Misak vechem dhanvon; zhuzak vechem ravon

If you're going for Mass, go to Church post-haste; if you are going to war, you've got ample time to waste

The literal translation of Misak vechem dhanvon; zhuzak vechem ravon is: “When going for Mass, one should hurry; when going to war, one should be tardy”.

This proverb isn’t to be taken literally or for its face value. The general message of the proverb is: there is a time for everything — there is a time when you need to hurry and there is a time when you would rather be tardy.

The Mass and the war are just examples of situations that call for different types of responses. The reason for selecting the Mass as an instance that demands punctuality is the belief that if one is late for Mass, one’s attendance at the Mass isn’t valid, whereas in the case of war, since going to war is in itself an undesirable thing but is thrust upon you, you might as well take it easy and go about the business with as much delay as you possibly can.

Categories: Proverbs | Leave a comment

Regular Declensions — Declension 4

The Fourth Declension

Just as the first and second declensions follow a similar pattern, the third and the fourth too resemble each other in a parallel manner. And while the first and third declensions comprise only masculine and neuter nouns, the second and fourth declensions cover only feminine nouns.

The fourth declension comprises only feminine nouns ending in i which are
  1. either monosyllabic (single syllable) or
  2. disyllabic (having two syllables) with a single consonant sound (but not j or x) between the two syllables

The monosyllabic nouns form their plurals and flex stems by adding another syllable, with the result that the plurals and flex stems of both the monosyllabic and disyllabic nouns consist of two syllables.

Nominative Sing.Sing. Flex stemNominative Plur.Plur. Flex StemMeaning
bi biyêbiyôbiyamseed
gi giyêgiyôgiyamghee (or gear)
boddi boddyêboddyôbôddyamstick
koddi koddyêkoddyôkôddyamcurry
dori doryêdoryôdôryamrope
khandi khandyêkhandyôkhandyamsmall branch


Koddyênt az koslem nistem ghalam? (What fish has been put in the curry today?)

Mhaka Mhapxea kazucheô biyô gheunk zai (I want to purchase chashew nuts at Mapusa)

Mhôsgachê khandiêr kednanch choddchem nhoi (One must never climb on a moringa (drumstick) tree branch.

Amcho cheddo mhaka bhiyena punn boddyêk bhiyeta (Our boy does not fear me but fears the cane)

Categories: Grammar | Leave a comment

Konkani Spellmanship

Spelling out the rules of Konkani spellings

Unlike most Indian languages, Konkani is not tied to any single script but is written in at least three Indian scripts as well as the Roman script which we have adopted in nostalgoa.com. But while many languages written in the Roman script may not be phonetic languages, Konkani is and as such its spellings are governed by certain rules and conventions which I shall try to explore and explain below.

The bowels of Konkani: The Vowels

I would like to begin with a striking contrast between Konkani and most other modern Indian languages.

It may have struck you some time that Konkani, as written in any but the Roman script, includes the representation and usage of the vowel अ. In fact, most Indian languages do have the अ sound, with one outstanding exception, that is, the Bengali language which doesn’t have that sound (which is why, for instance, they pronounce Vijay as Bijoy, and banduk as bonduk).

And so it is interesting that Konkani as it is written in the Roman script (and as spoken mainly by Goan Catholics) doesn’t have the अ sound at all, the latter being replaced by either o or ô sound much like the Bengali way. For example, कर becomes kôr, and बर्फ is called and written as borof.

Roman script Konkani therefore has the following seven pure vowels:

a , e , ê , i , o , ô , u

Of the above, a, e and o are called open vowels, while the rest of them are known as closed vowels. What that implies will be explained later. But please note that although the above represent seven different vowel sounds, they are just five letters of the alphabet and not seven, and the circumflexes on o and e merely indicate that they represent the closed vowels. In many contexts they may not have a circumflex at all and yet have closed sounds, as will be explained later in this section.

In addition to the above pure vowels, Konkani also has a number of diphthongs, some of which are considered as open and others closed. But we shall first deal with the vowels.

I think it is important to state again that the open vowels are a, e and o, and that the closed ones are ê, i, ô and u. Let me give some examples.

