Karnataka, the land of Kannada has a geographical area of 191,791 sq km and is the 8th largest state in India by area. The literary form of Kannada is fairly uniform through out the state; where as the colloquial form is quite vibrant and has many variations. The variation is also due to the geographical factors.
There are at least 20 distinct dialects spoken in various parts of the state. The major regional dialects are
1) Mysore Kannada – spoken mainly in south Karnataka,
2) Hubli/ Dharwad Kannada – spoken mainly in north Karnataka,
3) Mangalore/ Karaavali Kannada – spoken in the coastal areas.
These major regional dialects have other variant dialects within themselves! Kodava, Badaga Urali, Holiya, Kunda, Sanketi, Havyaka, Bellary, Bangalore, Gulbarga, Are Bhashe, Soliga, Nadavara, Belagaavi are some of the different dialects. Not only these variant forms are very much different from each other by their accent and style, a same word could have different meanings in two or more of them. For instance Shira is the name of a sweet dish made in Dharwad region, the same word is understood as head in Mysore region. Bhootaayi is the name of a popular fish in Mangalore area; the same is understood as Mother Earth in other parts of the state. Bonda in Mangalore region is Tender coconut, the same name is given to a popular snack made of chilies and gram dough in other parts. Many such variations can be noticed in the usage of Kannada throughout the state.
Apart from geographical variations reference can also be made of social variations. Social groups such as Lambanis, Koragas, Halakkis and Todas speak Kannada of their own accent. Even the major communities such as Brahmins, Veerashaivas, Vokkaligas and Kurubas speak Kannada that is unique to their community. People belonging to the higher strata of the society communicate in a much refined language, slang is usually avoided; educated people follow the suit. Women and men who belong to a single community tend to have a different accent and style of speaking Kannada. Women are forbidden to use some words that are generally used by men! Even the people of different age groups are seen speaking and using their own distinctive style of language.
Before the formation of Karnataka state in 1956, Kannada speaking areas were scattered among the Telugu and Urdu speaking Hyderabad state, the Marathi speaking Bombay state, the Tamil speaking Madras state. Only the Mysore region was under the administration of the Wodeyars who patronized Kannada and Kannada was the administrative language here. So we see that Telugu, Urdu, Tamil and Marathi which were erstwhile administrative languages have a significant influence on Kannada. Sanskrit in the earlier days; Hindi and English later on have had their strong impact on Kannada.
In spite of the marked variation in the usage of Kannada language among different regions and social groups, the basic identity of the language is common. The spirit and the basic texture are also common. The very word – KANNADA evokes a sense of pride, a feeling of self- respect and strength among the Kannadigas (the Kannada people). Caste, color or creed doesn’t come in the way of unity under the Kannada umbrella. However and whatever be the variations, Kannada is one language.