Kannada Alphabets

Introduction

Kannada is a Southern-Dravidian Language also known as Canarese’ or Kanarese’.
It is the most widely spoken language in the state of Karnataka and also to some extent in
the other Southern states of India, like Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. It also has its reach in parts of Maharashtra as well as Goa. The people speaking this language are known as Kannadigas’ or Kannadigaru’ in the native language. Kannada is the official administrative language of Karnataka.

History

It is one of the most ancient languages which has evolved over a period of centuries. The Kannada script, which evolved from the 5th-century Kadamba script, has its origin in the Brahmic script. Since its inception, Kannada script which consists of both the Alphabets as well as the Numerals has flourished under many dynasties like the Kadamba dynasty, Ganga dynasty and the Rashtrakuta dynasty.
 
The research also states that Kannada and other Dravidian languages like Tamil and Telugu could have had an influence over each other, since the earlier dynasties have now become different states. The Kannada alphabets are somewhat similar to Telugu alphabets.
 
The history and evolution of Kannada can be divided into three parts:
  • Old Kannada also known as Halegannada’ from 450–1200 AD
  • Middle Kannada also known as Nadugannada’ from 1200–1700 AD
  • Modern Kannada also known as Hosagannada’ from 1700 AD
 

Kannada Alphabets

The total no.of Kannada alphabets are 50. Each letter of the Kannada script consists of an Akshara’ and Varna’ which gives each letter a different shape and sound.
 
The Kannada alphabets are classified into 3 categories:
  • Svara(Vowels)
  • Vyanjana(Consonants)
  • Yogavahaka(Part vowel, Part consonant)
 Below is the list of the Kannada alphabets : 
Varnmaala
Kannada examples
Pronounced as
Phonetic Examples
ಅಮ್ಮ
a
Up
ಆನೆ
aa
Arm
ಇಲಿ
i
Is
ಈಗ
ee
Eat
ಉತ್ತರ
u
Uber
ಊಟ
oo
Oops
ಋಷಿ
ri
Risk
ಎಲೆ
e
Ate
ಏತ
ae
Ant
ಐರಾವತ
ai
Ice
ಒಂಟೆ
o
On
ಓಟ
oo
Old
ಔಷಧಿ
au
Outside
ಅಂ
ಅಂಗಳ
am
Umbrella
ಅ:
ಅ:
aha
ಕತ್ತರಿ
ka,ca
King
ಖಡ್ಗ
kha
Khaki
ಗಂಧ
ga
Gun
ಘಂಟೆ
gha
Ghastly
Nga
ಚಮಚ
cha
Chair
ಛತ್ರಿ
chha
Chhatisgarh
ಜಲ
ja
Jam
ಝರಿ
jha
Jhalem
Nja
ಟಗರು
Ta
Take
ಠಸ್ಸೆ
Tha
Thane
ಡಮರು
Da
Danger
ಢಣಢಣ
Dha
ಬಾಣ
Na
ತಬಲ
ta
Path
tha
Thick
ದನ
da
The
ಧನ
dha
Buddha
ನಳ
na
Name
ಪದಕ
pa
Parent
ಫಲ
pha,fa
Flower
ಬಣ್ಣ
ba
Bank
ಭವನ
bha
Bhavan
ಮನೆ
ma
Made
ಯಮ
ya
Yacht
ರಂಗೋಲಿ
ra
Rain
ಲಂಗ
la
Lawyer
ವನ
va
Vase
ಶಂಖ
sha
Shine
ಷಟ್ಕೋನ
Sha
Share
ಸರ
sa
Sale
ಹಣ್ಣು
ha
Hat
ಅವ
La
ಕ್ಷ
ಕ್ಷತ್ರಿಯ
ksha
Laksha
ತ್ರ
ನಕ್ಷತ್ರ
tra
Chitra
ಜ್ಞ
ಜ್ಞಾನ
Gya
Gyan
ಕಮಲ
Ka
Colour
ಕಾ
ಕಾಗೆ
Kaa
Carton
ಕಿ
ಕಿರೀಟ
Ki
King
ಕೀ
ಕೀಟ
Kee
Keep
ಕು
ಕುಶಲ
Ku
Kung Fu
ಕೂ
ಕೂಗು
Koo
Cool
ಕೃ
ಕೃಷ್ಣ
Kri
Crypto
ಕೆ
ಕೆಂಪು
Ke
Kept
ಕೇ
ಕೇಸರಿ
Kae
Kale
ಕೈ
ಕೈಲಾಸ
Kai
Kind
ಕೊ
ಕೊಂಬು
Ko
Cost
ಕೋ
ಕೋಳಿ
Koo
Cold
ಕೌ
ಕೌಶಿಕ್
Kau
Cauliflower
ಕಂ
ಕಂಬಳಿ 
Kam
Computer
ಕಃ
ಕಃ
Kaha
The letters are classified into three categories: 
  1. ಸ್ವರ svara (Vowels)
  2.  ವ್ಯಂಜನ vyan̄jana (Consonants) and 
  3. ಯೋಗವಾಹಕ yōgavāhaka(Part vowel, Part consonant).
 Vowels
There are 13 vowel (Svara) letters in Kannada. These form the basis for the Aksharamale’ or Kagunita’, which is derived by combining vowels and consonants.
 