In the word khêll(game or play), ê is a closed vowel. In gobôr(wood ash) both the o’s are closed, even though only the second one is indicated as closed by the circumflex over it. The general rule is that the o’s and e’s in all the syllables in a chain immediately preceding a syllable with a closed vowel are ipso facto closed, and hence they need not have any circumflex over them to indicate that they are closed. Thus, although the o in sotri is a closed vowel, it doesn’t have a circumflex because the syllable that follows has the closed vowel i. Other examples: kodelir (on the chair), hoklechi (of the bride).

Let me illustrate the case by two contrasting examples. Compare the phrase hoklêcho bhav (= the bride’s brother) with hoklechi bhoinn (= the bride’s sister). In hoklechi bhoinn, both the o and the e in hoklechi are closed sounds, yet neither of them has a circumflex because, since the following syllable chi has a closed vowel i, both the o and the e preceding it get automatically closed, with the result that they do not need to be indicated as closed by a circumflex; whereas in hoklêcho bhav, since the o in the syllable cho is an open vowel, while the sound of ê in the preceding syllable is closed, the latter has to be indicated by a circumflex as closed, and once this e is closed the o in the preceding syllable hok also gets automatically closed and need not have a circumflex.

To drive this point home, let me repeat the general rule about when to use and when not to use a circumflex over an e or an o:
All the o’s and e’s in a chain in syllables immediately preceding a syllable with a closed vowel (in the same word) are ipso facto closed, and hence they need not have any circumflex over them to indicate that they are closed. By contrast, if any syllable having a closed o or e is not immediately followed in the same word by a syllable with a closed vowel (as is also the case when it happens to be the last syllable in the word), it has to be indicated as closed by placing a circumflex over it.

One comes across a great number of diphthongs in Konkani. A diphthong is a combination of either two vowels or a vowel followed by y. E.g., the eu in polleunk or the ãy in pãy However, what determines whether the diphthong is an open or a closed one is the nature of its primary or first vowel. Thus eu in polleunk is a closed diphthong (because the e in the eu is closed), whereas the ãy in pãy is an open diphthong because the ã in ãy is an open vowel.

No consonance without Consonants

By and large, the Konkani consonant sounds are basically the same as in most Indian languages except that after centuries of Portuguese influence, lh and nh have slowly got embedded into the Konkani spoken by the Goans, and that too almost exclusively in the Portuguese words that have migrated into Konkani.

However, with regard to all other consonants which Konkani has in common with other Indian languages, certain conventions have evolved over the ages in order to adequately use the Roman script to express all its consonant sounds. Since most consonant letters are used in the same way as in European languages, here we shall only cover those which are employed differently.

The most important of these differences are the consonants tt, dd, nn and ll. While single letters t, d, n and l represent the dental consonants त, द, न and ल (though ल isn’t quite dental) as in most languages, their cerebral equivalents, viz., ट, ड, ण and ळ, which don’t have their proper Roman equivalents, are represented by tt, dd, nn and ll respectively.

We would like to mention here that those aspirated forms of the above dentals and their corresponding cerebrals that are included in the devnagri alphabet, viz., थ, ध, ठ and ढ are represented by placing an h after the corresponding un-aspirated consonant.

The rest of the Roman alphabet used in Konkani needs very little explanation. The letter c is used in Konkani almost always only in conjunction with the letter h, i.e., as ch, to represent the च sound while the letter Q is never used at all, and the letter x is used to denote the sh or श sound.

As mentioned earlier, the Portuguese consonants lh and nh are employed mostly in words that are of Portuguese origin. Examples: kunhad (from cunhado) meaning specifically “sister’s husband”, kulher (from colher) meaning “spoon”, falhar (from falhar) meaning “not in a proper state of mind”, and bunhad which stands for “foundation (of a house or building)”.

A special mention needs to be made though of the letter y. In English the letter y can be used as a plain vowel and as a consonant as well. In Konkani it is used only as a consonant to represent the sound य in the following cases:
a) when a syllable begins with the sound य. Examples: toyar (= ready), mallyêr (= on the loft).
b) when a syllable ends with the sound य, except if it is preceded by a closed e or a closed o, in which case the letter i is used instead. Thus it is used in words like Gõy
(Goa) and mãy , but not in molloi ( = field) or choddoi (= raise).

