The grammar of a language can be constructed in different ways based on the theoretical principles and the linguistic model that one has adapted. However a historical reconstruction and the consequent comparison with cognate languages will give us a portrayal which is proximate to reality. ‘Ancient Kannada grammars’ including ‘the venerated ‘Shabdamanidarpana’ by Keshiraja are heavily influenced by Sanskrit grammars and their models of description. They have grappled with problems that have arisen because of their choice. The models that were developed during the early decades of the twentieth century have had Latin and English models which were essentially Indo European. The preponderance of Sanskrit words in Kannada vocabulary led to the erroneous conclusion of tracing the origin of Kannada to Sanskrit. The hegemonial relations that operate in Indian society were instrumental in cementing this belief.
It is now proved beyond doubt that Kannada belongs to the Dravidian family of languages and that its relationship with Sanskrit is a historical development. Hence, a Kannada grammar whether it is descriptive or historical can be constructed only when it is compared its cognate languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Tulu and many more minor languages and dialects that have retained the original structures. Actually some dialects of Kannada such as havyaka Kannada have retained earlier forms with greater fidelity. But Kannada pedagogy has adapted the Sanskrit model for such a long time that attempt at moving away from that model is treated as detrimental to Kannada. This issue is not merely concerned with models of analysis. Prescriptive grammars that do not take the cultural dynamics of the society make it harder for the communities in the lower rungs of the societal echelon to join the main stream. This prescriptive tendency is inevitably linked with the creation of a standard language laden with Sanskrit words. This makes it difficult for the lay man to become a part of the scholastic universe. His world-both external and internal- does not get any opportunity to become an integral part of the intellectual pursuits. Of course one has to notice that English too is playing a similar role in the contemporary society.
It is necessary to reconstruct the grammar Kannada at various levels such as phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Reconstructing various stages of its evolution based on its Dravidian lineage is essential. But it is more important to create modern models that have relinquished the redundant patterns acquired from Sanskrit. For instance the rules related to conjunction of words (sandhi) and compounding of words (samAsa) need to be looked in to, as also the dynamic patterns that have emerged in adapting words from other languages. The gender, number and case systems as delineated so far have to undergo major changes. This is a question of political/societal will.
Each one of these stages presents problems of its own. To illustrate the situation let us take a look at the phonetic level.
Traditionally Kannada is supposed to contain 14 vowels (svara), two yOgavAhas and 34 consonants. The total number touches 50. However Tamil manages with out the aspirated sounds. It is possible to pronounce L and O as CAiÀiï and Cªï. IÄ and its elongated partner are not found in native Kannada words. The velar and palatal nasals may be included among the allophones of Kannada. This is true with respect to the aspirated sounds also. Similarly the distinction between ±À and µÀ is hardly found in every day speech. Consequently one may conclude that Kannada alphabet contains only thirty one letters in its alphabet. Of course this will lead to a heated debate and theoretical issues will recede to the background. A reconsideration of morphology, syntax and semantics as related to Kannada will give rise to similar debates. It is not merely a question of prescription or description but one has to consider the socio linguistic issues that are involved in this problem.
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