Kannada, one of the major languages of the Dravidian family, is spoken by over 40 million people, mainly in the state of Karnataka, South India, where it is the official language. It is one of the twenty-two languages recognized by the Indian Constitution. It has a rich literary tradition going back to the ninth century and exhibits a complex pattern of sociolinguistic and stylistic variation, marked in part, by a thorough assimilation of Indo-Aryan (Sanskrit, Prakrit, Hindi-Urdu. etc.) and. more recently, English elements.
The present descriptive grammar gives a detailed and sophisticated account of the standard language, drawing on the insights of traditional structuralist and generative linguists, and on the author’s own extensive research. Keeping the needs of both the theoretician and the descriptivist in mind, the work gives a lucid, explicit and in many cases original account of the major and minor structures of the language in syntax, morphology, and phonology. A valuable feature of this grammar is the author’s consistent attempt to relate formal and functional aspects of the language. Although the variety described is the standard literary variety (because of its greater morphological transparency), the forms of the colloquial varieties are continuously referred to, and the examples convey the flavour of spoken, idiomatic Kannada. With its descriptive rigour, range of phenomena covered wealth of examples, and ethnographic insights, this volume is the most current, comprehensive, and authoritative description of modern Kannada to date.
The book will interest students and researchers in the areas of linguistic theory, descriptive linguistics, language typology, comparative/contrastive linguistics, language contact and convergence, and South Asian linguistics as well as translation and Kannada language and literary studies.
S.N. Sridhar is Professor of Linguistics and India Studies and Director of the Center for India Studies at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He has also served as Founding Chair of the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
Kannada is one of the major languages of India. It is spoken by over 30 million people, primarily in the state of Karnataka (formerly Mysore), South India. It is the official language of that state, and one of the 15 languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
Kannada is one of the four major literary languages of the Dravidian family, the other three being Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. Besides these, the Dravidian family has eighteen nonliterary languages spoken in different parts of India and one in Pakistan. Kannada belongs to the Southern branch of the Dravidian family. (See Burrow and Emeneau 1984).
The earliest written record in Kannada is an inscription dating back to c. 450 A.D. There is a continuous literary tradition dating from about the ninth century A. D. Unfortunately, almost all of the classical literature, which includes several world-class works, has yet to be translated into other languages.
Kannada also has a fine grammatical tradition. It begins with S’abdasmruti, the first chapter of the work on poetics, Ka:vya:valo:kana by Nagavarma II (c. 1150, A.D.), and continues with the same author’s Karna:Taka Bha:Sa:Bhu:SaNa. The latter is in Sanskrit. The most highly respected work of Kannada grammar is Ke:s’ira:ja’s S’abda Mani Darpana (“the Jewel Mirror of Words,” 1260 A.D.), which describes the language in 322 sutras arranged in eight chapters. Bhatta:kalamka’s Karna:Taka S’abda:nusanam (1604 A.D.) in Sanskrit is another excellent grammar. Seetharamaiah 1979 and Kushalappagowda 1986 contain good overviews of the classical Kannada grammatical tradition.
Among the “traditional” grammars written by Europeans, the best is Harold Spencer’s A Kanarese Grammar 1950. Kittel’s A Grammar of the Kannada language in English 1903 is an ambitious attempt to extend Ke:s’ira:jas’ grammar to include the “ancient, medieval and modern dialects.” There have been numerous others, listed in the bibliography.
Descriptions using the framework of modern linguistics and containing many insights include William Bright’s An Outline of Colloquial Kannada 1958, A. K. Ramanujan’s A Generative Grammar of Kannada 1963, and Harold Schiffman’s A Reference Grammar of Spoken Kannada 1983. Among partial descriptions of the language, Ullrich 1968, M. V. Nadkarni 1970, Tirumalesh 1979, Amritavalli 1977, and Shankarabhat 1978, are worthy of detailed study, especially the last. Sreekantaiya’s 1946 Kannada Madhyama Vya: karana is an excellent school grammar.
Kannada has a very complex range of regional, social, and stylistic variation. Three major regional varieties may be identified: the Old Mysore (or “Mysore”) dialect, the Coastal (or “Mangalore”) dialect, and the Northern (or “Dharwar” dialect), see Upadhyaya 1976. A more elaborate dialect map, given in Rajapurohit 1982 forms the basis of the map given on page xiii. The differences among the regional varieties was accentuated by long periods of political (and hence cultural, administrative, and commercial) isolation from one another, as well as by contact with a number of different neighboring languages, e. g. , Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi-Urdu, Malayalam, Konkani, Tulu , and Kodagu. The prestige variety of the written language is based on the Mysore-Bangalore variety.
