We have considered only the texts on Kannada grammar composed before the seventeenth century for the purposes of this note. However 'Kavirajamargam' the first available written text in Kannada itself contains some information about Kannada grammar. Actually it is a text that gives a birds eye view of many aspects of Kannada culture. The author makes an explicit mention of various dialects of Kannada and advocates the usage of a standard variety. He designates a particular area of Karnataka as the abode of chaste Kannada. (Kannadada TiruL) The well known grammar texts of kannada are as follows: 

            1. Shabdasmriti                                    Nagavarma-2         1042 A.D.

             2. Karnataka Bhashabhushana           Nagavarma-2          1042 A.D.

             3. Shabdamanidarpana                       Keshiraja                 1260 A.D. (Approx.)

             4. Shabdanushasana                          Bhattakalanka          1604 A.D.

The fact that two of these four works (2, 4) are in Sanskrit and the third (Shabdasmriti) is just a chapter in another book ‘Kavyavalokana’ speaks volumes about the paucity of grammars in Kannada. ‘Shabdamanidarpana’ by Keshiraja is the only full length grammar of Kannada written in Kannada. This goes to show that people at large were hardly given an opportunity to learn the grammar of their language in a systematic manner. It was perhaps deemed unnecessary for illiterate people and the educated people were any way familiar with Sanskrit.

All these grammarians including Keshiraja had no hesitation what so ever about accepting the Sanskrit grammars as their model and applying it to Kannada. This notion has its supporters even now in spite of the fact that Kannada is indisputably proved to be a Dravidian language.

‘Shabdasmriti’ contains only 96 sutras and they are illustrated with poems culled out of ancient Kannada works, which are now extant. Consequently these poems are of greater importance to us than the grammatical items. They help historians in fixing the dates of authors and works. Many of the works mentioned are more ancient than Kavirajamarga thus proving the antiquity of Kannada literature.

‘Karnataka Bhashabhushana’ (karnaTaka BASABUSNa) is in Sanskrit and contains 269 sutras. Nagavarma himself has written explicatory remarks to this text. (Vrutti) Some unknown scholar has written a commentary to ‘Karnataka Bhashabhushana’ in the seventeenth century.

‘Shabdamanidarpana’ (shabdamaNidarpaNa) is incontestably the best among ancient grammars of Kannada. No doubt, even Keshiraja is an adherent of the framework provided by the Sanskrit grammar. But he is intelligent enough to notice the changes that were taking place in the structure and usage of the language and objective enough to describe them in detail. Many of his prescriptions and conclusions have not passed the test of time and Kannada has changed ruthlessly. But the illustrations provided by him are not necessarily selected from ancient texts. The speech of the common man is an important part of his repertoire. His presentation is quite scientific even from modern standards and his delineation of the phonetics, phonology and morphology can pass muster even today. Keshiraja had a fecund creative faculty and he has chosen his illustrations well. Many of them are tinged with literary flavor.

‘Karnataka Shabdanushasana’ (karnATaka shabdAnushAsana) a Kannada grammar written in Sanskrit in 1604 A.D. is a rigorous text giving competent rules. However they are not supplemented by suitable illustrations. Bhattakalanka himself has written a Vrutti called ‘Bhasha Manjari’ and a commentary called ‘Manjari Makaranda’ to his work. Some scholars contend that the explicatory notes and the commentary were written by some other person. Bhattakalanka has given more importance to the prescriptive rules and hardly bothered to notice the changes that were taking place in the spoken language in his surroundings.

An over all survey of these grammars leaves us slightly disappointed because their total dependence on Sanskrit has resulted in a severance of the grammatical tradition from its Dravidian antecedents. If one remembers Tamil classics such as ‘Tolkappiam’ and ‘Nannul’, one is left lamenting the lost opportunities. This adherence to the written version and the Sanskrit framework continued later and most of our school texts passed on this body of language with out a second thought. It is now necessary to study all possible sources of linguistic evidence as also the grammars of other Dravidian languages and then attempt a reconstruction of the early stages of Kannada.

References: 1. Pracheena Kannada Vykaranagalu, M.V.Seetharamaiah 1979, Kannada     Adhyayana Samsthe,Mysore University, Mysore.            

                    2. Vyakaranagalu, Ed. V.Seetharamaiah, 1973, Kavi Kavya Parampare,                                                                I.B.H.Prakashana, Bangalore.

                    3. Kannada Vykarana Paramapare,   D.N.Shankarabhat, Kannada University, Hampi

                    4. Kannada Vyakarana Parivara, N.Ranganathasharma, Bangalore                                                                     5. Kannada Bhashe mattu Vyakaranagala ondu Adhyayana, K.Kushalappa Gowda, 1986, Mysore University.

                    6. History of Grammatical Theories in Kannada, J.S. Kulli, 1999, Dharawada                                           


Home / Knowledge Bases