Kodava language

From Bharatpedia, an open encyclopedia
Native toIndia
RegionKodagu, Karnataka
Native speakers
113,857 (2011 census)[1]
Kannada script, Coorgi–Cox alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3kfa

The Kodava (Kannada script: ಕೊಡವ ತಕ್ಕ್, Kodava takk, meaning 'speech of Kodavas', in the Kodava language, alternate names: Kodagu, Coorgi) is an endangered[2] Dravidian language and the original language of the Kodagu district in Southern Karnataka, India. The term Kodava has two related usages. Firstly, it is the name of the Kodava language and culture followed by a number of communities from Kodagu. Secondly, within the Kodava-speaking communities and region (Kodagu), it is a demonym for the dominant Kodava people. Hence, the Kodava language is not only the primary language of the Kodavas but also of many other castes and tribes in Kodagu. The language has two dialects: Mendele (spoken in Northern and Central Kodagu, i.e. outside Kodagu's Kiggat naadu) and Kiggat (spoken in Kiggat naadu, in Southern Kodagu).

Historically, it has been referred to as a dialect of Kannada.[3] However it has been re-analysed as a language by early 20th century academics.

It is traditionally written using the Kannada script which is an abugida. However, an abugida called the Coorgi–Cox alphabet has been developed on the request of community members. The 2011 Census of India reports 96,918 persons who returned Kodava as their mother tongue and 16,939 for Coorgi/Kodagu, for a total of 113,857 persons who identified one of these languages as their mother tongue.[4]


The grammar of Kodagu has been systematically studied and documented since at least around 1867 when Captain R.A. Cole published the seminal work An Elementary Grammar of the Coorg Language.[5]



Dravidian vowel systems contain five vowel qualities i.e. those usually corresponding to a, e, i, o and u., with a short and long variants for each. However, Kodava has two more: the mid and high (close) back unrounded vowels, with corresponding long variants.[6]

Kodagu has 14 vowels. 7 of these, i, e, ɛ, a, ɑ, o, u, have long equivalents.[7]

Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close i ɨ ɯ u
Near-close ɪ ʊ
Close-mid e o
Mid ə
Open-mid ɛ ʌ ɔ
Open a ɑ


Kodava has 25 consonants.

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p ʈ k
voiced b ɖ g
Fricative ð s ʂ ç h
Nasal m n ɳ ɲ ŋ
Approximant l ɭ j
Trill r
Flap ɽ

Kodava and Kannada share a lack of palatalization of word-initial *k-, which is a feature found in the Tamil-Malayalam branch.[8]


Linguistically, Kodava/Kodagu language belongs to the South Dravidian subfamily of the Dravidian family. Further within the South Dravidian subfamily , it belongs to the subgroup Tamil-Malayalam-Kodagu-Kota-Toda.[9] It is closely related to and influenced by Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Tulu. A majority of the words are common between Kodava and Beary bashe, a dialect which is a mixture of Tulu and Malayalam spoken by the Beary muslims and Kodava Thiyyar communities.


Family histories, rituals and other records were scripted on palm leaves called Pattole (patt=palm, ole=leaf) by astrologers in the ancient times. When Kodava was written, it was usually with Kannada script, sometimes with minor modifications. The folk songs of the Kodavas, called the Palame (also known as the Balo Patt or Dudi Patt), were orally transmitted across several generations. The language had no significant written literature until the twentieth century. Appachcha Kavi, a playwright, and Nadikerianda Chinnappa, a folk compiler, are the two important poets and writers of the Kodava language. Other important writers in the language were B D Ganapathy and I M Muthanna.

The Coorgi-Cox alphabet

In 2005, after requests from the Kodagu community, German linguist Gerard Cox created a script unique to Kodava called the Coorgi-Cox script. It uses straight lines for 5 vowels, and has circles for diphthongs.[10]

The Pattole Palame, a collection of Kodava folksongs and traditions compiled in the early 1900s by Nadikerianda Chinnappa, was first published in 1924. The most important Kodava literature, it is said to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, collection of folklore of a community in an Indian language. Nearly two-thirds of the book consists of folksongs that were handed down orally through generations, sung even today during marriage and death ceremonies and during festivals relating to the seasons and in honour of local deities and heroes. Traditionally known as Balo Pat, these songs are sung by four men who beat dudis (drums) as they sing. Kodava folk dances are performed to the beat of many of these songs. The Pattole Palame was written using the Kannada script originally; it has been translated into English by Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa, grandchildren of Nadikerianda Chinnappa, and has been published by Rupa & Co., New Delhi.[11]


The Kodava Cinema industry is very small. A few movies portraying the native culture and traditions of the Kodavas have been produced in this language. The first Kodava film 'Nada Mann Nada Kool' was directed by S.R.Rajan and produced in the year 1972.

