The direct ancestors of Bengali are Prakrit, and Sanskrit.
The total number of speakers of Bengali worldwide is 189 million (Ethnologue), making it the seventh most spoken language in the world after Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, and Portuguese (Ethnologue).
Spoken Bengali is best described as a continuum of regional dialects. The standard form of Bengali, accepted in Bangladesh and in West Bengal, is based on the West-Central dialect as spoken by educated people in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) back in the 19th century.
Diglossia is widespread, with many speakers being able to use both formal standard Bengali and their own regional dialect.
Vowels Bengali has 7 oral vowel phonemes, i.e., sounds that differentiate word meaning. Aspirated consonants are produced with a strong puff of air. The use of consonant clusters is extremely limited, even in borrowed words.
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