The Kannada language is the official language of the state, the native language of approximately 65% of its population and one of the classical languages of India.Kannada played a crucial role in the creation of Karnataka: linguistic demographics played a major role in defining the new state in 1956. Tulu, Kodava Takk and Konkani are other major native languages that share a long history in the state. Urdu is spoken widely by the Muslim population. Less widely spoken languages include Beary bashe and certain dialects such as Sankethi. Kannada features a rich and ancient body of literature covering topics as diverse as Jainism, Vachanas, Haridasa Sahitya and modern literature. Evidence from edicts during the time of Ashoka the Great suggest that the Kannada script and its literature were influenced by Buddhist literature. The Halmidi inscription, the earliest attested full-length inscription in the Kannada language and script, is dated to 450 CE while the earliest available literary work, the Kavirajamarga, has been dated to 850 CE. References made in the Kavirajamarga, however, prove that Kannada literature flourished in the Chattana, Beddande andMelvadu metres during earlier centuries.
Kuvempu, the renowned Kannada poet and writer who wrote Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate, the state anthem of Karnataka was the first recipient of the "Karnataka Ratna" award, the highest civilian award bestowed by the Government of Karnataka. Contemporary Kannada literature is well recognized in the arena of Indian literature, with seven Kannada writers winning India's highest literary honour, the Jnanpith award, which is the highest for any language in India. Tulu is spoken mainly in the coastal districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada. Tulu Mahabharato, written by Arunabja in Tulu script, is the oldest surviving Tulu text. The Tulu language now uses the Kannada script due to the gradual decline of the Tulu script, which was in use until a few centuries ago. The Kodavas who mainly reside in the Kodagu district, speak Kodava Takk. Two regional variations of the language exist, the northern Mendale Takka and the southern Kiggaati Takka.Konkani is mostly spoken in the Uttara Kannada district and in some parts of the Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts. Both Kodava Takk and Konkani use the Kannada script for writing. English is the medium of education in many schools and widely used for business communication in technology-related companies and BPOs.
All of the state's languages are patronised and promoted by governmental and quasi-governmental bodies. The Kannada Sahitya Parishat and the Kannada Sahitya Akademi are responsible for the promotion of Kannada while the Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Akademi, The Tulu Sahitya Akademi and the Kodava Sahitya Akademi promote their respective languages.
Karnataka being a multilingual state, various linguistic groups have been demanding for separate states based on language in the regions where those languages are spoken by the majority. Tuluvas and Kodavas are major ethnic groups which aspire to form separate states.