The inter action between Kannada and Prakrit dates back to the pre Christian era. The presence of the Ashokan Edicts in places like Brahmagiri, Maski, Siddapura, Jatinga Rameshvara, Koppala etc point to the fact that Prakrit was read and understood during that period. The arrival of Bhadrabahu Bhattaraka and Chandragupta must have accelerated this process. Kannada has absorbed certain elements of Sanskrit through Prakrit and at times it has borrowed directly from Prakrit itself. Re creation of literary texts and knowledge based texts of Prakrit in Kannada has been going on for a long time. However, our current interest is confined to the linguistic influences. This is not confined to the vocabulary and extends to certain morphological and syntactic rules also.

The presence of certain words purportedly from Kannada found in ancient Prakrit texts has been quoted in the discussions about the antiquity of Kannada. ‘Gatha Saptashati’ by Halaraja, a work composed in the 1st century A.D. contains words such as ‘poTTa’, tuppa, ‘attA’ etc and they are traced to the Kannada words poTTe, tuppa, atte and tIra. Many words found in Prakrit lexicons such as Hemachandra’s ‘Deshi Naama Maale’ contain a number of words that are borrowed either from Kannada or one of its Dravidian cognates. Karnataka has harbored many writers who have written extensively in Prakrit. This was particularly true during the regime of Jaina dynasties. Works such as ‘Prakrita Vyakarana’ by Trivikrama, (1236 A.D.) ‘Mahapurana’ by Pushpadanta, ‘Dhavalaa’, ‘Jayadhavalaa’ and ‘Mahadhavalaa’ by Veerasenacharya and Jinasenacharya, ‘Gommata saara’ and ‘Triloka Sara’ by Nemichndra Yati are some illustrations.

Many literary texts of Kannada are inspired from Prakrit works and they contain many words borrowed from Prakrit. ‘VaDDArAdhane’ and ‘kabbigara kAva’ may be quoted as examples. Some metrical forms of Kannada like ‘kanda padya’ and ‘ragaLe’ have arrived in Kannada through Prakrit forms such as ‘skanda’ and ‘raghaTaa’         

Many words in the spoken Kannada have their origin in Prakrit. ‘ajja’, ‘ayya’, kasAya, nEha, samaNa are a few examples. These are used along with their Sanskrit counterparts. Occasionally the Sanskrit original is not found in Kannada at all. More often than not, the Sanskrit original and the Prakrit word are used concurrently. For instance ‘upAdhyAya’ and ‘Oja’ are related like this. Bh. Krishnamurthy makes it clear by giving a number of examples: “All loan words recorded for Dravidian are phonologically closer to Pali and Prakrit forms than to Sanskrit. There is no doubt that these entered the Dravidian languages through Pali/Prakrits which were the spoken forms of Middle Indic. It means that tadbhav-ization had already taken place in Prakrits, because of the Dravidian substrate among Prakrit speakers, and that facilitated borrowing in to the surviving Dravidian speech communities.” (‘Dravidian Languages’, Cambridge University Press, 2003, Page 475) Dr Krishnmurthy opines that the Tatsamas were borrowed later by educated communities and those who were conversant with only the spoken version preferred to use Tadhbhavas. 

Scholars have found that many phonological rules operative in Kannada at some point of time had their origin in Prakrit:

  1. IÄ’ the Sanskrit vowel is changed to ‘gï’ in Prakrit as well as Kannada and then they take on the vowels a, i or u.

Ex:  IÄt>>>>>>>> jt, ±ÀÈw>>>>>>>>>±ÀÄæw

  1. The initial or final ‘a’ of a word becomes ‘i’/’e’ or ‘u’ respectively.

Ex:  CAUÁgÀ>>>>>>>>>>>>>EAUÀ¼À, zÀAqÀ>>>>>>>>>>zÀAqÀÄ

  1. L and O are changed in to J and M

ªÉÊzÀå>>>>>>>> ¨ÉdÓ, PËAUÀÄ>>>PÉÆAUÀÄ

  1. Consonant clusters containing different consonants are converted in to clusters with same consonants.

Ex: PÀ¼ÉÛ>>>>>PÀvÉÛ, ªÀÄÈvÀÄå>>>>> «ÄvÀÄÛ, zÀȶÖ>>>>>¢nÖ.

     There is a lot of similarity between Kannada and Prakrit even with respect to case suffixes.

A historical survey of the relations that have prevailed between these two languages could be of immense use.


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