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

ABM Razaul Karim Faquirea


This study explores the effects of the language contact situation which has been recently created in the Chittagong Hill-Tracts (CHT) by means of 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, about 50% of whom are 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 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 through a migration policy during the 1980s.The Policy of the 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 follows 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. that the people of TB speech communities requires using Bangla for the official, legal and business dealings under the government’s policy.

That 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. 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 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 be bilingual with different degrees of control in their second language, Bangla. In this way, the languages of the minority speech communities have 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.