Telugu language

Last updated

The word "Telugu" in Telugu script
Pronunciation [ˈteluɡu]
Native to India
Region Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (India)
Yanam (India)
Ethnicity Telugu people
Native speakers
81 million (2011) [1] [2]
L2 speakers: 11 million [1]
  • South-Central
    • Telugu
Early form
Old Telugu
Telugu script
Bharati Braille (Telugu)
Signed Telugu
Official status
Official language in
Flag of India.svg  India
Recognised minority
language in
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa (protected language) [4]
Language codes
ISO 639-1 te
ISO 639-2 tel
ISO 639-3 tel – inclusive code
Individual code:
wbq    Waddar (Vadari)
Glottolog telu1262   Telugu
oldt1249   Old Telugu
Linguasphere 49-DBA-aa
Idioma telugu.png
In dark blue, Telugu is spoken by a majority. In light blue, it is spoken by a significant minority.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
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Telugu ( /ˈtɛlʊɡ/ ; [5] తెలుగు, Telugu pronunciation:  [ˈt̪eluɡu] ) is a Dravidian language native to the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where it is also the official language. Spoken by about 96 million people (2022), [6] Telugu is the most widely spoken member of the Dravidian language family, and one of the twenty-two scheduled languages of the Republic of India. [7] It is one of the few languages that has primary official status in more than one Indian state, alongside Hindi and Bengali. [8] Telugu is one of the six languages designated as a classical language by the Government of India. It is the 14th most spoken native language in the world. [9] Modern Standard Telugu is based on the dialect of Krishna-Godavari delta region in Coastal Andhra. [10] [11] [12]

Telugu is also spoken in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and the union territories of Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is also spoken by members of the Telugu diaspora spread across countries like United States, Australia, Malaysia, Mauritius, UAE, Saudi Arabia and others. [13] [14] Telugu is the fastest-growing language in the United States. [15] It is also a protected language in South Africa and is offered as an optional third language in schools in KwaZulu-Natal province. [4] [16]

According to Mikhail S. Andronov, Telugu split from the Proto-Dravidian language around 1000 BCE. [17] [18] Earliest inscriptions with Telugu words date back to c.400 BCE in Bhattiprolu of Andhra Pradesh. [19] [20] [21] Telugu words were also found in the inscriptions of Emperor Ashoka (257 BCE), Satavahanas, and Vishnukundinas. [22] [23] Inscriptions in Old Telugu script were found as far away as Indonesia and Myanmar. [24] Telugu was the court language of various dynasties of Southern India namely the Kakatiyas, Vijayanagara Empire, Eastern Chalukyas, Eastern Gangas, Qutb Shahis, Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks. [29] Telugu was used officially as a language of bureaucracy outside its homeland even by non-Telugu dynasties like the Thanjavur Marathas in Tamil Nadu. [30] [26]

Telugu has an unbroken, prolific, and diverse literary tradition of over a thousand years. [31] [32] Pavuluri Mallana's Sāra Sangraha Ganitamu (c.11th century) is the first scientific treatise on mathematics in any Dravidian language. [33] [34] Avadhānaṃ, a literary performance that requires immense memory power and an in-depth knowledge of literature and prosody, originated and was specially cultivated among Telugu poets for over five centuries. [35] [36] Roughly 10,000 pre-colonial inscriptions exist in Telugu. [37]

In the precolonial era, Telugu became the language of high culture across South India. [42] Vijaya Ramaswamy compared it to the overwhelming dominance of French as the cultural language of modern Europe during roughly the same era. [41] Telugu also predominates in the evolution of Carnatic music, one of two main subgenres of Indian classical music and is widely taught in music colleges focusing on Carnatic tradition. [45] Various non-Telugu people over the centuries have remarked on the natural musicality of Telugu speech, referring to it as a mellifluous and euphonious language. [44] [46] [47]


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Speakers of Telugu refer to it as simply Telugu or Telugoo. [48] Older forms of the name include Teluṅgu and Tenuṅgu. [49] Tenugu is derived from the Proto-Dravidian word *ten ("south") [50] to mean "the people who lived in the south/southern direction" (relative to Sanskrit and Prakrit-speaking peoples). The name Telugu, then, is a result of an "n" to "l" alternation established in Telugu. [51] [52]