Below is the table depicting the Svara’ :
Svara
Kannada examples
Pronounced as
Phonetic Examples
ಅಮ್ಮ
a
Up
ಆನೆ
aa
Arm
ಇಲಿ
i
Is
ಈಗ
ee
Eat
ಉತ್ತರ
u
Uber
ಊಟ
oo
Oops
ಋಷಿ
ri
Risk
ಎಲೆ
e
Ate
ಏತ
ae
Ant
ಐರಾವತ
ai
Ice
ಒಂಟೆ
o
On
ಓಟ
oo
Old
ಔಷಧಿ
au
Outside
The Svara’ in Kannada alphabets can be further classified into two categories:
  • Hrusva Svara
  • Deergha Svara
  •   Hrusva Svara : The alphabets which do not require much stress while saying them are called Hrusva Svara.

Below is a table depicting the Hrusva Svara’ : 

Hrusva Svara
Kannada examples
Pronounced as
Phonetic Examples
ಅಮ್ಮ
a
Up
ಇಲಿ
i
Is
ಉತ್ತರ
u
Uber
ಎಲೆ
e
Ate
ಒಂಟೆ
o
On
 
  • Deergha Svara : The alphabets which need stress while saying them are called Deergha Svara.
Below is a table depicting the Deergha Svara’ : 
Deergha Svara
Kannada examples
Pronounced as
Phonetic Examples
ಆನೆ
aa
Arm
ಈಗ
ee
Eat
ಊಟ
oo
Oops
ಋಷಿ
ri
Risk
ಏತ
ae
Ant
ಐರಾವತ
ai
Ice
ಓಟ
oo
Old
ಔಷಧಿ
au
Outside

Part Vowel-Part Consnants

The Yōgavāha (Part-vowel, Part consonant) include two letters:
  • The Anusvara : ಅಂ (aṁ)
  • The Visarga  : ಅಃ (aḥa)
 

Consonants

The remaining are the consonants which are categorised as :
 
  • Structured Consonants which are classified into groups of 5 based on the sounds they produce when the tongue touches the palate of the mouth.
 
