Our language-pick for the month is Konkani, spoken in the tropical Konkan lands of western India, a paradise of gorgeous sun-kissed beaches, coastal winds and an assortment of ethnic culinary creations. From Goan curries and prawn pickles to coconut-based seafood delicacies and free-flowing beer, the Konkanis have surely taught India how to eat, drink and make merry. This month, we invite you to explore the language that symbolises Konkan.
What’s the big deal?
For starters, it is the only Indian language that is written in 4 scripts! Yes, you heard me, 4 scripts – Devanagiri, Roman, Kannada or Malayalam. And no, it is not a dialect of Marathi. Much to the contrary, it is an official Indian language.
Konkani is also one of the most influenced languages. It borrows words from Kannada, Tulu, Marathi, Hindi and many more languages, the level of adulteration possibly being anywhere between 15% and 20%.
Konkani is an Indo-Aryan language found under the Indo-European family of languages and belongs to the same group as Bengali and Assamese.
Tell me more
Well, the spectrum of Konkani speakers is spread along the Konkan coast, which includes Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and a few pockets of northern Kerala, not to forget the many Konkanis that have migrated to other countries over the past few centuries.
Unfortunately, there is one, a potential threat of eventual extinction. Although Konkani has a number of dialects, it is spoken by merely 7.5 lakh people in Goa. And if literature keeps a language alive then the Konkanis were never really able to develop theirs. Blame the radical changes their society constantly underwent. At first, it was the advent of Buddhism and then came the Greeks, followed by the Arabs and the Turks. The threat from the Marathas and the Portuguese monarchs always loomed large, not even to mention the persecution of Konkani around the Middle Ages.
The Goans will love you for attempting to speak their language. So the next time you visit Goa, you might want to place your order in pure Konkani, ‘Mhaka ek beer jai’ and see how well you are served.