Brief Introduction to Kannada Language
'Kannada' is one of the oldest Dravidian languages and is spoken in its various dialects by roughly 45 million people. Kannada is one of the official languages of India and is the state official language of the state of Karnataka. Kannada language has been spoken for about 2000 years, with the Kannada writing system being in use for about the last 1500 years. There is also a sharp distinction between the spoken and written forms of Kannada. Spoken Kannada tends to vary from region to region. The written form is more or less constant throughout Karnataka, however. The ethnologue identifies about 20 dialects of Kannada.
Kannada is mainly spoken in Karnataka in India, and to a lesser extent in the neighboring states. There are significant Kannada speaking populations in the United States and the UK.
Perhaps being the oldest language next to Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Tamil, Kannada language has a rich heritage. 'Kavirajamarga' ( ) of king Nripatunga (9th century A.D.) is believed to be the earliest literary work in Kannada. It is a treatise on poetics or a guide to poets indicating that Kannada was a fully developed literary language when Kavirajamarga (cu-ve-raa-ja-maarga) was composed. It refers to earlier linguists and poets whose works are not forthcoming. But from epigraphical evidence it can be surmised that the spoken Kannada language evolved much earlier than the Halmidi inscription (c. 450 A.D.). By the 10th century Kannada had its greatest ancient poets like Pampa (born 902 A.D.), Ranna ( born 949 A.D.) and special prose work like (Waddaa-raa-dhu-nae )(c. 930 A.D.) indicating that classical Kannada literature had fully evolved at least one or two centuries earlier, back to 'Kavirajamarga'. But since none of the earlier works have survived, we have to stick to the established norm that written Kannada came into vogue by the 5th century A.D.
The language has 52 characters in its alphabet and is phonetic. The character set is almost identical to that of other Indian languages. The script itself is fairly complicated like most other languages of India owing to the occurrence of various combinations of "half-letters", or symbols that attach to various letters. The number of written symbols, however, is far more than the 52 characters in the alphabet, owing to the fact that different characters can be combined to form compound characters (ottaksharas). Each written symbol in the Kannada script corresponds with one syllable, as opposed to one phoneme in languages like English.
Several transliteration schemes are used to type Kannada characters using a standard keyboard. These include ITRANS, Baraha and Nudi. The Government of Karnataka standard for Kannada transliteration is the Nudi transliteration scheme.