ಕ  ಖ ಗ ಘ ಙ

ಚ ಛ ಜ ಝ ಞ

ಟ ಠ  ಡ ಢ ಣ

ತ  ಥ  ದ ಧ ನ

ಪ ಫ ಬ ಭ ಮ 

 
Below is a list of the Structured consonants with examples : 
 
Structured consonants
Kannada examples
Pronounced as
Phonetic Examples
ಕತ್ತರಿ
ka,ca
King
ಖಡ್ಗ
kha
Khaki
ಗಂಧ
ga
Gun
ಘಂಟೆ
gha
Ghastly
Nga
ಚಮಚ
cha
Chair
ಛತ್ರಿ
chha
Chhatisgarh
ಜಲ
ja
Jam
ಝರಿ
jha
Jhalem
Nja
ಟಗರು
Ta
Take
ಠಸ್ಸೆ
Tha
Thane
ಡಮರು
Da
Danger
ಢಣಢಣ
Dha
ಬಾಣ
Na
ತಬಲ
ta
tha
Thick
ದನ
da
The
ಧನ
dha
Buddha
ನಳ
na
Name
ಪದಕ
pa
Parent
ಫಲ
pha,fa
Flower
ಬಣ್ಣ
ba
Bank
ಭವನ
bha
Bhavan
ಮನೆ
ma
Made
 
  • Unstructured Consonants which do not belong to any particular pattern of alphabets.
 
Unstructured
Consonants
Kannada examples
Pronounced as
Phonetic Examples
ಯಮ
ya
Yacht
ರಂಗೋಲಿ
ra
Rain
ಲಂಗ
la
Lawyer
ವನ
va,wa
Vase
ಶಂಖ
sha
Shine
ಷಟ್ಕೋನ
Sha
Share
ಸರ
sa
Sale
ಹಣ್ಣು
ha
Hat
ಅವ
La
 
Merging Vowels and Consonants
When we merge the vowels and consonants in Kannada, we get a new letter with a special character attached to it, which gives a unique sound to the consonant, the vowel is added to. The special character also known as a diacritic mark, will differ based on the vowel being used. Below is a simple representation of the same :
 
Swar+Vyanjan
Kannada examples
Pronounced as
Phonetic Examples
ಕ = ಕ್+ ಅ
ಕಮಲ
Ka
Colour
ಕಾ = ಕ್+ಆ
ಕಾಗೆ
Kaa
Carton
ಕಿ = ಕ್+ ಇ
ಕಿರೀಟ
Ki
King
ಕೀ = ಕ್ + ಈ
ಕೀಟ
Kee
Keep
ಕು = ಕ್ + ಉ 
ಕುಶಲ
Ku
Kung Fu
ಕೂ = ಕ್ + ಊ
ಕೂಗು
Koo
Cool
ಕ್ರ = ಕ್ + ಋ
ಕೃಷ್ಣ
Kri
Crypto
ಕೆ = ಕ್ + ಎ
ಕೆಂಪು
Ke
Kept
ಕೇ = ಕ್ + ಏ
ಕೇಸರಿ
Kae
Kale
ಕೈ = ಕ್ + ಐ
ಕೈಲಾಸ
Kai
Kind
ಕೊ = ಕ್ + ಒ
ಕೊಂಬು
Ko
Cost
ಕೋ = ಕ್ + ಓ
ಕೋಳಿ
Koo
Cold
ಕೌ = ಕ್ + ಔ
ಕೌಶಿಕ್
Kau
Cauliflower
ಕಂ = ಕ್ + ಅಂ
ಕಂಬಳಿ
Kam
Computer
ಕಃ = ಕ್ + ಅ:
ಕಃ
Kaha
 
Sample Text
To understand how Kannada alphabets are used as building blocks to make complex sentences, please see the following
 
“ಕರುಣೆ ಎಂಬ ಭಾಷೆಯನ್ನು ಕಿವುಡ ಕೇಳಬಹುದು ಮತ್ತು ಕುರುಡ ನೋಡಬಹುದು”.
 
“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see”
                                                                                             Mark Twain
Sample Video
Watch this fun video on Kannada alphabets
 
You can use our free learning app which helps you to come across a lot of Kannada Alphabets, phrases and practice lessons to improve your Kannada basics.