Literacy in Kannada, an alphasyllabic orthography Chapter uri icon


  • © Cambridge University Press 2014. Introduction: In this chapter, we present the nature of Kannada orthography and review current research in reading development, and reading breakdown. After a brief historical account, the structure of Kannada orthography is presented. Studies conducted on literacy development and literacy breakdown are summarized next. The chapter concludes with some recommendations for assessment and instruction. All Indian writing systems seem to have originated from either Kharosthi or Brahmi. The origin of Kharosthi is either linked to the Aramaic word Harutta, meaning writing/engraving, or derived from the Persian word Khar-Ustar, meaning a caravan of merchants. Brahmi, derived from the word Brahma, meaning God of creation, is the source of almost all modern Indian languages, including Kannada, and the earliest evidence of this writing system is found from the inscriptions of Ashoka dated 272–231 BCE. The majority of the languages of North India are classified as Indo-European languages, while many South Indian languages are classified as Dravidian languages. However, there are some commonalities in both writing systems. Kannada is one of the four major Dravidian languages from South India, the other three being Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Kannada is the state language of Karnataka and is spoken by approximately 70 million people, making it one of the 25 most widely spoken languages in the world. The history of Kannada can be traced back about 2,000 years (Kamath, 2002). The earliest written form is found from stone inscriptions from Halmidi dated around 450 ACE. Kannada has a literary tradition beginning with Kavirayamarga in the ninth century ACE. More recently literary works in Kannada have won several high-level national awards in India such as the Gnanapith and the Sahitya Akademi Awards.

author list (cited authors)

  • Joshi, R. M.

citation count

  • 8

Book Title

  • South and Southeast Asian Psycholinguistics

publication date

  • January 2013