Words for family members[edit]

Template:Move to Wiktionary

Mother Avvo
Father Appo
Grandfather Ajjo
Grandmother Ajjavo Thaayi
Maternal Uncle / Paternal Aunt's husband Thammaavo / Maavo
Maternal Uncle's wife / Paternal Aunt Maavi / Thammaavi
Eldest Paternal Uncle / Eldest Maternal Aunt's husband Baliappo
Eldest Paternal Uncle's wife / Eldest Maternal Aunt Baliavvo
Elder Paternal Uncle / Elder Maternal Aunt's husband Bojappo
Elder Paternal Uncle's wife / Elder Maternal Aunt Bojavvo
Younger Paternal Uncle / Younger Maternal Aunt's husband Kunjappo
Younger Paternal Uncle's wife/ Younger Maternal Aunt Kunjavvo
Youngest Paternal Uncle / Youngest Maternal Aunt's husband Cheriappo
Youngest Paternal Uncle's wife/ Youngest Maternal Aunt Cheriavvo
Father-in-law Maavo
Mother-in-law Maavi
brother-in-law (elder) / cross-cousin (elder, brother) / lineal cousin (elder, sister)'s husband Baavo
sister-in-law (elder)/ cross-cousin (elder, sister) / lineal-cousin (elder, brother)'s wife Mammo
brother (elder) / lineal cousin (elder brother) / cross-cousin (elder, sister)'s husband Anno / Annaiah
sister (elder) / lineal-cousin (elder, sister) / cross-cousin (elder, brother)'s wife Akko / Akkaiah
brother (younger) Thammanno
sister (younger) Thange
Wife Ponne
Husband Wadiyye
Son Movo
Daughter Mova

Kodava words[edit]

Template:Move to Wiktionary

Kodava Kannada Tamil Tulu English
Muddi Hudugi Ponnu Girl
Kinha Huduga Chiruvan Aan/Kinni Boy
Poyi Hogu Po Poyi Go
Kanni Saaru Kuzhambu, Curry Kajipu Stew (lentils, vegetables, others)
Koole Anna Soru/Annam Nuppu Cooked Rice
Ide Idu Id Dee Put
thimbake tinnakke tinnu Thinere To Eat
kulli snana kuLi Meela To Bathe
unda unta/ideya Unda/irukkiradha Unda Is There
Bappi Bartini Varuven Barpe I will Come (Farewell Greeting)
Ullo iddene Ullaen/Irukkaen Ulle Am There
Bandan Ullo Baruta iddene Varugirēn Barond ulle Am coming
Yenene Ulliya? Hege iddiya? eppaṭi irukkiraai? Encha ulla/ya? How are you?
Māṅge Maavu Māngāi / māngani Mudi/Kukku Mango
Kaḷḷa Kaḷla KaLvan/Thirudan Kalva Thief
Suroole /Minyathele Modalu Mudal Suru First
Kere Pamb Kere Haavu Kīri Pambu Keri Rat Snake
Mūle Mūle Muulai Mudye/mūle Corner
Āme Āme Āmai Eme Tortoise
Bēli Bēli Vēli Bēli Fence
Bithe/Kuru Beeja Vidhai/Vithu Bitth Seed
Bādege Bādige Vādagai Badige Rent
Chaththe Sante Chanthai Santhe Market
Ēni Ēni Ēni Ēni Ladder
Pulunja Puḷi Hunase Huli PuLi Punke puli Tamarind
Gaali/Kaath Gaali Kaatru/Kaathu Gaali Wind
Thaari Kodu Kodu Koru give
Kaapi Kaapi Kulambi Kaapi Coffee
Paaduvo Haadu Paadu Pada paad to sing


  1. "Census of India Website : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India". censusindia.gov.in. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  2. "Five Languages in Karnataka, Including Tulu Vanishing: Unesco". www.daijiworld.com. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  3. Thurston, Edgar (16 June 2011). The Madras Presidency with Mysore, Coorg and the Associated States. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-60068-3.
  4. "Census of India 2011" (PDF). Census of India : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  5. "Coorg Grammar". 11 August 1867 – via Internet Archive.
  6. Emeneau, M. B. (1970). "Koḍagu Vowels". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 90 (1): 145–158. doi:10.2307/598436. ISSN 0003-0279. JSTOR 598436.
  7. "PHOIBLE Online -". phoible.org. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  8. Emeneau, M. B. (1967). "The South Dravidian Languages". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 87 (4): 365–413. doi:10.2307/597585. ISSN 0003-0279. JSTOR 597585.
  9. Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju. Dravidian Languages, p21, Cambridge Language Surveys, Cambridge University Press, 2003
  10. Merritt, Anne (1 April 2015). "Easiest written languages for English speakers". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  11. "– Official Website of Kodava Community". Kodava.org. Retrieved 1 June 2012.


  • R A Cole, "An Elementary Grammar of the Coorg Language"

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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