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Konkani (Devanāgarī: कोंकणी; Roman: Konknni; Kannada: ಕೊಂಕಣಿ; Malayalam: കൊങ്കണി; IAST: ) is an Indo-Aryan language belonging to the Indo-European family of languages spoken in the Konkan coast of India. It has approximately 7.6 million speakers of its two individual languages, Konkani and Goan Konkani.

Konkani is the official language in the Indian state of Goamarker and is also one of the Official languages of India. Konkani does not have a unique script. Scripts of the other languages native to the regions its speakers inhabit are used. Devanagari has been mandated as the official script.


The Konkani language has 16 basic vowels (excluding equal number of long vowels), 36 consonants, 5 semi-vowels, 3 sibilants, 1 aspirate and many diphthongs. Like the other Indo-Aryan languages, it has both long and short vowels and syllables with long vowels may appear to be stressed. Different types of nasal vowels are a special feature of the Konkani language .


Vowels in Konkani language
One of the most distinguishing features of Konkani phonology is the use of , the Close-mid central vowel, instead of the schwa as used in Hindi and Marathi.

Whereas most Indian languages use only one of the three front vowels, represented by the Devanagari grapheme ए(IPA: ), Konkani uses three: , and .

The Near-open front unrounded vowel , as used in Konkani is different from its standard IPA definition. It is positioned between and and slightly longer than . The standard pronunciation of æ is only used for loan-words.

Nasalizations exist for all vowels except for .


  Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Alveopalatal Velar Glottal








The Consonants in Konkani are similar to Marathi.


Konkani is a language rich in morphology and syntax. It cannot be described as a stress language nor as a tone language.

Geographical distribution

The Konkani language is spoken widely in the Western Coastal region of India known as Konkan. This consists of the Konkan division of Maharashtramarker, Goamarker, South Canara, North Canaramarker and some pockets in Keralamarker. Each region has a different dialect, pronunciation style, vocabulary, tone and sometimes, significant differences in grammar.

The Census Department of India, 1991 figures put the number of Konkani speakers in India as 1,760,607 making up 0.21% of India's population. Out of these, 602,606 were in Goamarker, 706,397 in Karnatakamarker, 312,618 in Maharashtramarker and 64,008 in Keralamarker. It ranks 15th in the list of Scheduled Languages by strength. According to the 2001 estimates of the The Census Department of India, there are 2,489,015 Konkani speakers in India. A very large number of Konkanis stay outside India, either as expatriates or citizens of other countries (NRI). Determining their numbers is difficult.

Ethnologue puts the number of Konkani speakers at 3.6 million in 2000.



The Konkani language developed primarily in Gomantakmarker (now Goamarker) in the Konkan, the narrow strip of land between the Sahyadri mountains and the Arabian Seamarker on the western coast of India. There are two theories regarding the origins of Konkani. One theory states that the Brahmins who resided along the banks of the Saraswati river must have migrated to Gomantak, when seismic activity in the Himalayas made the river run underground around 1900 BC. They brought their own dialect of Shauraseni Prakrit, which over time evolved into modern Konkani. But most of the language experts believe that Konkani originated from Maharashtri Prakrit, and was highly influneced by Marathi, Tulu, Kannada and later by Arabic, Persian and Portuguese.

Another theory is that Konkani is a Sanskritised version of a language spoken by the Kokna tribe, who may have been the primary settlers in the Konkan region. The Aryans who came to the Konkan picked up the language and added various Sanskrit words.

Early years

Konkani as a language flourished in Goa. It is believed that the Brahmi script may have been used initially for writing in Konkani but it fell into disuse. It is also believed that Brahmi gave way to the Devanagari script. However, no evidence has been found to support these claims. In the 1300s, the development of Marathi and the availability of religious and literary works in Marathi, led to its use extensively for religious purposes among the Hindus of Goa. Konkani existed only as a spoken language until the arrival of the Portuguese.

Other communities

Other Konkani communities came into being with their own dialects of Konkani. The Konkani Muslim communities of Ratnagirimarker and Bhatkalmarker came about due to a mixture of intermarriage of Arab seafarers and locals as well as conversions of Hindus to Islam. Another migrant community that picked up Konkani was the Siddis who were sailor-warriors from Ethiopia.

Migration and fragmentation

The arrival of the Portuguesemarker lead to major changes in Konkani. The conversion of Konkanis to Christianity and the religious policies of the Portuguese caused a large number of Konkanis to flee to neighbouring territories. The isolation of Hindu and Christian Konkanis added to the fragmentation of Konkani into multiple dialects.

