "to buy" becomes in the simple present tense for the 1st person singular কিনি /kini/ "I buy"]. The /e/ of the infinitive has become /i/ before the final /i/ of the verbal suffix.

This is replicated across the conjugation: before /i/ and /e/ in the suffix, the vowel of the root is raised if it is a mid vowel: /e æ o ɔ/ to /i e u o/ respectively. This is interpreted as a case of vowel harmony or vowel assimilation rather than the Indo-European ablaut.

However, a few verb suffixes are low vowels e.g. the second person familiar (তুমি tumi) in the present continuous is ছো /tʃʰo/, the first person in the future tense is বো /bo/, the first person in the simple past tense is লাম /lam/ and the third person familiar in the simple past tense is লো /lo/.

These still trigger vowel raising, because of a diachronic change: all these had an /i/ before it, as can be seen from the সাধু ভাষার shadhu bhasha forms. For কেনা /kena/ "to buy" :

SIMPLE PAST

[সাধু ভাষা shadhu bhasha > চলিত ভাষা cholit bhasha]

(আমি) কিনিলাম (kinilam) > কিনলাম (kinlam)

(সে) কিনিল (kinilo) > কিনলো (kinlo)

Hence the vowel raising in the stem is a trace of the /i/ that was previously present across all the forms of the simple past. A similar process occurred for the future tense.

There is also a related /a/ to /e/ alternation, which occurs only for certain verbs and certain verb forms, and forms the basis of certain conjugation classes. Compare জানা /dʒana/ "to know" with খাওয়া /kʰauwa/ "to eat".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.