P. Chenchiah and Bhujanga Rao note that Atharvana Acharya in the 13th century wrote a grammar of Telugu, calling it the Trilinga Śabdānusāsana (or Trilinga Grammar). [53] However, most scholars note that Atharvana's grammar was titled Atharvana Karikavali. [54] [55] [56] [57] Appa Kavi in the 17th century explicitly wrote that Telugu was derived from Trilinga. Scholar C. P. Brown made a comment that it was a "strange notion" since the predecessors of Appa Kavi had no knowledge of such a derivation. [58]

George Abraham Grierson and other linguists doubt this derivation, holding rather that Telugu was the older term and Trilinga must be the later Sanskritisation of it. [59] [60] If so the derivation itself must have been quite ancient because Triglyphum, Trilingum and Modogalingam are attested in ancient Greek sources, the last of which can be interpreted as a Telugu rendition of "Trilinga". [61]


Telugu, as a Dravidian language, descends from Proto-Dravidian, a proto-language. Linguistic reconstruction suggests that Proto-Dravidian was spoken around the third millennium BCE. [62] [63] According to the Russian linguist Mikhail S. Andronov, Telugu split from the Proto-Dravidian language around 1000 BCE. [17] [63] [18]

Earliest records

Prakrit Inscriptions with several Telugu roots or words dating back to between 400 BCE and 100 BCE have been discovered in Bhattiprolu in Bapatla district of Andhra Pradesh. [19] [20] [21] The English translation of an inscription reads, "gift of the slab by venerable Midikilayakha". [20] [64] [65] The Bhattiprolu stone Buddhist casket in proto-Telugu belongs to 3rd century BCE, [65] :325 the Erragudi Asokan Rock Edict in Proto-Telugu belongs to 257 BCE. [66]

One of the first words in the Telugu language, "Nagabu", was found on a granite pillar in the Amaravati Stupa. [67] [68] It is dated to 2nd century BCE by Iravatham Mahadevan and is probably, the name of a stone mason. [67] [69] [70]

The Ghantasala Brahmin inscription [71] and the pillar inscription of Vijaya Satakarni, Vijayapuri, Nagarjunakonda etc., belong to first century CE. [22] [72] Further, Tummalagudem inscription of Vishnukundinas belongs to 5th century CE. [73] [22] Telugu place names in Prakrit inscriptions have been attested from 2nd century CE onwards. [74] [75]

A number of Telugu words were found in the Sanskrit and Prakrit inscriptions of the Satavahana dynasty, Vishnukundina dynasty, and Andhra Ikshvakus. [22] The coin legends of the Satavahanas, in all areas and all periods, used a Prakrit dialect without exception. Some reverse coin legends are in Telugu, [23] [76] and Tamil languages. [77]

On top of one of the rock-cut caves around the Keesaragutta temple, 35 km from Hyderabad, an early Telugu label inscription reading 'Thulachuvanru' meaning rock carvers, or quarrymen, can be noticed. [78] [79] On the basis of paleography, the inscription is dated to Vishnukundina period in 5th century CE. [80] [81] It is the earliest known short Telugu inscription from the Telangana region. [81]

According to Telugu lore, its grammar has a prehistoric past. The Sage Kanva was said to be the language's first grammarian. A. Rajeswara Sarma discussed the historicity and content of Kanva's grammar. He cited twenty grammatical aphorisms ascribed to Kanva, and concluded that Kanva wrote an ancient Telugu Grammar which was lost. [82]

Telugu Talli Bomma (statue of Mother Telugu), the personification of Telugu language in Andhra Pradesh Telugu talli bomma.JPG
Telugu Talli Bomma (statue of Mother Telugu), the personification of Telugu language in Andhra Pradesh

Post-Ikshvaku period

The period from 4th century CE to 1022 CE corresponds to the second phase of Telugu history, after the Andhra Ikshvaku period. The first inscription that is entirely in Telugu is dated to 575 CE in erstwhile Kadapa district and is attributed to the Renati Choda king Dhanunjaya. [74] [83] [84] From the seventh century complete Telugu inscriptions begin to appear in the neighbouring districts of Rayalaseema, Prakasam, and in the Palnadu region. [85] :10 Metrically composed Telugu inscriptions and those with ornamental or literary prose appear from 630 CE. [86] [87] The Madras Museum plates of Balliya-Choda dated to the mid-ninth century CE are the earliest copper plate grants in the Telugu language. [88]

Telugu was more influenced by Sanskrit and Prakrit during this period, which corresponded to the advent of Telugu literature. Telugu literature was initially found in inscriptions and poetry in the courts of the rulers, and later in written works such as Nannayya's Mahabharatam (1022 CE). [89] During the time of Nannayya, the literary language diverged from the popular language. It was also a period of phonetic changes in the spoken language.

