Culture. Language in Goa. Indian languages come in a seemingly baffling variety, many with their own scripts. Goa is located precisely on the dividing line which separates the Indo-European languages of North India from the Dravidian languages of the South.

The roots of nearly all the North Indian languages can be traced back to Sanskrit which originated with the Indo-Aryan pastoralists from Central Asia who moved into India from 2000 ВС onwards. By the 6th century ВС Sanskrit had become the dominant language of North India. The Muslims brought Persian into South Asia as the language of the rulers. Like Sanskrit before it, and English from the 18th century onwards, Persian became the language of the numerically tiny but politically powerful elite across the Sub-continent.

Out of the interaction between the Persian of the court and the native Sanskrit-based language developed Hindustani, separately identified as Hindi and Urdu. In the centuries which followed the major regional languages of North India developed, including Marathi, the language of Maharashtra, itself a sister language of Konkani spoken in Goa.

In sharp contrast, the dominant language of Karnataka, the state which borders Goa to the east and south, is Kannada, one of the four Dravidian languages (the others being Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Malayalam in Kerala and Telugu in Andhra Pradesh). Each has its own script.

All the Dravidian languages were influenced by the prevalence of Sanskrit as the language of the ruling and educated elite, although Tamil, which has a literature going back over 2,000 years, was least affected. Kannada was clearly established by AD 1000.

Portuguese was widely spoken until 1961 and even today many of the older generation can speak it, but local languages remained important. The two most significant were Marathi, the language of the politically dominant majority of the neighbouring state to the North, and Konkani, the spoken language of most Goans.

Konkani was introduced as the language of instruction in Church primary schools in 1991 and was added to the list of recognized languages in the Indian Constitution in August 1992. None the less, very few government primary schools teach in Konkani compared with over 800 that use Marathi, but the issue is still contentious. Hindi is increasingly spoken with the influx of non-Goan employees in hotel resorts. English and Hindi are widely used on road signs, bus destinations and tourism-related notices. In rural areas, however, Konkani predominates.

Lush green lawns in Margao

Lush green lawns in Margao