Monday, March 3, 2014

Language Profile: Konkani

This week we're taking a look at Konkani, the official language of Goa, India's smallest state. Konkani is one of India's many official regional languages that belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family. It is also spoken in the Indian states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Kerala as a minority language. There are also many speakers of the language in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Portugal, and Pakistan.

For quite some time, Konkani was considered by some to be a dialect of the Marathi language, but it was finally declared to be an independent language in 1975. In 1987, it became the official language of Goa, and was included in India's long list of officially recognized languages in 1992.

Dudhsagar Falls in Goa
The lexicon of Konkani includes loanwords from many languages, including Sanskrit, Turkish, Kannada, and Marathi. It contains many Arabic and Persian words due to Goa's status as a major center of trade, as well as a large Portuguese influence, primarily from religious terminology used by Catholics in the state.

Konkani speakers have a high degree of multilingualism, with nearly 75% of of Konkani speakers being bilingual in another language. The language is considered to be somewhat endangered due to its fragmentation into dialects, the lack of opportunities to study Konkani in schools, and the difficulty of uniting its speakers due to the use of multiple scripts.

The Konkani language is written in a number of different scripts. In Goa, the official script to use is Devanagari. Most Hindus in Goa use this script, while Catholics use a Latin-based script, and Muslims tend to use a Perso-Arabic script. In the state of Karnataka where Kannada is the official language, the Kannada script is used to write Konkani. Similarly, the language is often written in Malayalam script in the state of Kerala, where Malayalam is the official language.

However, in recent years speakers of Konkani have been working to preserve the language. One important development on this front was the creation of the World Konkani Centre, which works to preserve and develop Konkani language, art, and culture.