Middle Ages

The third phase is marked by further stylization and sophistication of the literary languages. During this period the split of the Telugu from Kannada alphabets took place. [90] Tikkana wrote his works in this script.[ citation needed ]

Vijayanagara Empire

The Vijayanagara Empire gained dominance from 1336 to the late 17th century, reaching its peak during the rule of Krishnadevaraya in the 16th century, when Telugu literature experienced what is considered its Golden Age. [89]

Delhi Sultanate and Mughal influence

A distinct dialect developed in present-day Telangana region, due to Persian/Arabic influence: the Delhi Sultanate of the Tughlaq dynasty was established earlier in the northern Deccan Plateau during the 14th century. In the latter half of the 17th century, the Mughal Empire extended further south, culminating in the establishment of the Hyderabad State by the dynasty of the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1724. This heralded an era of Persian influence on the Telugu language, especially Hyderabad State. The effect is also evident in the prose of the early 19th century, as in the kaifiyats . [89]

In the princely Hyderabad State, the Andhra Mahasabha was started in 1921 with the main intention of promoting Telugu language, literature, its books and historical research led by Madapati Hanumantha Rao (the founder of the Andhra Mahasabha), Komarraju Venkata Lakshmana Rao (Founder of Library Movement in Hyderabad State), Suravaram Pratapa Reddy and others. [91]

Colonial period

The 15th-century Venetian explorer Niccolò de' Conti, who visited the Vijayanagara Empire, found that the words in the Telugu language end with vowels, just like those in Italian, and hence referred to it as "The Italian of the East"; [92] a saying that has been widely repeated. [93]

In the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, the influence of the English language was seen, and modern communication/printing press arose as an effect of British rule, especially in the areas that were part of the Madras Presidency. Literature from this time had a mix of classical and modern traditions and included works by such scholars as Gidugu Venkata Ramamoorty, Kandukuri Veeresalingam, Gurajada Apparao, Gidugu Sitapati and Panuganti Lakshminarasimha Rao. [89]

Since the 1930s, what was considered an "elite" literary form of the Telugu language has now spread to the common people with the introduction of mass media like movies, television, radio and newspapers. This form of the language is also taught in schools and colleges as a standard. [94]

Post-independence period

Telugu is one of the 22 languages with official status in India. [95] The Andhra Pradesh Official Language Act, 1966, declares Telugu the official language of the state that is currently divided into Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. [96] [97] It also has official language status in the Yanam district of the union territory of Puducherry. It is the fourth most spoken Indian language in India after Hindi, Bengali and Marathi. [98] It is one of the six classical languages of India. [99] [100]

Telugu Language Day is celebrated every year on 29 August, the birthday of Telugu poet Gidugu Venkata Ramamurthy. [101] [102] The fourth World Telugu Conference was organised in Tirupati in the last week of December 2012. Issues related to Telugu language policy were deliberated at length. [103] [104] The American Community Survey has said that data for 2016 which were released in September 2017 showed Telugu is the third most widely spoken Indian language in the US. Hindi tops the list followed by Gujarati, as of the 2010 census. [105] [106]

Geographic distribution

Geographic distribution of Telugu immigrants in light blue; Telugu is native to dark blue. Telugu speakers in India.png
Geographic distribution of Telugu immigrants in light blue; Telugu is native to dark blue.

Telugu is natively spoken in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and Yanam district of Puducherry. Telugu speakers are also found in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, some parts of Jharkhand and the Kharagpur region of West Bengal in India. Many Telugu immigrants are also found in the states of Gujarat, Goa, Bihar, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. At 7.2% of the population, Telugu is the fourth-most-spoken native language in India after Hindi, Bengali and Marathi. In Karnataka, 7.0% of the population speak Telugu, and 5.6% in Tamil Nadu. [107]

There are more than 4 lakh Telugu Americans in the United States. [108] [109] As of 2018, Telugu is the fastest-growing language in the United States, with the number of Telugu speakers in the United States increasing by 86% between 2010 and 2017. [110] Minority Telugus are also found in Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain, Canada, Fiji, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Mauritius, Myanmar, Europe (Italy, the United Kingdom), South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Arab Emirates. [13] [14]

