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Kokani, the Language, Past and Present

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We all know that Kokan is land of natural beauty and culture. Like its unique beauty, the language of Kokan known as Kokani is also unique. The word unique has been used for Kokani language because even through it is widely spoken in Kokan, each region has a different dialect, pronunciation style, vocabulary, tone and sometimes, significant differences in grammar.
Roots of Kokani Language :
The origins of Konkani language from the historic viewpoint are very interesting. The Aryans who migrated to India familiarized themselves in North India and established several languages based on the local influence. Depending on their geographical dispersion you can categorize two distinct groups. Punjabi, Rajasthani, Gujarati, and Hindi evolved from Prakrit of Magadha, and Sindhi Maithili, Assamese, Bengali originated from Shouraseni Prakrit. Konkani belongs to the second group, and hence some scholars regard Bengali or Assamese as the mother of Konkani language. However, in reality the three are siblings of the same (now nonexistent) intermediary parent language. The arguments on the matter continue to generate a lot of response among linguists. Some historians argue that it was the language of Aryans who came further South to the Konkan, and hence the name Kokani. The most important point to note here is that Konkani is first seen in the Konkan area. Early adopters used the Brahmi script, but eventually due to the local influence, Nagari (i.e. Devanagari) was used for the benefit of much larger audience.
Also earlier times, Kokanis had business interactions with Arabian countries; therefore some Arabian-Persian words entered in Konkani language. During 11th century Kadamba kings ruled Goa so some Kannada words too found place in Konkani. In the 13th century, Konkani people residing in Kerala accepted some words from Malayalam and Tamil. During 1510, Portuguese came to Goa; they ruled Goa for around 450 years, so some Portuguese words also came in Konkani and are still in use. Konkani has taken some words even from old Marathi. Of late, due to onslaught of English language, many English words and phrases too are seen in this language. The orthography, vocabulary, grammar and overall style of Konkani have an impact of other languages.
Scripts :
Kokani does not have a unique script. It is written in a number of scripts. Devanagari is the official script for Konkani in Goa, whereas Roman script is also popular in Goa . Amongst the Konkani population of Karnataka, the Kannada script is used. Malayalam script is used by the Konkani community in Kerala state, centered on the cities of Cochin and Kozhikode . Urdu script is used by Konkani Muslims in coastal Maharashtra and Bhatkal taluka of Karnataka to write Konkani.
Dialects :
Despite having a small population, Konkani language shows varieties of dialects. The dialect of Konkani can easily be classified according to the region, religion, caste and local tongue influence. Different researchers have classified the dialects differently. N. G. Kalelkar’s classification is based on the historical events and cultural ties of the speakers and he has broadly classified the dialects into three main groups :
  • Northern Konkani : These are the dialects mainly spoken in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra with strong cultural ties to Marathi.
  • Central Konkani : It is the dialects spoken in Goa , where Konkani came in close contact with Portuguese language and culture.
  • Southern Konkani : The dialects which are spoken in the Canara region of Karnataka which came in close contact with Tulu and Kannada.
Kokani Language Today :
Language is identity of every community. If you want to save our community, first we have to save our own language. One should realize a fact that our language is dying and it is our responsibility to save it.
How many Kokanis speak their mother tongue Kokani ? Many of us don’t know the fact that we are the real enemies of our language because we left our language and adopted other domestic or foreign languages such as Marathi, Urdu, English … etc. It is not our mistakes, the modern era has put us in foreign / domestic languages and we adopt those languages and culture and put end to our culture.
In Maharashtra Marathi community believe that Kokani is a dialect of Marathi and did not recognize as a language. The Kokani language is not receiving the respect or status as it deserved and thus it resulted in lack of literature or patronage of the language. But, history has established that even when Konkani language had reached maturity, the Marathi language was not even born.
If one has to see the diversity of today’s Kokani language, one should travel the Indian west coast. In Mumbai, they speak in Marathi accent whereas in Kokan, they stretch the words so that no outsider can understand. The Hindus of Goa liberally use the Portuguese words whereas the Christians use it as if it’s a Portuguese dialect.
A very large number of Kokanis live outside India , either as expatriates or citizens of other countries (NRIs). A significant number of Kokani speakers are found in African continent, Persian Gulf, UK, USA, Canada, Australia … etc. Many families still continue to speak different dialects that their ancestors spoke, which are now highly influenced by the native languages.
Kokani is dying because Kokanis are changing their mother tongue like Catholics have started speaking English, Muslims are adopting Urdu and Hindus are using Marathi. This should be stopped as early as possible otherwise in few years Kokani language will remain as history.
The Kokani language will only be saved when an individual understand the importance to remain with its culture and heritage. To save our language, all Kokanis should speak in their mother language and even teach the language to their children, it may be any dialects try to understand and try to avoid marrying out of Konkani caste.
It is not that we are against any languages; we should respect other languages but should not forget our mother language. Knowing different languages is good practice and nowadays it is not hard to learn any languages, as the media contributes highly. So don’t worry our kids will automatically learn other languages.
Remember Kokani is beautiful language lets conserve it, develop it and proudly call it as our mother tongue.
Note it is practice which makes man perfect. You can become perfect in every language. Take example of former Prime Ministers of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Mr. Narasimha Rao. Both were masters of 13 Indian languages. So it is individual responsibility to save his language.

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EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: As part of our mission to provide our users with valuable information about matters of job, health, investments etc., iKokani actively seeks a diversity of viewpoints in its columns, consultancy, commentaries and other opinion-based content. Opinions expressed in these articles are not intended to represent iKokani editorial policy and do not necessarily reflect the views of iKokani's staff, members or supporters. If you wish to inform us about any event related to Kokanis, please send us a draft report with pictures to publish on iKokani website.

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