Language Contact and its Linguistic Consequences Due to Migration at the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh

ABM Razaul Karim FaquireAbstract

This study explores the effects of recent language contact created in the Chittagong Hill-Tracts(CHT) through the immigration of Bangla speaking people from other parts of Bangladesh. The CHT, which borders India and Myanmar, has been the abode of approximately one million people, approximately 50% of whom are of minority speech communities, including the speakers of Tibeto-Burman (TB) languages such as Marma, Tripura (Kokborok), Kyang, and Khumi (Faquire 2010). The remaining 50% are Bangla speakers, the national and official language of Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh has organized a new system of distribution of various speech communities, through a migration policy created during the 1980s, comprising an overwhelming majority of Bangla speakers. The Bangladesh Government Polic that led to the creation of language contact (the term carried over from Winford 2003) in the Chittagong Hill-Tracts can be listed as follows:

  • 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
  • The people of TB speech communities require Bangla for official, legal, and business dealings under the government’s policy
  • The TB languages regularly come into contact with the dominant language, Bangla. In this new situation of language contact, the spoken languages of TB speech communities have been found not to be mutually intelligible, though these speech varieties have common ancestry.

The speakers of Bangla cannot speak any of the minority speech community languages.Therefore, the speakers of minority languages as well as the Bangla speech community inhabiting the Chittagong Hill-Tracts communicate with each other in Bangla, the lingua franca for all communities, for their daily needs. Accordingly, people of these TB speech communities are growing to become bilingual, with different degrees of control in their second language, Bangla. In this way, the languages of the minority speech communities have grown to become recipient languages, and consequently to 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, are now showing changes at different levels of their linguistic structures by borrowing and calquing from the Bangla language.