Pluralizing Konkani

We are facing the script issue in konkani again. It is refusing to die. A recent article of Fr. Jaime Couto racked the issue again. While the said article tries to dehistorize konkani in romi script by arbitrarily linking it to colonial history and in the same breathe attempts to claim legitimacy for nagri script by positioning it as first in time (which may be questionable)and then finally also arbitrary assumes that nagri is natural to konkani. This singularization of nagri as the only script smack of mimicking the imperialism of the colonizer, it so much wants to fight trying to clean it’s so called remenants in konkani.

May be we have to consider the science of linguistics to find a response to this claim that seeks legitimacy to one language one script. Any language is a signification system. Konkani is also a signifying system. It communicates meaning like any other signification system. May be we have to enter modern linguistics in order to understand how a signification system works:

All signification systems are made of Signs.
Konkani is spoken with words… These are signs ( primary signs). We utter them. They are conventional signs. They are products of a social contract.

Now these basic units of the speech in konkani can be broken into phonemes. These phonemes are sub-sounds even murmurs that babies make. They are not just basic sub-parts of words , but they are basic sub-sounds within the universe of konkani speech. (Technically langue) This sub-sounds open us to others sounds which other speakers of other languages make while they speak. This is why we are attuned to the sounds of marathi, hindi, bengali etc, even while we do not even know these languages.

Sign is not merely a phonetic sign. It carries meaning. Therefore there is semantic dimension to a sign. This is why the father of linguistics Ferdinand Saussure has a linguistic sign is made of two parts:
Phonetic part (signifier)/ when written alphabetical part.
Semantic part/meaning part ((signified)

Ferdinand Saussure teaches that signifier and signified are linked by convention. There is no necessary or essential relation between signifier (phonetic aspects/written alphabetical aspect ) and the signifier (semantic aspects).
Words (uttered Or written) and thier meanings are conventional.

Ferdinand Saussure teaches that languages as signification system is differential.
The house is a house because it sets up a differential relation between other words and their meanings like the palace, hut building.

Let’s take a sentence: ‘aiz mhojea utrank pakam futtli.’
Now in linguistics we call this utterance a parole . It carries meanings because it set up an access to what is called universe of meaning/ universe of konkani. We call this universe of meaning langue.
All signification systems have two axis: the horizontal and the vertical
Horizontal axis sets up the play of meaning. Say …’aiz mhojea utrank pakam futtli’ either as written or spoken. Vertical axis opens us to the universe of meaning where words that capable of coming on the horizontal axis but by not coming set up the meaning of those on the horizontal axis. The vertical axis is called paradigmatic while the horizontal axis is called syntagmatic. The horizontal axis is rule governed (syntax).

Now let us understand what really happens when we communicate whether orally or in writing. We use signs (spoken Or written)to communicate. We try to give ‘ amchea utrank pakam’. We send/ transmit meaning by using signs
Sign is made of two parts: signifier and signified. This means to communicate we try to link signifiers with the signified . We make use of both vertical as well as the horizontal axis of language.

Let us deepen the above. Let me make a provocative statement. A challenged person like a dumb person speaks konkani. He/she does communicate. He is making use of signifiers like us. He/she invents his signifiers/ signs with hands, eye contact and murmurs to speak konkani. He/she too attempts to give ‘ utrak pakam’. In our case our speaking or writing uses stable signifiers, verbal sounds while speaking and alphabets while writing. Think for a while that we are like the dumb person attempting to speak konkani. Let us allow the play of spoken verbal sounds or the written alphabets. This means we try to give wings to our thoughts by using signifiers and signifieds. When we speak we use the phonetic signifiers and when we write we use alphabetic signifiers that we call scripts.

Linguistics teaches as well as demonstrates that the relationship between the signifier and signified is arbitrary and therefore context driven. This means when we speak (verbal sounds in Manglore Or Goa or elsewhere are different. There is no one way of speaking konkani. The same is also for writing konkani. We have five scripts) . From the linguistic point of view we have to agree that there is no natural and essential relations of any script of scripts with konkani. All of them are born in their use and the need to communicate (utrank pakam diunk) . This is why singularization of Konkani by its nagrization will impoverish konkani. It will kill its vitality and fertility. It is a sure death sentence. Most classical languages died on the altar of standardization. Hence we have to resist these attempts to castrate konkani. Pluraization of konkani is best for its survival. Let all kinds of verbal sounds (phonetic signifiers) and writings (alphabet signifiers) live and flourish along side.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao