Tamil-Kannada languages

Tamil-Kannada languages

Tamil-Kannada is a hypothetical inner branch (Zvelebil 1990:56) of the South Dravidian I (SDr I) subfamily of the Southern Dravidian languages that include Tamil and Kannada. (It must be noted that there have been slight differences in the way Dravidian languages are grouped by various Dravidian linguists: See Subrahmanyam 1983, Zvelebil 1990, Krishnamurthi 2003)). Tamil-Kannada itself is designated as a branch of the Tamil-Tulu branch of the South Dravidian I subfamily (Tulu by itself forming the other branch of SDr I) and in turn branches off into Tamil-Kodagu and Kannada-Badaga whereby we eventually have Tamil, Malayalam, Irula, Toda, Kota and Kodagu, Badaga, and Kannada as the members of the Tamil-Kananda branch (Zvelebil 1990:56). The separation of Tamil-Kannada occurred with the separation of Tulu and before the separation of Kodagu branch from South-Proto-Dravidian language, somewhere around 2000-1500 BC.

Tamil and Kannada are recognized among the official languages of India and are spoken mainly in South India.

Phonological Features

Tamil at present has both retroflex lateral and retroflex fricative, while Kannada has retained only the retroflex lateral. Evidences show that both retroflex fricative and the retroflex laterals were once (before the 10th century) present in Kannada also. However all the retroflex fricatives changed in to retroflex laterals in Kannada later.In Kannada, the bilabial voiceless plosive ('p-') at the beginning of many words have disappeared to produce a velar fricative (h) or have disappeared completely. This change is unique to Kannada in the Dravidian family. Tamil doesn't show this change.

Tamil and Telugu, shows the conversion of velar plosives ('k-') in to palatal plosives at the beginning of the words (refer to comparative methods for details). Kannada however, is totally inert to this change and hence the velar plosives are retained as such or with minimum changes in the corresponding words.

The Scripts

Differing theories have been proposed regarding the origin of Kannada and Telugu scripts. Some claim that the script for Telugu is derived from that of Kannada script, Telugu looks almost similar to that of Kannada.


*Krishnamurti, B., "The Dravidian Languages", Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-521-77111-0
*Subrahmanyam, P.S., "Dravidian Comparative Phonology", Annamalai University, 1983.
*Zvelebil, Kamil., "Dravidian Linguistics: An Introduction", PILC (Pondicherry Institute of Linguistics and Culture), 1990

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