Updates, Live

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Little Bit About Kannada

Ferdinand Kittel (1832-1903)
image from 1854
source: Heidrun Brückner [u.a.]: Indienforschung im Zeitenwandel. Analyse und Dokumente zur Indologie und Religionswissenschaft in Tübingen
no copyright infringement intended

Tomorrow is November 1st, and my Indian friends celebrate Karnataka Rajyotsava, commemorating the merge of all Kannada language regions from South India in a single state. This happened in 1956. The newly formed state was named Mysore. In 1973 the name was changed to Karnataka.

When I met first time my Indian colleagues at work I was expecting they were Hindi speakers. I knew that several languages were spoken in India, but I believed that all of them belonged to the Indo-European family, and that they were derived from Sanskrit.  So I was surprised  when my colleagues told me that, as they were from the South of India, they were not Hindi speakers, not at all, and, more than that, their languages were not Indo-European. One of them was a Tamil, the other was a Kannadiga. I learned from them that both Tamil and Kannada were Dravidian languages, with no relation to the Indo-European group.

Kannada is one of the 22 official languages in India (among perhaps hundreds of other tongues) and it is spoken by about 70 million people. It is related to Tamil (also to Telugu, the tongue of other one of my Indian colleagues) and it is the language of a culture as ancient as Sanskrit: there is a work on Kannada grammar (Shabdamanidarpana) authored in 1260 CE; as for the work of Nagavarma on prosody (Chandombudhi), it is even earlier, from about 950 !

And because tomorrow is a celebration dedicated to the state of Kannada language I'd like to speak here a little bit about Ferdinand Kittel, who came to the South of India in 1853 as a missionary, and decided to follow the words of Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians, 9:20-23) and to become as an Indian unto the Indians. Kittel was doing his missionary work in a Kannada region, so he started to learn their language, their customs, their music. What followed was the creation of a Kannada - English dictionary of 70,000 words, published in 1894: it was the work of his whole life. Kittel also composed poems in Kannada, a book of Kannada grammar, and translated Chandombudhi, but the dictionary was his Opera Magna.

(A Life in Books)


Post a Comment

<< Home