Sunday, October 21, 2007

Kannada for the North Indian (Part II): Nada to Kannada

We now present the Spoken Kannada Bootstrap post. This takes you from a non-Kannada speaking person (a Can't-nadiga) to a Kannadiga in a single post. In this, we take advantage of the liberal definition of Kannada in the cities. We will discuss here the minimal disguise needed to pass off as a native speaker.

Wildcard 1: mADi

mADi is the respectful imperative "do" (kIjiyE). Words of any language, when combined with mADi, become Kannada. Scenarios:
  • You are on a bus and wish to get down at a signal; but the door is closed. How do you ask, in Kannada, to open the door? Ans: "Door open mADi."
  • You are a Hindustani-speaking owner of an FM channel. What Kannada slogan do you devise that urges your audience to enjoy themselves with your channel? Ans: "Mast majaa mADi."
  • You are in an autorickshaw and notice your boss a little distance in front of you. How do you harness your indepth knowledge of Kannada in order to avoid him? Ans: Say to the driver, "U-turn mADi!"
You can Kannadise your phrases a little further by throwing in the word swalpa ("a little") as in, "swalpa adjust mADi," or "swalpa A/C reduce mADi."

Wildcard 2: hOgi

hOgi is the respectful imperative "go" (jAyiyE). This is the magic word without which you should not hire an autorickshaw.
  • "Right hOgi."
  • "Left hOgi."
  • "Straight hOgi."
I just realised that, of the languages I can speak, I don't know the native word for "left" or "right" (or even if know the words, am not sure which means "left" and which "right") in a single one.

Wildcard 3: koDi

koDi (the vowel is a short O) is the respectful imperative "give" (dIjiyE). Useful for shopping.
  • "Dairy milk chocolate koDi."
  • "[Your favourite movie] DVD koDi."
  • "Nair, singal cup tea koDi."
You can substantially enhance the Kannada quotient of the koDi-sentences if you know the Kannada numbers. (Click here for a guide.)
"eraDu kilo apple koDi."
If you know the numbers, you can even eliminate koDi sometimes.
"Shivaji Nagar - mUru ticket." (Three tickets to Shivaji Nagar.)


In Kannada, all questions that elicit a boolean response end in the vowel -A. This fact can be exploited as in the following cases:
  • To ask "Is a day-pass allowed on this bus?" -- Bus pass allow-a?
  • To ask "Does this bus go to Majestic?" -- Majestic-a?
  • To ask if lunch/dinner is available at a hotel -- Meals ready-a?
Of course, to understand the responses to your question, you need to know the Kannada for "yes" (haudu) and "no" (illa). And you must now be able to guess what the friendly Udupi fast-food person means when he asks you "Idli sambar-a?"

The A-suffix is also used in framing multiple-choice questions, as below:
  • To ask if someone is coming by bus or auto -- "Bus-a, auto-a?"
  • To find out the mode of payment -- "Cheque-a, cash-a?"


Sohan Mahato said...

Practical, incisive, and helpful! as always!! thanks a million!

Srikanth said...

Thanks Sohan!

Ellelliyu said...

Okay-a? Okay.

Let me add this:

So aaa at the end is a question, and a u at the end, again(pronounce: oo) is an answer!

Srikanth said...

Ellelliyu, you are right!

By the way, I have noticed some question tags end in -naa, rather than just -aa. Can you tell me when that happens?

ellelliyu said...

Questions ending in 'naa' perhaps are ones that have an inherent 'n' ending. Sample conversation between students discussing a just-finished exam question paper:

"Easy questionnaa?"
"Illa, easy answerru!"

I've noticed that Marwaris add a 'naa' instead of the usual 'aa' or 'waa':

Normal Kannada: baralla-vaa? hOgalla-vaa?
Marwari/Northi Kannada: baralla-naa? hOgalla-vaa?

I've also noticed that 'naa' is a transformation of the 'barallEnu?' (baralla, Enu?) used by people from N Karnataka, typically Hubballi. They migrate to the bengaLuru dialect this way!

Ellelliyu said...

Marwari/Northi Kannada: baralla-naa? hOgalla-naa?

Srikanth said...


Thanks! A few more doubts/questions:

Which is the Karnataka "standard" spoken dialect? The standard written one? Is there a diglossia in Kannada?

(For example, in TN, the "standard" spoken dialect is considered to be the non-Brahmin dialect as spoken in Madurai.)

Ellelliyu said...

The standard dialect is considered the one spoken in Shivamogga, though Mysuru does come a close second.

Kannada has its polished and non-polished versions as well - consider the word 'baratte' (will come, neuter gender).

Mysoru, Shivamogga: baratte, bartaite
Chitradurga, Davanagere: bartaiti
Hubballi: barlik-aduh, barlik-aiti

You can also notice the polished and non-polished variety by the presence of the 'h' before words like 'haudu', 'hOgi', 'hasivu (hunger)'. The non-polished, rustic variety does away with the h.

Srikanth said...

Thanks Ellelliyu!

pradeep said...

thanks srikanth for the simple and effective beginners guide!
im at a loss trying to understand one simple kannada language facet: the negation. why is it hogalla, baralla etc? in hindi, negation is usually by prefixing a nahin, but in kannada, there is a suffix. is it the same in all south languages?

రాకేశ్వర రావు said...

nice guide.
For a Telugu all these come naturally! Reminds me of my own fake Kannada :)

Srikanth said...

రాకేశ్వర రావు గారు,
Sorry for the late response.

Yes, learning Kannada is much simpler for a south Indian. The similarities are so many and are quite obvious too!

sharih yaakob said...

Informative, practical and helpful always. thanks a million

ThoughtPaisa said...


Liked your blog. As a fellow Kannada instructor, I appreciated it. Request your permission to reproduce portions of your blog for non-commercial Kannada learning purposes.

Srikanth said...


Please go ahead. If you acknowledge the source of the material when sharing it, I would appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

This is a hilarious but wonderfully useful post. :-)

To answer your question of November 01, 2007 10:52 AM: By the way, I have noticed some question tags end in -naa, rather than just -aa. Can you tell me when that happens?:

It happens when the last word ends with a vowel (like a "sandhi" rule, so that two vowels aren't consecutive). So among your examples, they should be "Meals ready-naa" and "Bus-a? Auto-naa?" (and even possibly "Okay-naa?" unless you pronounce the 'y'.) Your "ready-a" and "auto-a" are acceptable, but seem too Tamil-ish and may give you away. :-)

snigdha G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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