অসমিয়া আৰু ইংৰাজি অভিধান/Preface
ASSAMESE is the language usually spoken by the population of the Brahmaputra Valley, and in most case it is the only medium of intercourse with the bordering Hill Tribes. There is nothing to show that the Assamese race and their language have not existed in this Valley from time immemorial; and it is surprising that, during the change of rulers, the oppression and misrule to which they have been subjected, there is so few traces of any material change in their language. The Ahoms, a branch of the great Shan or Tai race, conquered Assam at an early period, and governed it for many hundred years, until it passed into the hands of the present Government; but scarcely a trace of their language is found in the present dialect of the Assamese. The Burmese, the Mohammendans, and powerful Cachari Tribes have in turn waged war upon Assam without affecting the language. This may serve to show the love of a people for their own tongue, and that if we would confer upon them the blessings of science and the true Religion, the most direct and successful medium is their own vernacular.
Unfortunately nu impression has prevailed that Assamese and Bengali are identical or nearly so. Hence all the schools, Courts, and official business of every kind are conducted in Bengali. This has greatly retarded the cause of education and general program among the masses. They have no inclination to abandon their own for a foreign dialect. The higher classes, seeing their own language ignored, strive to obtain a sufficient knowledge of Bengali to fill Government offices; but they never feel at home in the language. In the family and social circle, nothing but the vernacular is spoken. Were Government now to abandon the country, Assamese would supersede all other dialects simply because it is the language of the masses.
The eminent linguist Max Muller tells us, that “there is hardly a language that in some sense may not be called a mixed language. No nation or Tribe was ever so completely isolated as not to admit a certain number of foreign words.” Again, “It matters not how many words may be derived in common from another language, it does not prove the identity of any two dialects. It is to the grammar that we must look, to decide their identity.”
Now in regard to the supposed identity of Assamese and Bengali, let it to be borne in mind that whatever Hinduism goes, it takes its sacred language, the Sanskrit, along with it. In all the dialects of India, spoken y Hindoos, religious and scientific terms are mostly of Sanskrit origin, modified more or less by the peculiarities of each dialect. But the grammars of these dialects are different; hence they are distinct languages, notwithstanding they have many words in common. So in the case before us Both Assamese and Bengali borrow largely from the Sanskrit, but the grammars are quite different, as will be readily seen by comparing them together. It might as well be said that French and Italian are one language, because both are sprung from the Latin, as that Bengali and Assamese are one, because they borrow in common from the Sanskrit.
After thirty years familiar acquaintance with the people, I am fully persuaded that it is a mistake to ignore their language. It ought rather to be calculated. If suitable encouragement were given, the educated Assamese would soon supply vernacular School Books, and a new impulse in favor of education ever be popularized among them.
In regard to the present work, it is the first Dictionary of the language ever published, and has necessarily been a difficult task. In the fourteen thousand words here collected, will be found many in daily use by the people, that no Bengali scholar will understand. Many of these words have been written as they dropped from the lips of the people. While I have thus endeavored to give the spoken language, I have also inserted the more common Sanskrit words that are used in the Puthis , and therefore known to the people. These words are also used in our School Books, and Scripture Translations. But it should be borne in mind that they are often used in Assamese, with a modified meaning, and a different pronunciation. These have been placed together as one word, and coupled by a bracket. English definitions have been simplified and varied as much as space will allow, for the sake of those who are learning English. As the language has hitherto had no standard, and has been used vaguely, I am aware that this first edition, like all other first attempts of the kind, must be left more or less imperfect. No word however has been allowed to pass without careful examination; and when doubts have existed, the oldest and best informed of the people have been consulted.
I am gladly indebted to the Rev. Dr. Brown, for a valuable list of words, and definitions partly given, all in the vernacular. The Rev. Mr. Whiting also printed a list of words as far as the letter দ, without definitions.
The system of Orthography adopted in this work, is that of Joduram Barua, a learned Assamese Pundit, which it is believed much better corresponds with the actual pronunciation of the people than any other system met with. (See “Introduction to Brown’s Grammatical Notices,” Page IX.)
Suggestions from every quarter for the improvement of the work will be thankfully received, and borne in mind in the revision for a second Edition.
For the liberal contributions received, I beg to return many thanks. Should health and means permit, a second Volume, the corresponding English and Assamese, will follow.