Difference Between Kannada and Tamil

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: October 15, 2023

       

Difference Between Kannada and Tamil

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Introduction

The constitution of the Indian Republic consists of 22 national languages, among which Kannada and Tamil fall. They both have very similar language styles. Kannada is spoken by the inhabitants of Karnataka, whereas Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu. Both of them are now recognized as classical languages of India. Moreover, both of them have descended from the Dravidian family of languages. So, there are many similarities between both languages as both of them have a similar grammar and vocabulary structure and share the same ancestor, which is why many a time, people confuse between the two. However, despite their similarities, they are completely two different languages. 

Kannada vs Tamil

Kannada and Tamil are part of the South Indian languages of India. The main point that differentiates Kannada and Tamil is the place where they are spoken. Kannada is the official language of Karnataka, but people outside Karnataka can also be found speaking this language. The inhabitants of Tamil Nadu speak Tamil, but people in Singapore and Sri Lanka also speak Tamil. Kannada and Tamil both belong to the south Dravidian family of languages. The estimated Tamil speakers all over the world is found to be 70 million, whereas about 43 million people speak Kannada worldwide. 

Difference Between Kannada and Tamil in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonKannadaTamil
Official LanguageKannada is the official language of Karnataka.Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu.
EthnicityThe ethnicity of Kannada is Kannadiga.The ethnicity of Tamil is Tamilar.
Estimated SpeakersKannada is spoken by over 43 million people all over the world.Tamil is spoken by around 70 million people worldwide.
PeopleKannadigas are individuals who communicate in the Kannada language.Tamil speaking individuals are commonly referred to as Dravidians or Tamilians.
Area of InfluenceThe Kannada language has been influenced by the Pali and Prakrit languages.The Tamil language has been closely influenced by the Malayalam language.
OriginThe Kannada script is said to have borrowed its alphabet from the Kadamba and Chalukya scripts.The Tamil script, on the hand, has its roots, in the Brahmi script.

What is Kannada?

Kannada is a national language among the 22 national languages of India. It is mainly spoken by the inhabitants of Karnataka. It has descended from the Dravidian family of languages and is considered a major Dravidian language. It falls under the subpart of South Dravidian languages, and this is a similarity that it shares with Tamil. Kannada is also called as Kanarese. The Kannadigas or Kannadigaru speak the Kannada language. Some people living in other south Indian states such as in Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh also use Kannada in their day-to-day communication. Kannada is spoken by an estimated 43 million people all over the world, including more than 12.9 people keeping it as a second or third language. The Kannada language’s alphabet has been derived from the Kannada script. The Kannada script has evolved from the Kadamba and Chalukya scripts. The Kadamba and Chalukya scripts have originated from the old Brahmi script. In 2008, the government of India declared Kannada as a classical language of India. 

Pali and Prakrit languages have influenced the Kannada language. Kannada is spoken differently in different places, mainly due to its various dialects. But the written form of Kannada differs even within Karnataka. Kannada is the oldest surviving language of the world because it originated more than 2000 years ago. The Sanskrit language has also influenced the Kannada language. The stone inscription that contains Brahmi characters, along with the features and aspects of Proto-Kannada, is regarded as the oldest example of the Kannada language. The Kannada language has a rich literature which includes the works of famous Kannada writers namely Pampa, Kuvempu, and Ranna. Kannada is also spoken in other countries such as US, UK, Australia, Singapore, UAE and Mauritius besides India. The various dialects of Kannada can be systematically classified into four distinct categories: -

  • Coastal
  • Southern
  • South-Western
  • Northern

The Kannada dialects that fall under these four main categories: -

Coastal

The coastal region of Karnataka includes the following dialects: -

  • Mangaluru: Mangaluru, or the ‘Coastal dialect,’, is one of the three Kannada dialects spoken in the region of Karnataka. Moreover, other than Mangaluru, there are two varieties of Kannada; Mysuru and Dharwar Kannada. The Mangaluru Kannada dialect is similar to the way primary schools teach Kannada. It is characterized by a diction that gives it a formal tone when heard.
  • Havyaka: The second notable Kannada dialect spoken in the regions of Karnataka and Malenadu is called Havyaka. This particular variant of Kannada dialect is predominantly used by Havyaka Brahmins. Referred to as Havyaka Bhaashe or Havyaka Kannada.

Southern

The southern category of Kannada dialects includes: -

  • Bengaluru Kannada: Bengaluru dialect is considered a vernacular dialect of Kannada that is mainly used for informal discourses by locals and youths. The native people use it in almost every place, including their homes, educational institutions, and many other places.
  • Banakal Kannada: In the Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka, there is a Malnad town by the name of Banakal in Mudigere Taluk where this dialect of Kannada is spoken.

South-Western

One of the Kannada dialects that fall under this category are: -

  • Arebhashe: It is also known as Aregannada or Gowda Kannada. The Gowda communities living in the region of Somwarpet, Madikeri, and Kushalnagar taluks of Kodagu district, and Mysore and Bengaluru districts of Karnataka use this dialect.

What is Tamil?

Tamil language, like Kannada, has also descended from the Dravidian family of languages. It is the official language of the inhabitants of Tami Nadu. Tamil is also spoken in other south Indian states and in other countries like Singapore and Sri Lanka. It has an estimated range of about 70 million speakers all over the world. Dravidians or Tamilians is the name given to Tamil-speaking people. It is also one of the 22 national languages mentioned by the constitution of India. It was the first to receive the status of classical language in the year 2004. Tamil and Kannada fall among the list of classical languages of India. Tamil is also the oldest classical language of the world.

