Symbolic representation of the past and present local, national, and global developments in the linguistic landscape of Goa

Author: Marta DÄ…browska (Institute of English Studies, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland)
Speaker: Marta DÄ…browska
Topic: General Sociolinguistics
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2022 General Session


The Indian state of Goa, which is marked by a rich history of being a Portuguese colony for nearly five centuries, preceded by periods of both Hindu and Islamic rule, is at present the most affluent state, which attracts numerous tourists from both India and abroad. The complex past and the contemporary local, national, and global developments have naturally shaped the linguistic situation of Goa. The state was annexed to India only 60 years ago, yet now Portuguese holds no official status in Goa, being still used only in some families. According to the Indian language policy, the official language of Goa is the Sanskrit-based Konkani, though the 1987 Language Act allows for the use of Marathi as well. However, there is very little visibility of Konkani and other Indian languages in the public space today (cf. Thomaz, 2016). It is English that dominates the public communication due to the popularity of the English-medium education in India, the hegemony of English in the world, and Goa’s being one of the most favoured Indian tourist destinations. The latter, as a preliminary overview has demonstrated, has led to an extensive use of Russian in Goa as of late as well.

Against the backdrop of the above facts the present investigation will analyse the degree and the character of visibility of the variety of languages in contemporary Goa, by exploring the linguistic landscape of Benaulim, a popular seaside resort, as an example. The investigation of local public notices has revealed a vast majority of both public and private signs written in English, this rather unexpectedly followed by notices in Russian, a handful of signs in Hindi and Portuguese, and little to no signs in Konkani, as well as a visible mixture of the above in many of the public and private signs. The critical approach to the linguistic landscape analysis employed here aims therefore to establish the type of the content expressed by a given language and the motivation behind its selection, and thereby attempts to identify the relative power as well as the symbolic value each of the utilised languages appears to hold in the local community (cf. Ben-Rafael et al. 2006).


Ben-Rafael, E., Shohamy, E, Amara, M.H., & Trumper-Hecht, N. 2006. “The symbolic construction of public space: The case of Israel.” International Journal of Multilingualism 3(1), 7-30.

Thomaz, L.F.F.R. 2016. “The socio-linguistic paradox of Goa.” Human and Social Studies 5(3), 15-38.

Keywords: Linguistic landscape, language contact, code mixing, public space, symbolic representation, English, Russian, Konkani, Hindi, Portuguese