Telugu is the official language of the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It is one of the 22 languages under schedule 8 of the constitution of India. It is one of the official languages of the union territories of Puducherry. Telugu is a protected language in South Africa. According to the Constitution of South Africa, the Pan South African Language Board must promote and ensure respect for Telugu along with other languages. [111] The Government of South Africa announced that Telugu will be re-included as the official subject in the South African schools after it was removed from the curriculum in state schools. [16]

In addition, with the creation in October 2004 of a legal status for classical languages by the Government of India on 8 August 2008, Telugu was also given the classical language status due to several campaigns. [112] [22] [113]

Telugu script on Copper plates, Eastern Chalukya, 10th century CE Copper plates NMND-9.JPG
Telugu script on Copper plates, Eastern Chalukya, 10th century CE

Epigraphical records

According to the famous Japanese historian Noboru Karashima who served as the president of the Epigraphical Society of India in 1985, there are approximately 10,000 inscriptions which exist in the Telugu language as of the year 1996 making it one of the most densely inscribed languages. [37] Telugu inscriptions are found in all the districts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. [80] [85] [114] [115] They are also found in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, and Chhattisgarh. [116] [115] [117] [118] According to recent estimates by ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) the number of inscriptions in the Telugu language goes up to 14,000. [85] [119] Adilabad, Nizamabad, Hyderabad, Anantapur, and Chittoor produced no more than a handful of Telugu inscriptions in the Kakatiya era between 1175 CE and 1324 CE. [120] [121]

Geographical influence

Telugu region boundaries

Andhra is characterised as having its own mother tongue, and its territory has been equated with the extent of the Telugu language. The equivalence between the Telugu linguistic sphere and the geographical boundaries of Andhra is also brought out in an eleventh-century description of Andhra boundaries. Andhra, according to this text, was bounded in north by Mahendra mountain in the modern Ganjam district in Odisha and to the south by Srikalahasteeswara temple in Tirupati district.[ citation needed ] However, Andhra extended westwards as far as Srisailam in Nandyal district, about halfway across the modern state. [122] According to other sources in the early sixteenth century, the northern boundary is Simhachalam and the southern limit is Tirumala of the Telugu Nation. [123] [124] [125] [126] [127] [128]

Telugu place names

Telugu place names are present all around Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Common suffixes are -ooru, -pudi, -pedu, -peta, -patnam, -wada, -gallu, -cherla, -seema, -gudem, -palle, -palem and -palli. Examples that use this nomenclature are Nellore, Tadepalligudem, Guntur, Chintalapudi, Yerpedu, Narasaraopeta, Sattenapalle, Visakapatnam, Vizianagaram, Ananthagiri, Vijayawada, Vuyyuru, Macherla, Poranki, Ramagundam, Warangal, Mancherial, Peddapalli, Siddipet, Banswada, and Miryalaguda.


The Old Districts Andhra Pradesh districts map.svg
The Old Districts

There are six major dialects in Modern Telugu: [129]

Colloquially, Telangana, Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra dialects are considered the three Telugu dialects and regions. [130]

Waddar, Chenchu, and Manna-Dora are all closely related to Telugu. [131] Other dialects of Telugu are Berad, Dasari, Dommara, Golari, Kamathi, Komtao, Konda-Reddi, Salewari, Vadaga, Srikakula, Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, Rayalaseema, Nellore, Guntur, Vadari and Yanadi. [132]


The Roman transliteration used for transcribing the Telugu script is the National Library at Kolkata romanisation.

Telugu words generally end in vowels. In Old Telugu, this was absolute; in the modern language m, n, y, w may end a word. Sanskrit loans have introduced aspirated and murmured consonants as well.

Telugu does not have contrastive stress, and speakers vary on where they perceive stress. Most place it on the penultimate or final syllable, depending on word and vowel length. [133]


The table below lists the consonantal phonemes of Telugu, [134] [135] along with the symbols used in the transliteration of the Telugu script used here (where different from IPA).

