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The first few verses of St. John's Gospel in the Goan Catholic Konkani Bible, in Roman script

Spoken widely along the Konkan coast of India, Konkani is a language that is hard to pick up but easy to understand. It is one of the South Indian languages that have survived since before the Portuguese influence in India and has developed into its different dialects over the years.

Originally believed to have been spoken by the Kukna and Gamit tribes of Western India, Konkani was adopted by the Goans. From here, through trade and other interactions, it travelled all the way to the tip of Kerala. Native speakers have incorporated the dialects spoken along the way, and now it is a language that is understood by most people because of how the similarity in words.

Konkani has no script of its own. It borrows from the scripts of all the other southern languages. Kannadiga Konkani speakers write in Kannada, Malayali Konkani speakers write in Malayalam, and so on. Even the Roman script has been adopted by this language.

Some people believe that Konkani and Marathi are very similar languages and might even be related, but the question of which one came first is unresolved. Over the years, they have merged together in certain regions, and in other places, they have remained quite separate. When the Portuguese came, the diaspora they left behind adopted this language. Some resources also state that Konkani originated at the time the Mauryan Dynasty ruled this part of India.

Thomas Stevens Konkani Kendriya An institution that teaches Konkani at Alto Porvorim, Goa Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

As it stands today, is all mixed up with other languages, Konkani is a marker of caste and region, and sometimes even religion based on certain pronunciations and choice of vocabulary. The words used by those from the coast and those in the interior rural areas also differ greatly. When a speaker of Konkani says something, it is very easy to identify where they are from, and what their caste or religion is.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the language underwent a decline, and revival movements were set up. Institutions exist today that teach the language. A theatre art form that aims to keep the language alive, called 'tiatrs' is performed across parts of the western coast. Since the Portuguese descendants returned to their home country after they were granted citizenship by Portugal, Konkani has now fully integrated into the language of India, and even features on the Indian currency.

Keywords: Konkani, Language, South India, Konkan Coast, Portuguese



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