The language spread to Canaramarker (coastal Karnataka), Kokan-patta (coastal Konkan division of Maharashtra) and Kerala during the last 500 years due to migration of Konkanis. Although a few Konkanis may have been present in the neighbouring areas and there may have been migrations due to economic reasons in the past, the main cause of migration was the Portuguese control over Goa.

It was spread to these areas by Hindu Konkani and Christian Konkani speakers in three waves of migration. The first migration occurred during the early years of Portuguese rule and the Inquisition of 1560s. The second wave of migration was during the 1571 C.E. war with the Sultan of Bijapur. The third wave of migration happened during the wars of 1683-1740 A.D. with the Marathas. While the first wave was of Hindus, the second and third waves were mainly those of Christians.

These migrant communities grew in relative isolation and each developed its own dialect. Since these communities had to interact with others in local languages on a daily basis, Konkani dialects show strong local influences in terms of script, vocabulary and also style.

Konkani in Portuguese era

Early in the era of Portuguese colonizationmarker, Christian missionaries realized the importance of propagating in local tongues and translated Christian Literature into Konkani and sometimes Marathi, the most notable among them being Fr Thomas Stephens.

However, in 1684 A.D., the Portuguese administration banned the use of local languages in their Indian territories. They mandated the use of Portuguese not just for official purposes but everyday conversations including speaking at homes or bazaars. This was because local languages served as a medium for Hindu religious instruction. They also wanted to sever the links the new converts had with their old religion.

Coupled with the imposition of Portuguese as an official language, it lead to a steady decline of Konkani, which unlike most Indian languages had absolutely no state patronage.

The Hindus of Goa had been using Marathi as a language of religious ceremonies from a long time. Also the interaction between Marathis and Konkanis in the past, that had resulted in Konkanis being bilingual with Marathi, now cemented the status of Marathi as the liturgical and literary language of Hindus in Goa, including Konkanis. Similarly, upper class Christians used Konkani only to communicate with the lower classes and poor, using Portuguese in social gatherings. The use of Portuguese led to the influence of Portuguese in Konkani, especially in the dialects spoken by the Christians.

Meanwhile, the migrant communities outside Goa kept Konkani alive, and the language became more fragmented. The Devanagari script came into use in Maharashtra, while Kannada Script was used by migrants to Karnataka.

Konkani revival

Konkani was in a sorry state, due to the use of Portuguese as the official and social language among the Christians; the predominance of Marathi over Konkani among Hindus and the Konkani Christian-Hindu divide. Seeing this Vaman Raghunath Varde Valaulikar set about on a mission to unite all Konkanis, Hindus as well as Christians, regardless of caste or religion. He saw this movement not just as a nationalistic movement against Portuguese rule, but also against the pre-eminence of Marathi over Konkani. Almost single handedly he crusaded, writing a number of works in Konkani. He is regarded as the pioneer of modern Konkani literature and affectionately remembered as Shenoi Goembab. His death anniversary, 9 April, is celebrated as World Konkani Day (Viswa Konknni Dis).

Post-independence period

Following India's Independence and its subsequent reconquest of Goa in 1961, Goa was absorbed into the Indian Union as a Union Territory, directly under central administration.

However, with the reorganization of states along linguistic lines, and growing calls from Maharashtra, as well as Marathis in Goa for the merger of Goa into Maharashtra, an intense debate was started in Goa. The main issues discussed were the status of Konkani as an independent language and Goa's future as a part of Maharashtra or as an independent state. A plebiscite retained Goa as an independent state in 1967. However, English, Hindi and Marathi continued to be the preferred languages for official communication, while Konkani was sidelined.

Recognition as an independent language

With the continued insistence of some Marathis that Konkani was a dialect of Marathi and not an independent language, the matter was finally placed before the Sahitya Akademi. Suniti Kumar Chatterji, the president of the Akademi appointed a Committee of linguistic experts to settle the dispute. On February 26, 1975, the Committee after due deliberation, came to the conclusion that Konkani was indeed an independent and literary language.

Official language status

All this did not change anything in Goa. Finally fed up with the delay, Konkani lovers launched an agitation demanding official status to Konkani in 1986. The agitation turned violent in various places, resulting in the death of six agitators. Finally, on 4 February 1987, the Goa Legislative Assembly passed the Official Language Bill making Konkani the Official Language of Goa.

Konkani was included in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution of India, as per the Seventy-First Amendment on 31 August 1992, adding it to the list of National Languages.


