Speaking, writing and reading are integral to everyday life. But what happens when people stop using certain words of a language or when a language is spoken less and less or it mixes with other languages? These were some of the questions that panelists at the Bengaluru Literature Festival attempted to answer in a series of talks held on Saturday
Speaking about the Koraga language, spoken by around 16,000 people in Karnataka's Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts and Kerala's Kasargod district, adivasi rights activist Shridhar Nada said that people in his community no longer use or know many words, like for example the word for "plate". "We use the word 'thatte' or 'battlu', which are words borrowed from Kannada. This is how our language is diminishing and why it needs reviving," explains Shridhar.
According to Purushottama Bilimale, former head of the Kannada chair at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, the number of people in the Koraga community reduced from 55,000 in 1871 to 35,000 in 1961 to 18,000 in 2004 to just 16,000 now.
"Even though the language is spoken in coastal Karnataka and Kerala, their linguistic features are considered to be north Dravidian by researcher Shankar Bhat," says Purushottama Bilimale.
Shridhar Nada says that the Koraga is a unique language but it does not have a script of its own. "A word like Kooji (girl) is ponnu magal in Tulu, 'joo' (to keep) is 'deepini' in Tulu, 'choo' (to see) is 'toopini' in Tulu. The words are distinct in these two languages and Koraga is a unique language," says Shridhar.
In another discussion about Konkani language with author Vivek Shanbhag, Konkani poet and essayist Melvyn Rodrigues says that Konkani speakers are multilingual and can speak upto eight languages in some cases. The language is spoken in Goa, coastal Karnataka, Malabar Kerala, Maharashtra and Daman. "I know many Konkani speakers who know between five and eight languages. This, I think, makes it easier for a person of this community to mix and live in society. Konkani speakers have been peacefully living in Karnataka," says Melvyn Rodrigues.
This is the 10th edition of the Bengaluru Literature Festival and there are more than 160 authors and speakers lined up over a period of two days on 18 and 19 December. Among them are Rukmini S, Vivek Shanbagh, Preeti Shenoy, Aakar Patel and Josy Joseph. Others like tennis star Sania Mirza, Bollywood director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra were also part of the festival.