ASSAMESE is the language usually spoken by the entire population of the Brahmaputra Valley, and in most cases 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 are 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 Mohammedans, 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 then the blessings of science and the true Religion, the most direct and successful medium is their own vernacular.
Unfortunately an 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 progress 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.
That 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,