Kodava (koDava) is the language spoken by the native inhabitants of Coorg which is now a small district of Karnataka. It was an independent state before its integration with Karnataka in 1956. The natives of Coorg have an indigenous culture of their own and their language is a repository of that culture. The language is known as ‘koDava takk’ by the native speakers. Some of the alternate names are kadagi, khurgi, kotagu and kurja. It is spoken by about 122000 people according to the 1997 census.

Kodava is spoken not only by the kodavas but also by other communities settled in Coorg such as Airi, Male-Kudiya, Meda, Kembatti, Kapal, Maringi, Heggade, Kavadi, Kolla, Thatta, Koleya, Koyava, Banna, Golla, Kanya, Ganiga and Malaya. Kodava belongs to the Dravidian family of languages, more specifically the South Dravidian sub group. However Coorgis do not belong to the Dravidian ethnic group. This leads to the conclusion that they must have relinquished their language at some point of time and accepted some previous stage of Kodava language. The language does not posses a script of its own, making it difficult to know the earlier stages of the language. It bears a strong resemblance to the Beary (¨Áåj) language spoken in South Canara district. Most of the native speakers are bilinguals and are conversant in Kannada.

Generally, Kodava resembles other Dravidian languages in terms of phonology and morphology. However it contains twelve vowels as against the usual ten in other languages. The additional vowels are /ï/ high central un rounded vowel and /ë/ mid central un rounded vowel which are also distinguished as short and long (Balakrishnan, 1976). Kodava does not have aspirated sounds in its spoken variety. Initial consonant clusters are found only in borrowed words. Verbs do not show any gender distinction even in the third person. The vocabulary consists of many words borrowed from Persian, Arabic, Urdu and the Dravidian languages.

In terms of dialectical variety the language spoken in the North Coorg is deemed to be the standard version. Social dialects are conspicuous by their absence. Kodava language has lately become a symbol of ethnic identity and the people are strongly attached to their mother tongue. Much needs to be done in terms of language planning to preserve the identity of the language and there by the culture of Coorg.

The literature of Coorg is essentially confined to the oral sources because of the paucity of a script. The Pattole Palame, a collection of Kodava folk songs and traditions compiled in the early 1900s by Nadikerianda Chinnappa, was first published in 1924. It is said to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, collection of the folklore of a community in an Indian language. Nearly two thirds of the book consists of folk songs that were handed down orally through generations. Many of these songs are sung even today during marriage and death ceremonies, during festivals relating to the seasons and during festivals in honour of local deities and heroes.

Four plays by Appachchu Kavi (1968) and ‘Kuttumbolichchi’ a novel by B.D.Ganapathi are other important literary works.



1.      Phonology of Kodagu with Vocabulary by R.Balakrishnan, 1974, Annamalai University .

2.      A Grammar of Kodagu, R. Balakrishnan, 1978, Annamalai University .

3.      A Tiny Model State of South India by IM Muthanna, 1953.

4.      R A Cole, "An Elementary Grammar of the Coorg Language"

5.      Kodava Speech Community: An Ethnolingustic Study, K.S.Rajyashri, ‘Language In India ’, Volume 1, Number 6, 2001, C.I.I.L., Mysore .

6.      ‘The Dravidian Languages’ by Bhadriraju Krishnamurthy, 2003, Cambridge University Press.

Links: 1. K S Rajyashree, Kodava speech community : An ethnolinguistic study



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