Konkani is written in a number of scripts. Brahmi was originally used but fell into disuse. Devanagari is the official script for Konkani in Goa. Roman script is also popular in Goa. The Kannada script is used amongst the Konkani population of Karnatakamarker. Malayalam script is used by the Konkani community, centered around the cities of Cochinmarker and Kozhikodemarker in Keralamarker state. Konkani Muslims in coastal Maharashtra and Bhatkal taluka of Karnataka use Arabic script to write Konkani.

Konkani Alphabets
IPA Symbol Modified Devanagari Alphabet Standard Devanagari Alphabet Roman Script Kannada Alphabet Malayalam Alphabet Arabic Alphabet

o ಅ/ಒ ?
a ?
i ?
i ?
u ?
u ?
e ?
e ?

no symbol e ಎ or ಐ ?
ai/oi ?
o ?
o ?
au/ou ?
अं अं om/on ಅಂ അം ?

k ಕ್ ക് ک
kh ಖ್ ഖ് که
g ಗ್ ഗ് ک
gh ಘ್ ഘ് گه
ंग ng ങ് ڭ
च़ च़ ch ಚ್ ത്സ് څ
ch ಚ್ ച് چ
chh ಛ್ ഛ് چه
ज़ ज़ z ز
j ಜ್ ജ് ج
झ़ झ़ zh ಝ್ ഝ് زه
jh ಝ್ ഝ് جه
nh ഞ് ڃ
tt ಟ್ ട് ټ
tth ಠ್ ഠ് ټه
dd ಡ್ ഡ് ډ
ddh ಢ್ ഢ് ډه
nn ಣ್ ണ് ڼ
t ತ್ ത് ت
th ಥ್ ഥ് ته
d ದ್ ദ് د
dh ಧ್ ധ് ده
n ನ್ ന് ن
p ಪ್ പ് پ

फ़ f ಫ್ ഫ് ف
b ಬ್ ബ് ب
bh ಭ್ ഭ് به
m ಮ್ മ് م
i/e/ie ಯ್ യ് ې
r ರ್ ര് ر
l ಲ್ ല് ل
x ಶ್ ശ് ش
x ಷ್ ഷ് ?
s ಸ್ സ് س
h ಹ್ ഹ് ?
ll ಳ್ ള് ?
v ವ್ വ് ڤ


Konkani, despite having a small population shows a very high number of dialects. The dialect tree structure 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

Based on the historical events and cultural ties of the speakers, N. G. Kalelkar has broadly classified the dialects into three main groups:
  • Northern Konkani :Dialects spoken in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra with strong cultural ties to Marathi.
  • Central Konkani : Dialects in Goa, where Konkani came in close contact with Portuguese language and culture.
  • Southern Konkani: Dialects spoken in the Canara region of Karnataka which came in close contact with Tulu and Kannada.

Ethnologue (ISO) classification

ISO 639-3 classifies Konkani generic macrolanguage (ISO 639-3:kok) into:
  • Goan Konkani (ISO 639-3: gom )
  • Konkani (individual language) (ISO 639-3: knn)
Of these , Konkani(individual language) is commonly identified as a dialect of Marathi(see Marathi language#Konkani).

The various dialects of Konkani macrolanguage as reported by Ethnologue are:
  • Standard Konkani (Goan),
  • Bardeskari (Gomantaki),
  • Saraswat Brahmin,
  • Kudali (Malvani),
  • Daldi (Nawaits),
  • Chitpavani (Konkanasths),
  • Mangalore.

Related languages/dialects

Other languages/dialects which are included by ISO 639-3 in the Konkani language family but may be not be regarded as dialects of Konkani (they may be regarded as sister languages):
  • Katkari (kfu)
  • Kukna (kex)
  • Phudagi (phd)
  • Samvedi (smv)
  • Varli (vav)


The Konkani language has been in danger of dying out primarily due to:
  1. The fragmentation of Konkani into various, sometimes mutually unintelligible dialects.
  2. The Portuguesemarker influence in Goa, especially on Catholics.
  3. Strong degree of bilingualism of Konkani Hindus in Goa and coastal Maharashtra with Marathi
  4. Progressive inroads made by Urdu into the Muslim communities.
  5. Mutual animosity among various religious and caste groups; including a secondary status of Konkani culture to religion.
  6. Migration of Konkanis to various parts of India and around the world.
  7. Lack of opportunities to study Konkani in schools and colleges. Even till recently there were few Konkani schools in Goa. Populations outside the native Konkani areas have absolutely no access to Konkani education, even informally.
  8. Preference among Konkani parents to speak to their children in "Potaachi Bhas" (language of the stomach) over "Maaim Bhas"(mother tongue) Konkani; primarily in English to help their children gain a grip over English in schools.

