Arte Da Lingoa Canarim
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Arte Da Lingoa Canarim

The Arte da Lingoa Canarim, the grammar of the Konkani language,[1] was composed by the 16th-century English Jesuit priest Father Thomas Stephens, thus making Konkani the first among the modern Indian languages to have its grammar codified and described.[2] The system was expanded upon by Diogo Ribeiro and four other Jesuits and printed in Rachol (located in the Indian state of Goa) in the year 1640. A second edition was then developed and introduced in 1857 by J.H. da Cunha Rivara, who possessed a great passion for Konkani. Consequently, three versions of the Arte exist:

  1. Arte da lingoa Canari. MS held by the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
  2. Arte da lingoa Canarim, composed by Padre Thomaz Estevão and Padre Diogo Ribeiro of the Company of Jesus & amended by other Padres of the same company. 1640.

Grammatica da Lingua Concani, composed by Padre Thomaz Estevão of the Company of Jesus and edited by J.H. da Cunha Rivara. Nova Goa: Imprensa Nacional. 1857.


Konkani has been known by a variety of names: canarim, concanim, gomantaki, bramana and goani. It is called amchi bhas ("our language") by native speakers and govi, or Goenchi bhas, by others. Learned Marathi speakers tend to call it gomantaki.[3]

The name canarim or lingua canarim, which is how Thomas Stephens himself refers to it in the title of his famous grammar, has always been intriguing. It is possible that the term is derived from the Persian word for coast, kinara; if so, it would be means "the language of the coast." The problem is that this term overlaps with Kanarese or Kannada. It is therefore not surprising to find Mariano Saldanha calling absurd the appellation lingua canarim, since the language of Goa, being derived from Sanskrit, has nothing to do with Kannada, which is a Dravidian language. The missionaries, who certainly travelled to Kanara as well, must have realized the infelicity of the term, but, not being philologists, continued to follow the current practice. Thus Stephens speaks of the lingua canarim, and a Portuguese missionary called his work Arte Canarina da lingoa do Norte, referring to the Konkanized Marathi of the northern provinces of Bassein, Bandra, and Bombay.[4]

All the authors, however, recognized in Goa two forms of the language: the plebeian, called canarim, and the more regular, used by the educated classes, called lingua canarim brámana or simply brámana de Goa. Since the latter was the preferred choice of the Europeans (and also of other castes) for writing, sermons and religious purposes, it was this that became the norm for all the grammars, including that of Stephens'. The licence of the Ordinary given to his work refers to it as "arte da lingua canarin bramana". For his Pura, Stephens preferred to use Marathi, and gives explicit notice of his choice, even though he also notes that he mixes this with the local "language of the Brahmins" so as to make his work more accessible.[5] He was therefore well aware of the difference between Marathi and what he chose to call canarim.


  1. ^ D.O. Hunter-Blair incorrectly describes the Arte as a grammar of the language spoken in Canara, a district on the Malabar coast; see "Thomas Stephen Buston". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) has two articles on Thomas Stephens, the one cited and another under "Thomas Stephens".
  2. ^ Mariano Saldanha, "História de Gramática Concani," Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies 8 (1935-37) 715. See also M. Saradesaya, A History of Konkani Literature: From 1500 to 1992 (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2000) 42-43.
  3. ^ M. Saldanha 717. J. Thekkedath, however, quotes Jose Pereira to the following effect: A lay brother of the College of St Paul around 1563 composed the first grammar of Konkani. His work was continued by Fr Henry Henriques and later by Fr Thomas Stephens. The grammar of Fr Stephens was ready in manuscript form before the year 1619. (Jose Pereira, ed., "Gaspar de S. Miguel's Arte da Lingoa Canarim, parte 2a, Sintaxis copiossisima na lingoa Bramana e pollida," Journal of the University of Bombay [Sept. 1967] 3-5, as cited in J. Thekkedath, History of Christianity in India, vol. II: From the Middle of the Sixteenth to the End of the Seventeenth Century (1542-1700) [Bangalore: TPI for CHAI, 1982] 409).
  4. ^ Arte Canarina na lingoa do Norte. Anonymous MS, edited by Cunha Rivara under the title: Gramática da Lingua Concani no dialecto do Norte, composta no seculo XVII por um Missionário Portugues; e agora pela primeira vez dada à estampa (Nova Goa: Imprensa Nacional, 1858). Cunha Rivara suggested that the author was either a Franciscan or a Jesuit residing in Thana on the island of Salcete; hence the reference to a "Portuguese missionary" in the title.
  5. ^ M. Saldanha 717-718.

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