Telugu consonants
Labial Denti-
Retroflex Post-alv./
Velar Glottal
plain sibilant
Nasal m m n n ɳ
unaspirated p p t t t͡s ts ʈ t͡ʃ c k k
voiced b b d d d͡z dz ɖ d͡ʒ j ɡ g
aspirated* ph th ʈʰ ṭh t͡ʃʰ ch kh
breathy voiced* bh dh ɖʱ ḍh d͡ʒʱ jh ɡʱ gh
Fricative* f f s s ʂ ʃ ś h h
Approximant ʋ v l l ɭ j y
Tap ɾ r

Most consonants contrast in length in word-medial position, meaning that there are long (geminated) and short phonetic renderings of the sounds. A few examples of words that contrast by length of word-medial consonants: [135]

All retroflex consonants occur in intervocalic position and when adjacent to a retroflex consonant, for instance. /ʋɐːɳiː/ vāṇī 'tippet', /kɐʈɳɐm/ kaṭṇam 'dowry', /pɐɳɖu/ paṇḍu 'fruit'; /kɐɭɐ/ kaḷa 'art', /bɐːɭʈi/ bāḷṭi 'bucket' (from Portuguese balde 'bucket'). With the exception of /ɳ/ and /ɭ/, all occur word-initial in a few words, such as /ʈɐkːu/ ṭakku 'pretence', /ʈhiːʋi/ ṭhīvi 'grandeur', /ɖipːɐ/ ḍippā 'half of a spherical object', /ɖɦoːkɐː/ ḍhōkā 'danger', and /ʂoːku/ ṣōku 'fashionable appearance'. [135]

The approximant /j/ occurs in word-initial position only in borrowed words, such as. /jɐnɡu/ yangu, from English 'young', /jɐʃɐsːu/ yaśassu from Sanskrit yaśas /jɐʃɐs/ 'fame'.[ citation needed ]


Vowels in Telugu contrast in length; there are short and long versions of all vowels except for /æ/, which only occurs as long. Long vowels can occur in any position within the word, but native Telugu words do not end in a long vowel. Short vowels occur in all positions of a word, with the exception of /o/, which does not occur word-finally. [135] The vowels of Telugu are illustrated below, along with the Telugu script and romanization.

Vowels (అచ్చులు acchulu)
Front Central Back
Close i ⠀ఇ⠀i ⠀ఈ⠀ī u ⠀ఉ⠀u ⠀ఊ⠀ū
Mid e ⠀ఎ⠀e ⠀ఏ⠀ē o ⠀ఒ⠀o ⠀ఓ⠀ō
Open a ~ ɐ ⠀అ⠀a ~ ɐː ⠀ఆ⠀ā


In most dialects, the vowel /æː/ only occurs in loan words. In the Guntur dialect, [æː] is a frequent allophone of /aː/ in certain verbs in the past tense.

Telugu has two diphthongs: /ai/ai and /au/au.

Roots alter according to whether the first vowel is tense or lax. [137] [ need illustrations ] Also, if the second vowel is open (i.e., /aː/ or /a/), then the first vowel is more open and centralized (e.g., [mɛːka] 'goat', as opposed to [mku] 'nail').[ citation needed ] Telugu words also have vowels in inflectional suffixes that are harmonized with the vowels of the preceding syllable. [138]


The traditional study of Telugu Grammar is known as vyākaraṇam (వ్యాకరణం). The first treatise on Telugu grammar, the Āndhra Śabda Cinṭāmaṇi, was written in Sanskrit by Nannayya, considered the first Telugu poet and translator, in the 12th century CE. This grammar followed patterns described in grammatical treatises such as Aṣṭādhyāyī and Vālmīkivyākaranam, but unlike Pāṇini, Nannayya divided his work into five chapters, covering samjnā, sandhi , ajanta, halanta and kriya. Every Telugu grammatical rule is derived from Pāṇinian concepts.

In the 19th century, Chinnaya Suri wrote a condensed work on Telugu grammar called Bāla Vyākaraṇam, borrowing concepts and ideas from Nannayya's grammar.


Relations between participants in an event are coded in Telugu words through suffixation; there are no prefixes or infixes in the language. [134] There are six word classes in Telugu: nominals (proper nouns, pronouns), verbs (actions or events), modifiers (adjectives, quantifiers, numerals), adverbs (modify the way in which actions or events unfold), and clitics.

Telugu nouns are inflected for number (singular, plural), noun class (three classes traditionally termed masculine, feminine, and neuter) and case (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, vocative, instrumental, and locative). [139]

Word order

The basic word order in Telugu is subject-object-verb (SOV).