In addition to regional varieties, Kannada also has a number of social varieties, characterized by class or caste (see the works of Bright 1960a, b, Kushalappagowda 1970, and McCormack 1960 among others). The spoken variety regarded as the standard or prestigious is what used to be the middle class, educated, Brahmin dialect of the Mysore- Bangalore area. It is characterized primarily by a number of phonological, morphological, and lexical features (e.g., distinction between /s/, /s’/ and /S/), as well as by the unassimilated retention of foreign language sounds in borrowed words: Sanskritic aspirated consonants, such as /bh/ and /dh/, the English /f/ and /z/, and non-native clusters such as /sk/ and /pr/ used without simplification. (This is the variety referred to as the “spoken” or “colloquial variety” (CV) in this grammar.) With the spread of education, this variety has ceased to be the preserve of the Brahmins and has become a “class” rather than a “caste” dialect. At the same time, there has been a steady impact of features of the nonstandard spoken varieties (with their typical absence of aspirated consonants, etc.) on the standard or educated variety, 50 that the situation with regard to the standard language in Kannada is best described as in a state of flux.
Kannada is a diglossic language. The formal (or “literary”) variety differs in several respects from the spoken (or colloquial) variety in phonology, morphology lexicon, and syntax (see, for example, Nayak 1967). The use of the literary variety is not confined to literature. It is used in personal and official correspondence, journalism, textbooks and most types of writing, class-room and public lectures, news broadcasts, and so on. One learns this variety at school and the ability to control it is a test of one’s educated status. It is, therefore, perhaps more appropriate to call this the “formal” variety and to call the colloquial variety the “informal” variety. The latter is used in all informal contexts, including, increasingly, in plays, short stories, tabloids, and “light reading”, i. e., in humorous or comical magazine articles, joke- books, etc./
The variety described in this grammar is the formal or literary variety. The greater morphological transparency of this variety serves to simplify the exposition of grammatical phenomena. The forms of colloquial Kannada may be derived from the formal variety (which serves as the underlying form) by means of a series of regular rules (see Bright 1970, Schiffman 1983). I have, however, used examples that are as close to the (standard) spoken variety as possible in their idiomaticity. I have also tried to indicate the colloquial variants of the formal markers throughout this grammar. The spoken variety corresponding to the variety described here (referred to as the “colloquial variety”) is what is usually referred to as Standard Kannada, that is, the variety used by educated urban middle class speakers in the area of Bangalore and Mysore (the present and former State capital and educational and cultural center).
Structurally, the following features of Kannada are salient (most of these apply to Dravidian languages in general): It is an agglutinating language of the suffixing type, with a nominative-accusative syntax, and Subject- Object- Verb (SOV) constituent order. The word order is fairly free, since noun phrases are marked for case and verbs (in most cases) for agreement with subject in number, gender, and person. Subjects and objects are often dropped. The basic principle of the syntax is that all modifiers (including most subordinate clauses) precede the modified entities. With a few exceptions, subordination invariably involves nonfinite clauses, of which there are several 1 types. Finiteness is a function of agreement, not tense. There is a separate negative conjugation of the verb. The burden of the syntax is carried by participles, both relative and verbal, gerunds, infinitives, compound and/ conjunct verbs, and postpositions. Phonologically, there is a series of retroflex consonants, a series of voiced and voiceless aspirates (borrowed from Indo-Aryan), and frequent use of vowel deletion rules. There are several types of compounds, including participial, reduplicative, and dwandwa compounds. The Kannada lexicon has been enriched by uninhibited borrowing, from several sources, principally Sanskrit, Hindi-Urdu, and English. Centuries of language contact has also resulted in the borrowing of several syntactic traits as well: for example, the sentential relative clause.
In the last two decades, Kannada data has played a role in the development of linguistic theory in a number of areas, including the definition of grammatical relations such as the subject, alternative conceptualizations of constraints on movement and deletion, characterization of the role of bilingualism in “deep” syntactic change, and the mechanisms of linguistic convergence: formal, functional, and processing aspects of bilingual code-mixing, the relationship between morphological and semantic structure, the relationship between stylistic and diachronic variation, to name a few. The study of Kannada within the generative paradigm is still in its infancy; an intensive study of the structure of the language, especially in relation to its rich social and cultural texture, holds immense promise.
This volume is part of the Croom Helm Descriptive Grammars Series. The aim of this series is to provide detailed, explicit, and fairly comprehensive descriptions of different languages of the world according to a uniform format in order to make direct comparison of specific structures possible. Accordingly, the volume follows the format outlined in the Questionnaire originally published in Lingua, vol. 42 (1977). The Questionnaire serves as a convenient index not only to this volume but to the entire series.
The orthography used in this volume is a simplified version of the Romanization usually employed in the linguistic literature on Kannada in English. The simplification consists mainly in the use of capitals for retroflex consonants, s’ for the IPA [s], and a colon to indicate vowel length.
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