Kannada - aptly described as 'sirigannada' (known to few as Kanarese) is one of the oldest Dravidian languages and is spoken in its various dialects by roughly 45 million people. It is the state language of Karnataka, one of the four southern states in India.
The Kannada language has been spoken for about 2500 years, with the Kannada writing system being in use for about the last 1900 years. The initial development of the Kannada language is similar to that of other Dravidian languages, notably Tamil and Telugu. During later centuries, Kannada, along with Telugu, has been highly influenced by Sanskrit vocabulary and literary styles.
Kannada is a higly inflected language with three genders (masculine, feminine, neutral or common) and two numbers (singular, plural). It is inflected for gender, number and tense, among other things.
There is also a sharp distinction between the spoken and written forms of the language. Spoken Kannada tends to vary from region to region. The written form is more or less constant throughout Karnataka, however. The ethnologue identifies about 20 dialects of Kannada. Notable of them are Kodava (spoken in Coorg district), Kunda (spoken exclusively in Kundapura), Havyaka (spoken mainly by Havyaka Brahmanas of Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi), Are Bhashe (spoken mainly in Sullia region of Dakshina Kannada), Soliga Kannada, Badaga Kannada, etc...
Kannada is mainly spoken in Karnataka in India, and to a lesser extent in the neighboring states. There are significant Kannada speaking populations in the United States and the United Kingdom.
A Kannada language sign board
Kannada is one of the 22 official languages of India and is the state official language of the state of Karnataka.
Main article: Kannada alphabet
See the Kannada Aksharamaale (alphabets) here
The language has 49 letters and is phonetic. The character set is almost identical to that of other Indian languages. The script itself is fairly complicated like most other languages of India owing to the occurrence of various combinations of "half-letters", or symbols that attach to various letters in a manner similar to the aigüe, grave, and cédille marks in Romance languages. The number of written symbols, however, is far more than the 49 characters in the alphabet, owing to the fact that different characters can be combined to form compound characters (ottaksharas). Each written symbol in the Kannada script corresponds with one syllable, as opposed to one phoneme in languages like English.
Several transliteration schemes are used to type Kannada characters using a standard keyboard. These include ITRANS, Baraha (http://www.baraha.com) and Nudi. The Government of Karnataka standard for Kannada transliteration is the Nudi (http://www.bangaloreit.com/html/education/Nudi.html) transliteration scheme.
Few unique things about Kannada
Kannada has a few firsts. The first encyclopedia was written in Kannada. This was later translated to Sanskrit under name Shivatatvaratnakara.