{{fs interlinear|lang=tel|indent=3

Noun classes (gender)

As with other Dravidian languages, gender in Telugu follows a semantic system, [140] in the sense that it is mostly the meaning of the word which defines the noun class to which it belongs. There are three noun classes: masculine (human males, he-gender), feminine (human females, she-gender), and neuter (all non-humans, it-gender). The gender of most nouns is encoded through agreement/indexation in pronominal suffixes rather than overtly on the noun. [134]




anna vach-ā-ḍu come-past-MASC

The older brother came





amma vach-in-di

mother come-past-FEM

Mother came

In terms of the verbal agreement system, genders in marking on the Telugu verb only occur in the third person. [134]

Third personSingularPlural



He opened



They opened




She opened



They opened




It opened



They (non-human) opened

The Telugu gender system is different from Dravidian languages like Tamil given that the Telugu feminine shares indexation morphemes with the masculine plural (-ru) and with the neuter singular (-di). What characterizes the three-gender system is then the individual behavior of the singular-plural pairs of suffixes. [140]

GenderVerbal suffixes
Masculine-ḍu/ -ru
Feminine-di/ -ru
Neuter-di/ -yi


Telugu pronouns include personal pronouns (the persons speaking, the persons spoken to, or the persons or things spoken about); indefinite pronouns; relative pronouns (connecting parts of sentences); and reciprocal or reflexive pronouns (in which the object of a verb is acted on by the verb's subject).

Personal pronouns

First (speaker)nēnu (నేను)


manaṃ/manamu (మనం/మనము)


mēmu (మేము)

we but not you

Second (addressee)nīvu/nuvvu (నీవు/నువ్వు)


mīru (మీరు)

you/you guys/you all

Third (topic)aame (ఆమె)


vāḷḷu (వళ్ళు)

they (human)

atanu (అతను)


adi (అది)


avi (అవి)

they (non-human)

In informal Telugu, personal pronouns distinguish masculine from non-masculine. [141] [142]


There is a wide variety of demonstrative pronouns in Telugu, whose forms depend on both proximity to the speaker and the level of formality. The formal demonstratives may also be used as formal personal pronoun, that is, the polite forms for this woman or this man and that woman or that man can also simply mean she and he in more formal contexts.

In the singular, there are four levels of formality when speaking about males and females, although the most formal/polite form is the same for both human genders. In both singular and plural, Telugu distinguishes two levels of distance from speaker (like in English), basically this and that, and these and those.


(close to speaker, "this")


(far from speaker, "that")

very informalidivīḍuidiadivāḍuadi
very formalvīruvāru

In the plural, there are no distinctions between formality levels, but once again masculine and feminine forms are the same, while the neuter demonstratives are different.


(close to speaker, "these")


(far from speaker, "those")


Case system

The nominative case (karta), the object of a verb (karma), and the verb are somewhat in a sequence in Telugu sentence construction. "Vibhakti" (case of a noun) and "pratyāyamulu" (an affix to roots and words forming derivatives and inflections) depict the ancient nature and progression of the language. The "Vibhaktis" of Telugu language " డు [ɖu], ము [mu], వు [vu], లు [lu]", etc., are different from those in Sanskrit and have been in use for a long time.


The lexicon of Telugu shows a pervasive influence of Sanskrit that goes back at least 1000 years; there is also evidence suggesting an earlier influence. It's estimated that 80% of Telugu's lexicon is derived from Sanskrit. [143] [144] Indologist David Shulman states that "Telugu must have swallowed Sanskrit whole, as it were, even before Nannaya." [145] He further notes that "every Sanskrit word is potentially a Telugu word" and that Telugu speech and literary texts are Sanskritized to an "enormous degree". [145] During the period 1000–1100 CE, Nannaya's re-writing of the Mahābhārata in Telugu (మహాభారతము) established the liberal borrowing of Sanskrit words. Telugu absorbed tatsamas from Sanskrit. [146]

The relexification of Dravidian languages by Indo-Iranian languages is not an uncommon occurrence. [147] Likewise is the case of Brahui —a Dravidian language spoken in the Balochistan and upper Sindh regions of Pakistan— with Indo-Iranian (incl. Perso-Arabic) vocabulary accounting for 40% of its lexicon. [148]

The vocabulary of Telugu, especially in Telangana, has a trove of Persian–Arabic borrowings, which have been modified to fit Telugu phonology. This was due to centuries of Turkic rule in these regions, such as the erstwhile kingdoms of Golkonda and Hyderabad (e.g., కబురు, /kaburu/ for Urdu /xabar/, خبر or జవాబు, /dʒavaːbu/ for Urdu /dʒawɑːb/, جواب).

