Kannada vs Tamil: Difference and Comparison

There are 22 national languages listed in the constitution of the Republic of India. India is one of the most diverse nations of the world, with more than 1,900 languages spoken as a mother tongue in India.

Kannada and Tamil are two officially listed languages that have descended from the Dravidian family language. Like all other languages, these two languages are also unique in their respective forms and have very district characteristics, yet they are widely confused by all.

Key Takeaways

  1. Kannada and Tamil are distinct Dravidian languages spoken in India; Kannada is primarily spoken in Karnataka, while Tamil is spoken in Tamil Nadu.
  2. Kannada script, derived from Brahmi script, has angular shapes; Tamil script, also Brahmi-derived, features rounded shapes.
  3. Kannada and Tamil literature have unique traditions, with famous works like Jaimini Bharata (Kannada) and Silappatikaram (Tamil).

Kannada vs. Tamil

Kannada is a language spoken by the people of Karnataka. 43 million people speak this language. It was a court language of the powerful empires in the past. It is also considered a classic language of India. Tamil is a language spoken by the people of Tamil Nadu. It is spoken by 70 million people from all over the world. This language was declared classical in India in 2004.

Kannada vs Tamil

Kannada is the official language for the people of India in Karnataka. It is a South Dravidian language. It is one of the most popular languages in India and is spoken by almost 43 million natively worldwide.


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The alphabet of the Kannada script has been developed from the Chalukya and Kadamba scripts.

Tamil is also an official language for the people of India in Tamil Nadu. It was the first official language of India to be listed and declared as a classical language by the government of India.

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonKannadaTamil
Spoken by43 million people worldwide70 million people worldwide
Official LanguageIt is the official language of KarnatakaIt is the official language of Tamil Nadu
ScriptIt originated from the Kannada scriptIt originated from the Tamil script
InfluencedIt is influenced by Pali and Prakrit languagesIt is influenced closer to Malayalam
PeopleThe people who speak the Kannada language are known as KannadigasThe people who speak the Tamil language are known as tamilians or Dravidians

What is Kannada?

Kannada, unpopularly also known as Kanarese, is a South Dravidian language. It is one of the major Dravidian languages. It is an official language in India and is spoken predominantly by the people of Karnataka.

Although it is also spoken in several linguistic minority states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telengana, Kerala, and Goa, the people who speak the Kannada language are known as Kannadigas (kannadigaru).

Almost 43 million people natively speak Kannada. It is also spoken as a second or third language by more than a 12.9million people, up to 56.9 million Kannada speakers worldwide.

Kannada earlier was the court language of several powerful empires in south and central India: Chalukya Dynasty, the rashtrakuta dynasty, the Vijayanagara Empire, and the Hoysala Empire.

The alphabet of the Kannada language was developed from the Kannada script, which had evolved from the 5th-century kadamba script.

On the recommendation of the committee of linguistic experts appointed by the Ministry of Culture, the government of India declared Kannada as the classical language of India.

The influence of Prakrit and pail can also be noticed in Kannada. Spoken Kannada widely varies from region to region, whereas the written form of Kannada is less consistent all over Karnataka. According to ethnology reports, there are almost 20 dialects of Kannada.


What is Tamil?

Tamil is a Dravidian language, mainly spoken by Tamilians who reside in Tamil Nadu, a state in India. It is also the official language of the south Indian states of Tamil Nadu, along with Sri Lanka and Singapore.

Tamil is one of the 22 scheduled languages in the constitution of India. It was the first to be classified as a classical language of India in 2004, and also one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world.

Accounts of Tamil literature have been documented for a little over 2000 years. The Sangam literature (earlier Tamil literature period) dates from ca. 300 BC – AD3000. Tamil is a part of the southern branch of the Dravidian language, a family of 26 languages native to Indian subcontinents.

Malayalam is considered the closest to Tamil; the two diverged around the 9th century AD. Among all the Indian languages, Tamil has the most ancient non-Sanskrit Indian literature. According to the hindu legend Tamil was created by Lord Shiva.


Main Differences Between Kannada and Tamil

  1. 43 million people speak the Kannada language as their native language, and as a second or third language, Kannada is spoken by 12.9 million people. At the same time, Tamil is spoken by 70 million people natively and as a second or third language by 8 million people.
  2. Kannada is the official language of Karnataka in India, whereas Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu, another southern state of India.
  3. Kannada originated from the Kannada script, and Tamil originated from the Tamil script.
  4. Pali and Prakrit influence the Kannada language; however, the Tamil language is more influenced by Malayalam.
  5. The people who speak Kannada as their native language are referred to as Kannadigas, whereas those who speak Tamil as their native language, which is a huge proportion, are known as Tamilians or Dravidians.
Difference Between X and Y 2023 04 18T123059.832
  1. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED184379
  2. https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf/j/ijsl.1978.issue-16/ijsl.1978.16.109/ijsl.1978.16.109.xml
  3. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=OQ33i496MsIC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=tamil&ots=BOHy6_3gtL&sig=_k7F9fzNM9a9jdWj9Sn-oS5ueH4
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