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Belonging to the group of Southern Indic scripts, Kannada script is used in the Indian state of Karnataka for writing the Kannada language, a member of the Dravidian group of languages. Because of their common ancestry in Old Kannada script, Kannada script resembles and is closely related to, Telugu script. By the 16th century AD, Old Kannada script had split into two distinct branches, Kannada and Telugu. The arrival of the printing press in the 19th century further sealed the differences between the two. However, the Kannada language is more closely related to Tamil and Malayalam than it is to Telugu. As other Brahmi-derived Indic scripts, Kannada demonstrates the major features of that model.1 It is a syllabic alphabet whose basic unit is the consonant-based syllable with an inherent [a] vowel. Similar to other Southern Indic scripts, Kannada script has typically rounded features.

Kannada is written horizontally from left to right and its basic set of symbols consists of 35 consonants and 14 vowels. At the beginning of a word, vowels appear in independent form. When used to replace the inherent vowel of a consonantal syllable, vowels appear in diacritic (or satellite) form before, after, above, below or surrounding the modified syllable. In many cases, consonant-vowel combina-tions may be written with special ligatures which break the predictable pattern. Consonant clusters, a series of consonants without intervening vowels, are typically written by attaching the secondary com-ponent as a reduced subscript to the primary consonant. However, the sub-script form of a consonant may not at all resemble the full form. In Kannada script, the inherent vowel of a syllable is sup-pressed by a virama which is a small superscript mark on the syllable. Originally devised to indicate vowel nasalization, the ring-shaped anusvara is used for nasal consonants in Modern Kannada. Words are separated by a space and the end of a sentence is signaled by a dot as in Euro-pean practice. Although Kannada has a native set of symbols for numerals, nowadays Arabic numbers are used.

1 For a fuller description of the features of Brahmi-derived scripts, see 'Devanagari'.

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