Modern Telugu vocabulary can be said to constitute a diglossia because the formal, standardised version of the language is either lexically Sanskrit or heavily influenced by Sanskrit, as taught in schools, and used by the government and Hindu religious institutions. However, everyday Telugu varies in such features depending upon region.[ citation needed ]

Writing system

The word Telugu written in the Telugu script Telugu.svg
The word Telugu written in the Telugu script
Consonants - hallulu (hllulu) Telugu consonants.svg
Consonants – hallulu (హల్లులు)

The Telugu script is an abugida consisting of 60 symbols — 16 vowels, 3 vowel modifiers, and 41 consonants. Telugu has a complete set of letters that follow a system to express sounds. The script is derived from the Brahmi script like those of many other Indian languages. [149] [150] The Telugu script is written from left to right and consists of sequences of simple and/or complex characters. The script is syllabic in nature—the basic units of writing are syllables. Since the number of possible syllables is very large, syllables are composed of more basic units such as vowels ("acchu" or "swaram") and consonants ("hallu" or "vyanjanam"). Consonants in consonant clusters take shapes that are very different from the shapes they take elsewhere. Consonants are presumed pure consonants, that is, without any vowel sound in them. However, it is traditional to write and read consonants with an implied "a" vowel sound. When consonants combine with other vowel signs, the vowel part is indicated orthographically using signs known as vowel "mātras". The shapes of vowel "mātras" are also very different from the shapes of the corresponding vowels.

Historically, a sentence used to end with either a single bar। ("pūrna virāmam") or a double bar॥ ("dīrgha virāmam"); in handwriting, Telugu words were not separated by spaces. However, in modern times, English punctuation (commas, semicolon, etc.) has virtually replaced the old method of punctuation. [151]

Telugu has full-zero ("anusvāra" or "sunna" ) ( ం ), half-zero ("arthanusvāra" or " candrabindu " or "ara-sunna" ) (ఁ) and visarga ( ః ) to convey various shades of nasal sounds. [la] and [La], [ra] and [Ra] are differentiated. [151]

Telugu has ĉ [t͡s] and ĵ [d͡z], which are not represented in Sanskrit.

Wall painting at a shop in India. It first shows the painted party symbols of all the major political parties in the region during the nationwide elections in India in 2014. It also has a Telugu inscription showing availability of political flags, banners, caps, badges and other election material. ennikl prcaar saamgri dukaannmu.jpg
Wall painting at a shop in India. It first shows the painted party symbols of all the major political parties in the region during the nationwide elections in India in 2014. It also has a Telugu inscription showing availability of political flags, banners, caps, badges and other election material.

Telugu Guṇintālu (తెలుగు గుణింతాలు)

These are some examples of combining a consonant with different vowels.
క కా కి కీ కు కూ కృ కౄ కె కే కై కొ కో కౌ క్ కం కః
ఖ ఖా ఖి ఖీ ఖు ఖూ ఖృ ఖౄ ఖె ఖే ఖై ఖొ ఖో ఖౌ ఖ్ ఖం ఖః

Number system

Telugu has ten digits employed with the Hindu–Arabic numeral system. However, in modern usage, the Arabic numerals have replaced them.

sunna (Telugu form of Sanskrit word śūnyam)okaṭirenḍumūḍunāluguaiduāruēḍuenimiditommidi

Telugu is assigned Unicode codepoints: 0C00-0C7F (3072–3199). [152]

Telugu [1] [2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
1. ^ As of Unicode version 15.0
2. ^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


The Pre-Nannaya Period (before 1020 CE)

In the earliest period Telugu literature existed in the form of inscriptions, precisely from 575 CE onward. Metrically composed Telugu inscriptions and those with ornamental or literary prose appear from 630 CE. [86] [87] Most scholars posit that Telugu literature existed prior to Nannaya (11th century), the first known Telugu poet. [85] :16 T. Vijay Kumar notes, "Since no literary texts in Telugu pre-dating 1020 C.E. have so far actually been discovered, the existence of any pre-Nannaya literature remains a matter of speculation and debate." [87]

The Age of the Puranas (1020–1400 CE)

This is the period of Kavitrayam or Trinity of Poets. Nannayya, Tikkana, and Yerrapragada (or Errana) are known as the Kavitrayam.

