The state language of Assam is Assamese. Spoken by more than 13 million native speakers, Assamese is the easternmost Indo-Aryan language in India. The language traces its roots to Magadhi Prakrit from which it had evolved before 7th Century AD. It is closely connected to other languages like Bengali and Oriya which were derived from the same roots.
The Assamese script follows the abugida system, which means that it is written from left to right. The script uses a lot of typographic ligatures.
Did you know that Assamese was omitted from schools for a substantial period of time during the British rule? After being reinstated in the schools, journals began to be published in the language as well. This gave way to many scholars who wrote in the language creating a rich literature for the people.
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Other languages, like Bengali is also spoken by a number of people in Assam but the primary language spoken in Assam is Assamese. It was the court language of the Kingdom of Ahom that reigned in the region during the 17th century. Assam, which was earlier known as Prahjyotisa and Kamrupa, got its present name from the Ahom tribe. Not only is it the official language of Assam, Assamese is also recognized as one of the 23 official languages by the Republic of India.
While the official language of Assam is Assamese, other local languages in the state are Bodo, Karbi, Mishing, Rabha, Tiwa, and Dimaca. Bodo is a commonly used language among the Tibeto-Burman settlers. It has varied dialects depending on the tribe that uses it. The Karbis belong to an ancient race. They reside in the Sibsagar region and communicate in Karbi. Mishing, Rabha, Tiwa and Dimaca are also languages spoken by their respective tribes. These indigenous languages are not as prominent as Assamese and are usually limited only to the people of the tribe.
Assamese, the main language of Assam, can be differentiated into 4 regional dialects which are –
This is one of the most prominent dialects in the state. It is mainly spoken the by people in the Sibsagar district and the surrounding regions. The American Baptist missionaries played an important role in increasing the prominence of this dialect.
Assamese speakers in the Nagaon, Sonitpur, Morigaon districts and the areas around these regions use the Central dialect.
The Kamrup region of Assam has speakers that use this dialect.
The Goalpariya region has speakers that use the Goalpariya dialect.
While the exact time of origin of Assam language – Assamese – is difficult to trace, it developed gradually and is now spoken by a huge number of people. The Prahlada Charita written in the late 13th century is one of the oldest Assamese literature available. It was written by Hema Saraswati. Other renowned writers in the early development stages of Assamese were Madhava Kandali, Shankar Deva and Rama Saraswati. When the British had conquered Assam in 1826, Assamese was considered as a dialect of Bengali and it was excluded from schools till 1873. When it became clear that they were two different languages, Assamese was reinstated in the schools.
The writing system of the language is the Assamese script. It bears close resemblance to the Bengali alphabet. It was the primary script for the people in the Brahmaputra valley. Other languages like Sanskrit, Bodo, Khasi, and Mishing were written in this script in the Brahmaputra Valley region.
Before the 17th century, Assamese – which was the official language of Assam – was usually used for literary productions that were inclined towards the religion. But from the 18th century onwards, it began to be used for books that covered subjects like Astrology, Mathematics, Dancing and Veterinary Science. Works in the field of veterinary science included three prominent books. The first two were named Hasti Vidyarnava which illustrated elephant lore. The books were based on the Sanskrit work Matanga-lila. The third book is named Ashwanidan and it talks about the diseases among horses and ways to prevent and cure these diseases.
One of the most popular figures in modern Assamese literature, is Lakshmi-nath Bezbarua who used the regional language of Assam for his poetries, essays and short stories. Other modern day Assamese writers who have contributed to the rich literature of the language are Jyoti Prasad Agarwalla, Kanchan Barua, Hem Barua, Atul Chandra Hazarika, Homen Bargohain and Mamoni Raisom Goswami.
Assam language name is Assamese and it has a rich history. The language has gradually grown in importance in the state and it boasts of a literature that has proliferated over the years. It does not have many distinctive dialects. Bodo is another language that has a marked presence in Assam, especially in the regions which belong to the Bodo Territorial Council. Needless to say, the state has a number of indigenous tribes usually of Tibeto-Burman descent who have distinctive languages of their own, however, these languages are usually limited to the tribes only.