This contrast is illustrated and thrown into sharp relief in the following sentences:

Tum az boro sokallim utthloi or tum az borem sokallim utthlẽi = you rose rather early this morning. (The o in utthloi and the e in utthlẽi are both closed vowels)

Compare the above sentences with two other similar ones:
To girêst zaloy zalear, tachean mhaka kitem korum yeta? = Rich though he may be, what can he do to me? Or
Tem gelẽy zalear kãy nozo = It doesn’t matter even if she has gone. (Incidentally, the word tem used here is neuter, not feminine)

I will make bold here to make a pertinent general observation. As far as I know, most Indian languages written in Indian scripts are phonetic. And so are Hindi and Marathi, which are written in the Devnagri script. But did it occur to you that Konkani, as it is written in Devnagri today, isn’t entirely a phonetic language?

One main tricky area is where our open vowels e and o come in. Take a simple sentence: “He went”. We would write that in Konkani as: To gelo. But how is it written in devnagri? तो गेलो. Yet how is it actually read in Konkani? It is read as and not as . Bear in mind that such instances aren’t rare, since open es and os abound in Konkani. And I presume we have the same problem where Konkani written in the Kannada script is concerned. The question that comes to my mind is, “Since open os and es are found all over the Konkani language, can the Konkani that is currently written in any of the Indian scripts, be properly called a phonetic language?” Just think about it.

Categories: Written Konkani | Tags: | Leave a comment

Regular Declensions — Declension 3

The Third Declension

The third declension comprises the following nouns (but no adjectives):
  1. monosyllabic (single syllable) masculine nouns ending in i,
  2. disyllabic (having two syllables) masculine nouns ending in i, which have a single consonant sound between the two syllables, e.g., dhobi, ghaddi.
  3. monosyllabic neuter nouns ending in im, e.g., bim
  4. disyllabic neuter nouns ending in im, which have a single consonant sound between the two syllables, e.g, tantim.

The masculine nouns of this declension retain the same form in the nominative plural. For example, the plural of dhobi is dhobi while the plural of ghaddi is ghaddi.

The monosyllabic neuter nouns, however, form their plurals by adding another syllable, i.e, by changing the ending im into iyam. For example, bim changes to biyam.

The rules for the formation of the flex stems are the same for both masculine and neuter nouns. In the case of the monosyllabic nouns, to form the singular flex stem, the ending i or im changes to iya, while for the plural flex stem, the ending changes to iyam, e.g., bim changes to biya to form the singular flex stem and to biyam to form the plural flex stem.

GenderSingularSing. FlexPluralPlur. FlexMeaning
Masc. Dhobi
Masc. Ghaddi GhaddyaGhaddiGhaddyamSorcerer(s)
NeuterBim BiyaBiyamBiyamSeeding(s)
NeuterTantim TantyaTantyamTantyamEgg(s)
NeuterMotim MôtyaMôtyamMôtyam Jewel(s)


  1. Ti ghaddyanchi bud gheta = She has recourse to sorcerers (Literally: she takes advice from sorcerers.
  2. Mhozo tuvalo ani amchim sogllim chedram dhôbyak di = Give my towel and all our bedsheets to the launderer.
  3. Mhoji akoi tantyam bhazta ani tantyanchim korlam gobrant uddoita = My aunt (father’s sister) fries eggs and throws the egg shells into wood ash.
  4. Xettichea môtyak polleun amim tem gheunchem kelem = After seeing the goldsmith’s jewel, we decided to purchase it.
Categories: Grammar | Leave a comment

Sangnnechi sangnni, ponnsak zalim vaingim

Tale of a tale, a minnow swallowed a whale

The literal translation of Sangnnechi sangnni, ponnsak zalim vaingim is: Tale of a tale, a jack fruit tree bore aubergines (or aubergines grew on a jackfruit tree). That is to say, a series of tales can end up with the fantastic report (and presumably a belief as well) that aubergines grew on a jack fruit tree!

Some of you might have taken part in, or witnessed, a group dynamic session in which a simple sentence, when individually and quietly passed down through a chain of participants, gets so mangled and mutilated that it totally loses all resemblance to the original.

That’s exactly what can happen, for example, over a series of gossip sessions in balcanvs, and this proverb illustrates just that in a colourful manner through vivid mental images from a Goan garden.

