History of the Kannada Language

Kannada is the official language of Karnataka as well as one of the 22 official languages of India. It is a south Indian language predominantly spoken in the state of Karnataka. It is also one of the well-known and oldest Dravidian languages in India, which is spoken in different dialects by roughly 45 million people worldwide. There are about 38 million Kannadigas (Kannada speaking people in this world), making it the 27th most spoken language in the world.
The Kannada language is written in its own script whereas the other native languages such as Konkani, Kodava Takk, Beary bashe, Tulu, etc. are also written using the Kannada script.

Kannada’s early development shows great resemblance with other Dravidian languages such as Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam. However, it has been independent of the Sanskrit influence. However, centuries later, the vocabulary, grammar and literary style of Sanskrit greatly fascinated Kannada and also the other Dravidian languages. One can distinctly see Kannada scripts in one of the old Ashoka Rock of 230 B.C.

The Kannada language has a syllabic script with forty-nine phonemic letters that are divided into 3 groups, which are:

  • Swaragalu - the vowels
  • Vyanjanagalu - the consonants
  • Yogavaahakagalu – the two characters which are neither vowels nor consonants

Although the character set is quite similar to other Indian languages, its script is rather complex. The Kannada Grammar comprises of 3 genders - the masculine, feminine and neutral, and two numbers - singular and plural.

Kannada as a language has undergone a variety of modifications. It can be categorized into four types:

  • Purva Halegannada (from the start till 10th Century)
  • Halegannada (10th Century to 12th Century)
  • Nadugannada (12th Century to 15th Century)
  • Hosagannada (15th Century onwards)

The Kannada language is about 2500 years old. Apparently, many of its words are adopted from either Tamil or Sanskrit, which were later modified by replacing 'pa' with 'ha'. There is also a notable difference between its spoken and written forms. While spoken Kannada tends to vary from region to region, the written is more or less steady throughout Karnataka.

Kannada has about 20 dialects; some of the prominent ones are Havyaka, Soliga Kannada, Kodava, Kunda, Are Bhashe, Badaga Kannada, Hubli Kannada, Gulbarga Kannada, etc.

With effect from November 2008, Kannada has earned the status of being the Classical language. This recognition came after years of struggle, before the Government of India finally acknowledged Kannada as a Classical language, based on the recommendations of the Linguistic Experts Committee, appointed by the Ministry of Culture.

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