The ethnicity of the Tamil language is called Tamilar. The Tamil script has been derived from the original Brahmi script. Literary pieces of early Tamil literature that have been documented are a little older than 2000 years. Tamil falls under the southern branch of the Dravidian family of languages, which consists of 26 languages used in the Indian subcontinent. Tamil literature, among all other Indian languages, has the most ancient non-Sanskrit root. UNESCO has preserved the two oldest Tamil manuscripts of India. The word Tamil has been defined by the Tamil Lexicon of Madras University as 'sweetness'. Tamil has rich literature, just like Kannada, and consists of various famous writers, namely Thiruvalluvar, Kambar, and Avvaiyar.

Like Kannada, Tamil also has a variety of dialects spoken across the country. The other local languages that are spoken in the same region have considerably influenced Tamil dialects, so they have evolved very differently than Kannada dialects. Some of the Tamil dialects are: -

  • Central Tamil Dialect
  • Kongu Tamil
  • Madras Bashai

Central Tamil Dialect

This Tamil dialect can be found spoken by people in the districts of Karur, Tiruchirappalli, Thanjavur, and many other districts of central Tamil Nadu which is why it is named in such a way. It is believed by people to be the foundation of standard spoken Tamil in Tamil Nadu and is considered one of the purest forms of spoken Tamil.

Kongu Tamil

It is the Tamil dialect that is spoken in the region of Kongu Nadu which falls in the western side of Tamil Nadu. This Tamil dialect is also called Kovai Tamil.

Madras Bashai

It is the Tamil dialect spoken in the city of Madras, which is today known as Chennai, by the native people. During the past 300 years, this Tamil dialect has significantly evolved along with the growth of the city of Madras.

Main Difference Between Kannada and Tamil (In Points)

  • The origin of Kannada and Tamil lies in the Dravidian family of languages, and both of them come under the southern branch of the Dravidian language. According to some scholars, after originating from the Proto-Tamil-Kannada sub group near about 5th and 6th century B.C., Kannada and Tamil evolved as independent languages. So, they are two different Dravidian languages with their own characteristics. But people often get confused between the two due to their same roots. The Kannada language, which is also known as Kanarese, is primarily spoken in Karnataka, whereas Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu. But other than the main state, Kannada and Tamil are also used in many other South Indian states and in many foreign countries. However, even if Kannada and Tamil originated more or less at the same time, Tamil is more ancient than Kannada. This is because the ancient origins of Kannada date back to around 5th century CE but Tamil’s history spans over more than 2000 years. So, Tamil is the oldest classical language in the world. Moreover, the oldest period of Tamil literature that dates from 300 BC to AD 300 is called the Sangam literature. It is the oldest literature among all the other Dravidian literature. Kannada’s literary history, however, spans for over a thousand years. The oldest evidence of Kannada language is the stone inscription that contains Brahmi characters along with the aspects of Proto-Kannada. The first and the oldest literary example of Tamil is ‘Tholkappiyam’, which dates back to over 2000 years.  
  • Kannada has also received 8 Jnanapith awards, the highest among all the other Dravidian languages. Moreover, the influence of the Sanskrit language can be prominently seen in the Kannada language. But no traces of Sanskrit can be found in Tamil, which is why it has the most ancient non-Sanskrit root. So, the influence of Sanskrit also results in a change in the entire language structure of both the languages. Kannada was given the status of a classical language in India in 2008. Tamil received this status in 2004. The Kannada script is used for writing the Kannada language, which has evolved from the Kadamba script of the 5th century, which has evolved from the original Brahmi script. But the Tamil script directly evolved from the Brahmi script. In south and central India, many dynasties preferred Kannada as their court language, such as the Western Ganga dynasty, Chalukyas, Hoysalas, Yadava dynasty, and many others. The ancient dynasties that used Tamil as their court language were Chera, Pandya, and Chola. The Kannada film industry, which is based in Bengaluru, Karnataka, has produced many publicly acclaimed films and has enhanced the status of Kannada language in the film world. It is often referred to by the name of Sandalwood. The Tamil film industry, which is called Kollywood, is based in Chennai. It is the largest among the South Indian film industries and is very influential, with a huge global community of followers. It has also significantly contributed to the growth of Tamil language and in the growth of the Indian film industry.

Conclusion

Kannada and Tamil have originated from the same roots, since they have descended from the Dravidian family of languages. They both belong to the southern branch of the Dravidian language. Moreover, Kannada and Tamil even share the same border. Earlier, either a Kannada empire or a Tamil empire alternatively used to rule many of the regions of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. They are also among the oldest surviving language because both of them originated more than 2000 years ago. However, according to some scholars Kannada and Tamil developed and evolved as independent languages near about 5th and 6th century B.C., after originating from the Proto-Tamil-Kannada sub group. So, Kannada and Tamil indeed have many similarities in their origin and several other aspects. However, they are still unique and different from each other in linguistic and cultural aspects. Kannada is primarily spoken by the inhabitants of Karnataka. But it is also used in many other south Indian states such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, and Telangana. It is also used internationally in many foreign countries such as in Australia, Singapore, United States, United Kingdom, and Mauritius. The estimated Kannada speakers all over the world is 43 million. Tamil, on the other hand, is mainly spoken in Tamil Nadu. But like Kannada, Tamil is also used in many other southern states of India and outside India in many foreign countries like Sri Lanka and Singapore. The estimated Tamil speakers is 70 million globally. Moreover, pronunciation tones and grammatical practices are also different between the two. According to the ethnology reports, around 20 dialects of Kannada can be found till now. So, we should realize that Kannada and Tamil are significantly different from each other, which makes them unique.

References

  • https://thecontentauthority.com/blog/kannada-vs-tamil 
  • https://www.superprof.co.uk/blog/tamil-in-india/ 
  • https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Kannada_dialects 

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"Difference Between Kannada and Tamil." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 11 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-kannada-and-tamil>.



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