The word ponnôs1 can mean either a jack fruit or a jack fruit tree. In this proverb it stands for the tree. Vaingem2 means brinjal or aubergine, also known as eggplant. Vaingem is the vegetable, while the plant that produces a vaingem is called vainginn3. Vaingem is neuter and its plural is vaingim, while vainginn is feminine and its plural is vainginni.

While vainginn is a small plant which has a relatively short life, a jack fruit tree is huge and goes on yielding numerous jack fruits year after year almost endlessly. The sharp contrast between the two is intended to underscore the extent to which the original fact can be twisted and reshaped in the course of serial reporting.

  1. Ponnôs, ponnsa, ponnos, ponnsam
  2. Vaingem, vaingea, vaingim, vaingeam
  3. Vainginn, vainginni, vainginni, vainginnim

Categories: Proverbs | Leave a comment

Khakêk asa cheddo, sôdta sogllo vaddo

In her arm is her child for whom she scours the wild

A number of proverbs portray certain interesting and unexpected, yet not too rare, natural phenomena. Khakêk asa cheddo, sôdta sogllo vaddo is one such.

Khak (fem.) is an armpit — khakêk being its dative form — and vaddo (masc.) is a section of a village, a sub-village, a neighbourhood or, as it is often known in the west, a (geographical) community in which one lives. Khakêk marunk means to carry something under one’s arm. So Khakêk asa cheddo, Sôdta sogllo vaddo literally means “The boy is under one’s arm, (but) one looks for him in the whole neigbbourhood”. Since it is generally mothers who carry their children under their arms, we can assume that the one who carries, and searches for, the child is the child’s mother.

The English phrase, “under one’s nose”, is often used to express the sense of the above proverb. Situations like the above are a common occurrence in real life, like looking for one’s glasses which one is actually wearing.

Sometimes the word sôdta is replaced by bhonvta, although sôdta is more appropriate. Bhonvonk is to ramble around and does not include (nor does it preclude) the idea of looking for something or someone.

Categories: Proverbs | Leave a comment

Disachea disa

Day after day

Disachea disa, ratichê rati, sumanachea sumana or satolleachea satollea, mhoineachea mhoinea, and vorsachea vorsaare similarly constructed phrases respectively meaning day after day, night after night, week after week, month after month and year after year.

To examine the peculiar type of construction, let’s just take the first phrase: day after day.

The word for day is dis, which is the nominative. And just like in English, dis can stand for either 24 hours (inclusive of the night) or just the daylight hours (thus excluding the night time). The word disa is identical to the flex stem but has the ablative sense, which means “during the day” or “at day time”. The word disachea, on the other hand, is the flex stem formed from the possessive or genitive of dis. The literal translation of disachea disa would therefore be “on the day of the day”, but it actually means “everyday” or “day after day”.

This type of a construction can be extended to names of the months, like Janerachea Janeraor days of the week, like Aitarachea aitara.

1. Vorsachea vorsa ami Sant Antonichem fest kortanv 
     Every year we celebrate St. Anthony’s feast.

2. Mhoji madrin sunkrarachea sunkrara Mhapxea bazarak veta
    Every Friday my godmother goes to the Mapusa bazaar.

Categories: Phrases | Leave a comment

Dekhlem moddem, aylem roddnnem

Right before me the dead body lies, A flood of tears welling in my eyes

Dekhlem moddem, aylem roddnnem literally means “Saw the dead body, couldn’t help crying”. Note that the sentence has no subject, that is, it almost doesn’t matter who that person might be, suggesting that the phenomenon is a part of human nature.

Dekhlem is the past definite of dekhonk which is a transtive verb meaning to see. Most verbs ending in onk are intransitive, like bosonk,(to sit), cholonk (to walk), and khellonk (to play), but dekhonk is one rare exception of a transitive verb ending in onk. As such, were the sentence to have a subject, that subject would have taken the instrumental case like hanvem (dekhlem) as do the subjects of other transtive verbs in the past definite tense.

Notice, too, that, even though the subject of the sentence may have gone awandering, the instrumentality of the missing subject nevertheless pervades the scene, with the result that the verb now agrees in gender and number with its object instead: As moddem is neuter in gender, the verb too takes the neuter form: dekhlem. Finally, to complete the parallelity between the two arms of the proverb, since moddem, in the first part, is a noun, the second part of the sentence also goes for the noun form of the verb cry, i.e. roddnnem, much like the word crying used in a popular Christmas carol: “No crying he makes.”

