Roman script Konkani… in new form


Dev b^ro dis di~v. Tu~ k^so asay? Ha~v b^ro asa~. Tuje~ na~v kite~? Mh^je~ na~v Pedru. Tu~ kh^~y ravtay? Ha~v Go~ya~ ravta~. Ko~knni Go~ychi razbhas. Tuzo bapuy kite~ k^rta? Mh^zo bapuy xeta~t kam k^rta. Tu~ mhaka ek narl ani pa~ch a~be dixi? Falya~ tuka haddun dita~. Ha~v p^rva~ tanger vet^lo~. Ami tumger az yeta~v. Tumi godd khayat ani ud^k piyeyat. Ambo godd asa. Ti kh^`y veta? Ti ig^rjek veta….
—————————————————————–

What’s that?

It’s no computer-generated gibberish. It’s the new form of writing Roman script Konkani, being proposed and propagated by the Jesuit-run Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr of Porvorim.

If you haven’t seen it so far, grab a copy of the 2005 published 52-page book titled ‘TSKK Romi Lipi: Ko-knni b^ro~vchi rit)’.

After many years of supporting Devanagiri Konkani, the TSKK has recently and rather drastically come out strongly in favour of the Roman (Romi) script. But a modified Romi script it is. The ^s and the ~s are supposed to help you to get closer to the actual Konkani pronounciation. Even
while making it easy to reproduce on a computer!

It explains: “TSKK orthography makes uses a linear typing system without too many diacritics, making use of only the standard computer keyboard. It has used 24 alphabets of the Roman alphabet and added only two new symbols, namely ~ for nasal vowels, and ^ for (the Devanagiri sound
aa).”

Of course, the idea is to take the wind out of the Devanagiri sails, and the long-propagated allegation that Romi-script Konkani isn’t suited for pronouncing a South Asian language like Konkani. My guess is that those who are used to writing Romi Konkani in the traditional,
Portuguese-influenced manner might offer some resistance in changing over too. Maybe I’ll be wrong….

But the greatest beneficiaries could be those trying to study a new language (Konkani) without running into the wall of a new script (Devanagari) and at the same time get the pronounciation right. Including the large number of expats, researchers wanting to learn Konkani, or people simply wanting to learn the language. Knowing the Jesuitical determination with which TSKK works, one could expect both a publishing fever of new books and also possible training programmes for neo-learners of Konkani.

Personally, I found it easy to read the new script — more user friendly than the traditional Roman (where you have to kind of guess the pronounciations, if you don’t know it) and surely far more easier than the Devanagiri which I teach my daughter Riza (7) for her second standard, without having adequately studied the lingo in my life. Besides an issue of script, it’s also a question of dialect. Some words tend to be pretty alien to the average Konkani speaker… leave aside those influenced by an emigrant background.

Having said all this, there are some worrying aspects about linguistic chauvinism in Goa.

Firstly, language has long been used as a beating stick, rather than an enabling tool for the commonman. Go to any history seminar, and you’ll see Portuguese chauvinism asking how you can be there if you were born too late to know the language. Walk into the post-1961 chauvnism and see
the way English (which has been one of India’s associate official languages) and, more-so Portuguese, are treated as “foreign” languages. Being around in India, and widely used by millions (specially in English’s case) is obviously not enough. On the other hand, knowing
English is a fashion-statement, and reflects an aspiration to the better things in life.

Konkani looks down on Marathi, and Konkani even looks at the various dialects of its different speaker groups. In some of the campaigning for Romi Konkani that has come up here, we’ve seen an attitude which seeks to replace the attempted-hegemony of Antruzi Konkani (which happens to
be largely Hindu upper caste, and not even widely accepted by the other castes… as reflected in the fledging circulation of a newspaper like say the Sunaparant) with the hegemony of Bardeshi (which happens to be largely Catholic). Can’t we just accept that different groups in Goa
have their own preferences of language, script and dialect?

Can’t we also accept that language is also (more?) about caste and community in Goa, and if any one or the other group has its own preferences, so be it. We can’t complain about the hegemonistic attempts of others (for instance, Devanagari Konkani, in this case), yet seek to
act hegemonistic ourselves towards others (say, Marathi supporters).

One good thing the TSKK attempt is that there *seems* to be an attempt at being inclusivist, simplifying Konkani and making it accessible to more. Rather than working towards a ‘classical’ Konkani, what needs to be done is to engineer a language which the commonman finds useful,
while at the same time keeping his (or her) window open to the outside world. Let’s see if these trends continue over time.

From the last 15-years experience (since 1987, and the Official Language Act), we’ve seen Konkani being unable to offer the promised jobs, open up opportunity (it has, but only for a *select* few), or make the administration accessible to the commonman. Konkani’s growth won’t come
from official language status, promises of patronage from those in power, and heightened doses of chauvinism.

It would probably come from making the language easy to learn, making it widely accessible specially in the audio-visual world (that interesting journalist of yesteryears — no disrespect meant here, but like many good writers, he’s another one in exile — Linken Fernandes wrote a good piece on this recently, in the Gomantak Times). It would also grow from being more widely used on computers, the tool of the moment.

And by the way, here’s a rather unconnected personal request to those making posts in Romi Konkani on this forum: please continue doing so. But, while doing so, please also add a four-line introduction (in English) to what you’re writing. Let’s make the post accessible (and
maybe understandable, one day) to more readers out there.

Just a few thoughts from a commonman, and a few observations from a non-linguist about an issue that affects us severely: language. -FN

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