Efforts have been made to stop this downward trend of usage of Konkani , starting with Shenoi Goembab's efforts to revive Konkani. There has been a renewed interest in Konkani Literature. The recognition granted by Sahitya Akademi to Konkani and the institution of an annual award for Konkani literature has helped.

Some organizations such as the Konkan Daiz Yatra, organized by Konkani Bhasha Mandal, Mumbai since 1939 and the newer Vishwa Konkani Parishad have laid great stress on uniting all factions of Konkanis.


According to the Census Department of India, Konkani speakers show a very high degree of multilingualism. In the 1991 census, as compared to the national average of 19.44% for bilingualism and 7.26% for trilingualism; Konkani speakers scored 74.20% and 44.68% respectively. This makes Konkanis the most multilingual community of India.

This has been due to the fact that in most areas where Konkanis have settled, they seldom form a majority of the population and have to interact with others in the local tongue. Another reason for bilingualism has been the lack of schools teaching Konkani as a primary or secondary language.

While bilingualism is not by itself a bad thing, it has been misinterpreted as a sign that Konkani is not a developed language. The bilingualism of Konkanis with Marathi in Goa and Maharashtra has been a source of great discontent because it has led to the belief that Konkani is a dialect of Marathi and hence had a bearing on the future of Goa.

Konkani — Marathi dispute

It has been claimed by some quarters that Konkani is a dialect of Marathi and not an independent language. This has been attributed to several historical reasons (outlined in the History section), the close similarities between Marathi and Konkani, the geographical proximity between Goamarker and Maharashtramarker, the strong Marathi influence on Konkani dialects spoken in Maharashtra (such as Malwani), a supposed lack of literature in Konkani and a great degree of bilingualism of Konkani Hindus with respect to Marathi.

José Pereira, in his 1971 work "Konkani — A Language: A History of the Konkani Marathi Controversy", pointed to an essay on Indian languages written by John Leyden in 1807 wherein Konkani is called a "dialect of Maharashtra" as an origin of the language controversy.

Another linguist to whom the error is attributed is Grierson. Grierson's work on the languages of India: The Linguistic Survey of India was regarded as an important reference by other linguists. In his book, Grierson had distinguished between the Konkani spoken in costal Maharashtra (then, part of Bombay Presidency) and the Konkani spoken in Goa as being two different languages. He regarded the Konkani spoken in costal Maharashtra as a dialect of Marathi and not as a dialect of Goan Konkani itself. But, in his opinion, Goan Konkani was also to be considered a dialect of Marathi because the relegious literature used by the Hindus in Goa was not in Konkani itself, but in Marathi. Grierson's opinion about Goan Konkani was not based on its linguistics but on the diglossic situation in Goa.

S. M. Katre's 1966 work, The Formation of Konkani, which utilized the instruments of modern historical and comparative linguistics across six typical Konkani dialects, showed the formation of Konkani to be distinct from that of Marathi. Shenoi Goembab, who played a pivotal role in the Konkani revival movement, rallied against the pre-eminence of Marathi over Konkani amongst Hindus and Portuguese amongst Christians.

Goa's accession to India in 1961 came at a time when Indian states were being reorganized along linguistic lines. There were demands to merge Goa with Maharashtra state. This was because Goa had a sizeable population of Marathi speakers and Konkani was also considered to be a dialect of Marathi by many. Konkani Goans were opposed to the move. The status of Konkani as an independent language or as a dialect of Marathi had a great political bearing on Goa's merger, which was settled by a plebiscite in 1967.

The Sahitya Akademi (a prominent literary organization in India) recognized it as an independent language in 1975, and subsequently Konkani (in Devanagari script) was made the official language of Goa in 1987.

Script and dialect issues

The problems posed by multiple scripts and varying dialects have come as an impediment in the efforts to unite Konkanis. The decision to use Devanagari as official script and Antruz dialect has met with opposition both within Goa and outside it. The critics contend that Antruz dialect is unintelligible to most Goans, let alone other Konkanis, and that Devanagari is used very little as compared to Roman script in Goa or Kannada script in coastal Karnataka. Prominent among the critics are Konkani Catholics in Goa, who have been at the forefront of the Konkani agitation in 1986-87 and have for long used the Roman script including producing literature in Roman script. They are demanding that Roman script be given equal status to Devanagari.

