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BIGSBY—BIHARI

BIGSBY, JOHN JEREMIAH (1792-1881), English geologist and physician, the son of Dr John Bigsby, was born at Nottingham on the 14th of August 1792. Educated at Edinburgh, where he took the degree of M.D., he joined the army medical service and was stationed at the Cape of Good Hope in 1817. About a year later he went to Canada as medical officer to a regiment, and having developed much interest in geology he was commissioned in 1819 to report on the geology of Upper Canada. In 1822 he was appointed British secretary and medical officer to the Boundary Commission, and for several years he made extensive and important geological researches, contributing papers to the American Journal of Science and other scientific journals; and later embodying an account of his travels in a book entitled The Shoe and Canoe (1850). Returning to England in 1827 he practised medicine at Newark until 1846 when he removed to London, where he remained until the end of his life. He now took an active interest in the Geological Society of London, of which he had been elected a fellow in 1823. In 1869 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1874 he was awarded the Murchison medal by the council of the Geological Society. During the last twenty years of his long life he was continually at work preparing, after the most painstaking research, tabulated lists of the fossils of the Palaeozoic rocks. His Thesaurus Siluricus was published with the aid of the Royal Society in 1868; and the Thesaurus Devonico-Carboniferus in 1878. In 1877 he founded the Bigsby medal to be awarded by the Geological Society of London, with the stipulation that the receiver should not be more than forty-five years old. He died in London on the 10th of February 1881.

BIHARI (properly Bihārī), the name of the most western of the four forms of speech which comprise the Eastern Group of modern Indo-Aryan Languages (q.v.). The other members are Bengali, Oriya and Assamese (see Bengali). The number of speakers of Bihari in 1901 was 34,579,844 in British India, out of a total of 90,242,167 for the whole group. It is also the language of the inhabitants of the neighbouring Tarai districts of Nepal. In the present article it is throughout assumed that the reader is in possession of the facts described under the heads of Indo-Aryan Languages and Prakrit. The article Bengali may also be studied with advantage.

“Bihārī” means the language of the province of “Bihār,” and to a certain extent this is a true description. It is the direct descendant of the old Māgadhī Prakrit (see Prakrit), of which the headquarters were South Bihár, or the present districts of Patna and Gaya. It is, however, also spoken considerably beyond the limits of this province. To the west it extends over the province of Agra so far as the longitude of Benares, and to the south it covers nearly the whole of the province of Chota Nagpur. Allowing for the speakers in Nepal, its area extends over about 90,000 sq. m., and the total number of people who claim it as a vernacular is about the same as the population of France. Bihari has been looked upon as a separate language only during the past twenty-five years. Before that it was grouped with all the other languages spoken between Bengal and the Punjab, under the general term “Hindi.”

The usual character employed for writing Bihari is that known as Kaithī, a cursive form of the well-known Nagari character of Upper India. The name of the character is derived from the Kāyath or Kāyasth caste, whose profession is that of scribes. Kaithi is widely spread, under various names, all over northern India, and is the official character of Gujarati. The Nagari character is commonly employed for printed books, while the Brahmans of Tirhut have a character of their own, akin to that used for writing Bengali and Assamese. In the south of the Bihari tract the Oriya character belonging to the neighbouring Orissa is also found.

Bihari has to its east Bengali, also a language of the Outer Band. To its west it has Eastern Hindi, a language of the Intermediate Band (see Indo-Aryan Languages). While it must decidedly be classed as an Outer language, it nevertheless shows, as might be expected, some points of contact with the Intermediate ones. Nothing is so characteristic of Bengali as its pronunciation of the vowel a and of the consonant s. The first is sounded like the o in “hot” (transliterated o). In Eastern Bihari the same vowel has a broad sound, but not so broad as in Bengali. As we go westwards this broad sound is gradually lost, till it entirely disappears in the most western dialect, Bhojpurī. As regards s, the Māgadhī Prakrit pronounced it as ś, like the sh in “shin.” The Prakrits of the West preserved its dental sound, like that of the s in “sin.” Here Bengali and Eastern Hindi exactly represent the ancient state of affairs. The former has the ś-sound and the latter the s-sound. At the present day Bihari has abandoned the practice of the old Māgadhī Prakrit in this respect, and pronounces its s’s as clearly as in the West. There are political reasons for this. The pronunciation of s is a literal shibboleth between Bengal and Upper India. For centuries Bihár has been connected politically with the West, and has in the course of generations rid itself of the typical pronunciation of the East. On the other hand, a witness as to the former pronunciation of the letter is present in the fact that, in the Kaithi character, s is always written ś. In the declension of nouns, Bihari follows Bengali more closely than it follows Eastern Hindi, and its conjugation is based on the same principles as those which obtain in the former language.

The age of Bihari as an independent language is unknown. We have songs written in it dating from the 15th century, and at that time it had received considerable literary culture. Bihari has three main dialects, which fall Language. into two divisions, an eastern and a western. The eastern division includes Maithilī or Tirhutiā and Magahī. Magahi is the dialect of the country corresponding to the ancient Magadha, and may therefore be taken as the modern representative of the purest Māgadhī Prakrit. Its northern boundary is generally the river Ganges, and its western the river Son. To the south it has overflowed into the northern half of Chota Nagpur. It is nearly related to Maithili, but it is quite uncultivated and has no literature, although it is the vernacular of the birthplace of Buddhism. Nowadays it is often referred to by natives of other parts of the country as the typically boorish language of India. Maithili faces Magahi across the Ganges. It is the dialect of the old country of Mithilā or Tirhut, famous from ancient times for its learning. Historically and politically it has long been closely connected with Oudh, the home of the hero Rāma-candra, and its people are amongst the most conservative in India. Their language bears the national stamp. It has retained numerous antiquated forms, and parts of its grammar are extraordinarily complex. It has a small literature which has helped to preserve these peculiarities in full play, so that though Magahi shares them, it has lost many which are still extant in the everyday talk of Mithila. The western division consists of the Bhojpuri dialect, spoken on both sides of the Gangetic valley, from near Patna to Benares. It has extended south-east into the southern half of Chota Nagpur, and is spoken by at least twenty millions of people who are as free from prejudice as the inhabitants of Mithila are conservative. The Bhojpuris are a fighting race, and their language is a practical one, made for everyday use, as simple and straightforward as Maithili and Magahi are complex. In fact, it might almost be classed as a separate language, had it any literature worthy of the name.

(Abbreviations: Mth. = Maithili, Mg. = Magahi, Bh. = Bhojpuri, B. = Bihari, Bg. = Bengali. Skr. = Sanskrit, Pr. = Prakrit. Mg. Pr. = Magadhi Prakrit.)

Vocabulary.—The Bihari vocabulary calls for few remarks. Tatsamas, or words borrowed in modern times from Sanskrit (see Indo-Aryan Languages), are few in number, while all the dialects are replete with honest home-born tadbhavas, used (unlike Bengali) both in the literary and in the colloquial language. Very few words are borrowed from Persian, Arabic or other languages.

Phonetics.—The stress-accent of Bihari follows the usual rules of modern Indo-Aryan vernaculars. In words of more than one syllable it cannot fall on the last, whether the vowel of that syllable be long or short, pronounced, half-pronounced, or not pronounced. With this exception, the accent always falls on the last long syllable. If there are no long syllables in the word, the accent is thrown back as far as possible, but never farther than the syllable before the antepenultimate. Thus, ki-sȃ-n(a) (final a not pronounced); pȃ-nī, há-ma-rā; dé-kha-lả-hū. In the last word there is a secondary