More on Kannada "on the verge of extinction"

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Aug 22 21:43:47 UTC 2005

Anthea Gupta has asked for clarification on this, since, as she says, one
hears Kannada spoken freely in Mysore city in Karnataka.

I looked up population figures for Kannada on Ethnologue, and they say:

Kannada has "35,346,000 [speakers, as of] (1997).

	Karnataka; Andhra Pradesh; Tamil Nadu; Maharashtra.  Alternate names:
	Kanarese, Canarese, Banglori, Madrassi.  Dialects:  Bijapur, Jeinu Kuruba,
	Aine Kuruba. About 20 dialects; Badaga may be one

The Census of India page lists the 2001 population of Karnataka as
52,850,562 (cf. so if the 35 million speakers
listed by Ethnologue as 1997 data are correct, this comes out to be 67%
Kannada speaking.  The census page doesn't give language figures yet (or
maybe I just can't find them)

Since 35 million speakers isn't what I would call endangered, I think this
statement (in the original message, by Dr. Patil Puttappa, needs to be
interpreted politically.  (I checked UNESCO pages of various sorts, and
don't even see Kannada listed, let alone ANY languages of India.) so I
don't know where Dr. Puttappa gets his information.

In some figures I've seen, published by CIIL Mysore some decades ago,
Karnataka State has the lowest percentage of the dominant and official
language group (Kannada) of any state in the Indian Union.  The figures I
saw then were 65% Kannada speakers, 35% other. Essentially, I think this
is a thinly-veiled attack on the 35% (or less?)  population of Karnataka
State who are not mother-tongue speakers of Kannada, esp. those in
Bangalore who speak only English, and/or want Tamil to be recognized as an
official lg. in Karnataka.  Recently there have been attacks on cinemas
that show films in lgs. other than Kannada, and attempts to legislate the
content of films that can be shown.  The cinemas attacked were showing
Tamil and/or English films, and perhaps Hindi films, tho that wasn't clear
to me.

If Karnataka is the state in INdia with the lowest number of speakers of
the "official" lg. of the state, Kerala is the highest, with 94% Malayalam
speakers (from the data from CIIL some decades ago), so Kannadigas feel
marginalized in their own state, and under threat from speakers of other
languages. The fact that they can't be understood in Kannada on the
streets of their capital, Bangalore, is also galling (though I have to say
that 40 years ago on my first visit to Bangalore, when I tried to speak
Kannada to a riksha-wallah, he couldn't understand me either, and had to
stop someone he thought might know English to interpret.  Turns out that
in Bangalore and Hyderabad as well, riksha-wallahs and taxi-drivers tend
to be Urdu speakers, and either don't know, or pretend to not know, the
State language.)


>>From the Star of Mysore, August 18.


Belguam, Aug. 18 (KCU)- Excessive love for English language, influence of
other languages and Government's apathy, have driven Kannada language
towards extinction. It is surprising to note that Kannada also figures in
the list of 'languages on the verge of extinction' prepared by UNESCO

It is really unfortunate, when the State is moving the Centre to accord
classical status for Kannada language, UNESCO has made this startling
revelation. Kannada has occupied the 28th position in the list which
signifies the days of its extinction are not very far away. Former
Chairman of Kannada Watchdog Committee, Journalist and President of All
India Kannada Sahitya Sammelan Dr. Patil Puttappa (Pa Pu) disclosed this
while speaking to media persons here on Aug. 16.

He said that all Kannadigas should bow in shame at the sad plight of their
language which is one of the oldest historical languages in the world. The
maximum number of Jnanpith awards have been won by Kannada language and it
is a pity that such a sacred language is facing extinction, he regretted.

'What is the State Government doing for the development of Kannada? Who
seem to be more interested to introduce English language right from first
standard itself,?' questioned Pa Pu. He agreed that English language is a
window for business and information the world over, but why should that be
imposed on young children who have just stepped into school. It can also
be taught from 3rd or 4th standard, opined Pa Pu.

He said that he had requested the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during
his recent visit to New Delhi, to accord classical status to Kannada
language. The funds accrued from that could be used for the development of
the language, he added.

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