In Karnataka, which has the largest number of Konkanis, leading organizations and activists have similarly demanded that Kannada script be made the medium of instruction for Konkani in local schools instead of Devanagari.

At present no single script or dialect can claim to be understandable or acceptable to all sections. No serious efforts have been made to achieve a consensus on this issue. The lack of a standard dialect which is acceptable to all means that at many times Konkanis interact with other Konkanis in other languages.


There are various organisations working for Konkani but primarily, these were restricted to individual communities. The All India Konkani Parishad founded on 23 January 1978 served the purpose of providing a common ground for all groups. A new organisation known as Vishwa Konkani Parishad, which aims to be an all-inclusive and pluralistic umbrella organization for Konkanis around the world, was founded on 11 September 2005. The Vishwa Konkani Sammelan (First World Konkani Convention), which was held at Mangaloremarker in 1995, had attracted more than 5000 delegates apart from lakhs of visitors.

The Konkan Daiz Yatra, which was started in 1939 in Mumbaimarker, is the oldest Konkani organisation. The Konkani Bhasha Mandal was born in Mumbai on April 5, 1942 during the Third All India Conference. On December 28, 1984, Goa Konkani Akademi (GKA) was founded by the Government of Goa to promote Konkani language, literature and culture. The Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr is a popular research institute based in the Goanmarker capital Panajimarker, which works on issues related to the Konkani language, literature, culture and education. The Dalgado Konkani Academy is a popular Konkani organisation based in Panaji.

The Konkani Triveni Kala Sangam is one more famed Konkani organisation in Mumbaimarker, which is engaged in the vocation of patronizing Konkani language through theatre movement. The Konkani Bhas Ani Sanskriti Pratistan (Konkani Language and Cultural Foundation) is actively involved in the development and research of the Konkani language. The Government of Karnataka established the Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Akademy on 20 April 1994. The World Konkani Centre has been established by the Konkani Bhas Ani Sanskriti Pratistan (Konkani Language and Cultural Foundation) in Mangalore. The Konkani Ekvott is an umbrella organisation of the various Konkani bodies in Goa.


  • The first known printed book in Konkani was written by an English Jesuit priest, Fr. Thomas Stephens in 1622, and entitled Dovtrina Cristam Em Lingoa Brahmana Canarim (Old Portuguese for: Christian Doctrine in the Canarese Brahman Language).
  • Konkani Mansagangotri — Prof. Olivinho Gomes
  • Vajralikhani — Shenoi Goembab
  • Konkani Bhashecho Itihas — Shenoi Goembab
  • Sollavea Xekddeantlem Konknni Mhabharot: Adi Porv — collection of 18 stories from the Mahabharat epic. It was written down in the 16th century by a Jesuit in the Roman script using diacritics. It is probably the oldest form of Konkani available today.

Miscellaneous facts

  • There is some disagreement about whether the name "Konkani" was always the accepted name for the language. The earliest reference to the Konkani language comes in a devotional poem by Sant Namdev(c.1270-c.1350 CE) where he has written a stanza in Konkani.
  • An international ad campaign by Nikemarker for the 2007 Cricket World Cup featured a Konkani song Rav Patrao Rav as the background theme. It was based on the tune of an older song Bebdo, composed by Chris Perry and sung by Lorna. The new lyrics written by Agnello Dias (who worked in the ad agency that made the ad), recomposed by Ram Sampat and sung by Ella Castellino.
  • Dolla Nandigudda is a famous Konkani comedian. He is referred to as the Johny Lever of Konkani cinema/drama. Dolla is the uncle of film-director and actor Sandeep Malani. Sandeep Malani has acted as a hero in the Konkani film 'Bogsanhe' directed by Dr. Richard Castelino.
  • A Konkani cultural event Konkani Nirantari held in Mangaloremarker on 26 and 27 January 2008; has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for holding a 40-hour-long non-stop musical singing marathon by beating the Brazilian musical troupe who had previously held the record of singing non-stop for 36 hours.

See also


  1. Ethnologue report for language code:gom
  2. Article on Konkani language
  3. Konkani History
  4. People of India - Siddis
  5. Mother Tongue blues - Madhavi Sardesai
  6. Goanews - By Sandesh Prabhudesai
  7. Goanews - By Sandesh Prabhudesai
  8. *** Goanet Reader: Puzzle wrapped in an enigma,understanding Konkani in Goa
  9. ISO 639 code sets
  10. Ethnologue report for Konkani
  11. Language in India
  12. Goa group wants Konkani in Roman script
  13. The Hindu : Karnataka / Mangalore News : `Kannada script must be used to teach Konkani'

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