Konkani is spoken mostly in the state of Goa and also spoken by people of Goan origin in the states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra and in other parts of India. One can find hundreds of thousands Konkani speaking people in the USA, Europe and in the former Portuguese colonies in Africa.

Evolution of the Language

Though Konkani was traditionally considered to be an offshoot of Sanskrit, scholars have now come to a different conclusion.  Konkani belongs to the Indo Aryan group of languages of India. S.M. Katre assigns the language “to the South- Western group (having Marathi and Gujarati as its nearest of kin) with a tinge of the Central group.”  He also points out that the “differentiations noted in the formation of the direct sing of masc. nouns in their extended form and the divergent postpositions for the dative clearly mark off Konkani as a separate language from Marathi, preserving in many respects an earlier stage of development. Its position as a separate language (and not a mere dialect) is thereby proved, but phonological considerations show that both belong to a common parent Prakrit.” According to Shripad Raghunath Desai, Konkani developed out of Apabhramsa during the 10 to 12th Centuries AD.

Goa had traditional links with the traders of Arabic-Persian regions long before it came to be ruled by the Kadambas, the Bahmani Sultans and thereafter by the Portuguese.  Naturally, the contacts with these traders and rulers from outside brought a number of Arabic-Persian, Kannada and Portuguese words into the daily usage of Konkani.   The cultural domination of Marathi in Goa also added a large number of Marathi words to Konkani vocabulary. Konkanis who migrated to South Kanara District in Karnataka and central and southern Districts of Kerala have assimilated a sizable number of Tulu and Malayalam words into Konkani.

Dialects vs. standard form

Konkani, of course, is spoken in several dialects. It is absolutely natural for any language to have some dialects and, more often than not, all living languages have several of them. As in other languages, Konkani dialects are marked by factors such as region, religion, caste, influence of other languages, etc. For example, there are regional variations among the dialects of Bardez, Antruz, Sasti and Pernem regions in Goa.  Dialectical differences are also observed between Hindus and Christians.  Again, the Brahmins and non Brahmins among the Hindus and so too do the Christians of Bardez and Sasti. There are stark dialectical differences between the Hindu and Christian dialects of South Kanara, between the Konkani dialects of Uttara Kanara and South Kanara and among the dialects of various caste groups of the   Konkani speaking Hindus of Karnataka. The situation is not very different in Kerala.

Obviously, a standard Konkani is yet to be evolved. There are many reasons for  this  The  prolonged absence of  state patronage for the language coupled with the  lack of infrastructure for its formal education  have been the main  factors which contributed to the delay in evolution of a standard form of written Konkani. But this situation was compounded by the fact that there were serious attempts to suppress the language during the period from 1684 to 1687 when the Portuguese ruled Goa.

Fortunately, with the liberation of Goa, Konkani education commenced and soon afterwards, two schools in Kochi started teaching Konkani to primary school children.  From the academic year 2007-08 Konkani became an optional language in the Schools of Karnataka. It is heartening to note that in Goa Konkani is being taught from Pre School to University level and that this trend is spreading to more and more states.