Another peculiarity to be noticed here is that the both the arms of the proverb begin with the verb. Now, that isn’t the way Konkani sentences are usually structured, since the common practice is to place the verb at the tail-end of a sentence. When you, for a change, start a sentence with the verb, instead of ending with it, you in effect give the sentence a special flavour, rendering it poetic or oratorical.

So much for the language aspect of the proverb. Now a word on its message.

Living in a complex world that we do, our minds are preoccupied with myriad things, so that certain (desirable) behaviours are generally evoked, often automatically, only by direct stimuli. One such situation has been captured by our proverb.

It is interesting that the English proverb, Out of sight, out of mind, purports to convey a very similar message, but by portraying exactly a contrary situation. It is tantamount (though not logically equivalent) to giving our proverb a new makeover: “If one doesn’t see a dead body, one doesn’t cry.”

I am reminded of a researcher on a mission to prove that all crows are black. To achieve that, he was required to go out and observe all the crows he could find and note their colour. On one rainy day, however, he decided to stay indoors and yet continue collecting his research data. What he did to make that possible was to make his hypothesis stand on its head with a double negative: “Whatever isn’t black isn’t a crow”, which does flow logically from his original hypothesis. So all he had to do now was to pick up all the non-black objects he could find in his house and note that they weren’t crows! Research made easy!

Categories: Proverbs | Leave a comment

Rôchlay, Deva, Pôs

One good turn deserves another

Translated literally, it says: “God, you have created me, nurture me”, though the exact sense it conveys is: God, you have created me, now how about taking care of me!

Rôchlay, Deva, pôs — just three words — and so pious they almost articulate a sublime prayer! But they are loaded with some connotations and associations. The proverb is meant to describe situations wherein you choose to do someone a favour and, in return (that is, on account of that favour), you are led to do another, or even a series of more, and perhaps greater, favours to the same party.

You invite a family to dinner. They arrive by the last bus. They enjoy the meal alright. But when the dinner is over, they have a problem getting back home. You have no option but to crown your invitation to dinner with an offer to drive them back home or else accommodate them at your place for the night! Rôchlay, Deva, pôs!

Or perhaps your friend, Sebby, has to travel a long distance to go to work. Now, seeing that his work place happens to be quite close to your residence, you generously offer him accommodation in your own house, and boy! Is he glad to accept your offer! Now it takes him just five minutes to walk his way to work. But that isn’t the end of the story.  When it’s dinner time, Sebby quite naturally turns up at your dining table as well. Rôchlay, Deva, pôs!

Categories: Proverbs | 3 Comments

Valichea niban mhôsgak udok

A case of piggybacking

Valichea niban mhôsgak udok means that the drumstick tree gets hydrated in the process of the creeper being watered. This is apparently a simple expression, but is open to somewhat differing interpretations depending on the motivation of the parties involved.

Val means a creeper, any creeper; nib means an excuse; mhôsgak is the dative case of mhoxing, which means a drumstick tree; and udok is water. So the literal translation of the proverb is: with the creeper as an excuse, water to the drumstick tree. Valichea is the singular flex stem of the genitive of val (i.e., ‘of the creeper’). Niban is the instrumental case of nib (meaning ‘with or through the excuse’).

As you can see, there are three parties involved: the creeper, the drumstick tree and the unmentioned but implied party which is the gardener who waters the creeper. Of these, since the creeper is the direct and unambiguous beneficiary of the act of watering, the two possibly motivated parties are the drumstick tree and the gardener.

Fr. Josinho Cardozo is the parish priest of Upaxim. He needs funds to renovate the Church compound. He decides to start a weekly novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, preaches and tweets fervently for several weeks about the importance of the novena, and finally installs in the church a beautiful picture of O. L. of Perpetual Succour without, of course, forgetting to place at the foot of the picture an even nicer money box for the devotees’ offerings. Valichea niban mhôsgak udok. Fr. Josinho (in combination with the devotees) is the gardener while the val or the creeper, to which the effort is directed, is the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. And who is the mhoxing (the drumstick tree) or the indirect beneficiary? It is undoubtedly the donation box below the revered picture!

Categories: Proverbs | Leave a comment