Nannaya's (Telugu: నన్నయ) Andhra Mahabharatam written in early 11th century is commonly referred to as the first Telugu literary composition (Aadi Kavyam). [87] Although there is evidence of Telugu literature before Nannaya, he is given the epithet Aadi Kavi ("the first poet"). Nannaya Bhattu acknowledged the help extended to him by his friend Narayana Bhattu in his composition in fields like making choices of grammatical forms, metres, form of the book, etc. and compares it to that extended to Arjuna by God Sri Krishna in the Bharata war. Nannaya was the first to establish a formal grammar of written Telugu. This grammar followed the patterns which existed in grammatical treatises like Aṣṭādhyāyī and Vālmīkivyākaranam but unlike Pāṇini, Nannayya divided his work into five chapters, covering samjnā, sandhi, ajanta, halanta and kriya.[14] Nannaya completed the first two chapters and a part of the third chapter of the Mahabharata epic, which is rendered in the Champu style.

Tikkana Somayaji (1205–1288 CE): Nannaya's Andhra Mahabharatam was almost completed by Tikanna Somayaji (Telugu: తిక్కన సోమయాజి) (1205–1288) who wrote chapters 4 to 18.

Yerrapragada: (Telugu: ఎర్రాప్రగడ) who lived in the 14th century, finished the epic by completing the third chapter. He mimics Nannaya's style in the beginning, slowly changes tempo and finishes the chapter in the writing style of Tikkana. These three writers – Nannaya, Tikanna and Yerrapragada – are known as the Kavitraya ("three great poets") of Telugu. Other such translations like Marana's Markandeya Puranam, Ketana's Dasakumara Charita, Yerrapragada's Harivamsam followed. Many scientific works, like Ganitasarasangrahamu by Pavuluri Mallana and Prakirnaganitamu by Eluganti Peddana, were written in the 12th century.[ relevant? ]

Sumati Satakam, which is a neeti ("moral"), is one of the most famous Telugu Satakams.[ citation needed ] Satakam is composed of more than a 100 padyalu (poems). According to many literary critics[ who? ] Sumati Satakam was composed by Baddena Bhupaludu (Telugu: బద్దెన భూపాల) (CE 1220–1280). He was also known as Bhadra Bhupala. He was a Chola prince and a vassal under the Kakatiya empress Rani Rudrama Devi, and a pupil of Tikkana.[ citation needed ] If we assume that the Sumati Satakam was indeed written by Baddena, it would rank as one of the earliest Satakams in Telugu along with the Vrushadhipa Satakam of Palkuriki Somanatha and the Sarveswara Satakam of Yathavakkula Annamayya.[ original research? ] The Sumatee Satakam is also one of the earliest Telugu works to be translated into a European language, as C. P. Brown rendered it in English in the 1840s.

Palkuriki Somanatha: Important among his Telugu language writings are the Basava Purana, Panditaradhya charitra, Malamadevipuranamu and Somanatha Stava–in dwipada metre ("couplets"); Anubhavasara, Chennamallu Sisamalu, Vrishadhipa Shataka and Cheturvedasara–in verses; Basavodharana in verses and ragale metre (rhymed couplets in blank verse); and the Basavaragada.

Gona Budda Reddy: His Ranganatha Ramayanam was a pioneering work in the Telugu language on the theme of the Ramayana epic. Most scholars believe he wrote it between 1300 and 1310 A.D., possibly with help from his family. The work has become part of cultural life in Andhra Pradesh and is used in puppet shows.

In the Telugu literature Tikkana was given agraasana (top position) by many famous critics.

Paravastu Chinnayya Soori (1807–1861) is a well-known Telugu writer who dedicated his entire life to the progress and promotion of Telugu language and literature. Sri Chinnayasoori wrote the Bala Vyakaranam in a new style after doing extensive research on Telugu grammar. Other well-known writings by Chinnayasoori are Neethichandrika, Sootandhra Vyaakaranamu, Andhra Dhatumoola, and Neeti Sangrahamu.

Kandukuri Veeresalingam (1848–1919) is generally considered the father of modern Telugu literature. [153] His novel Rajasekhara Charitamu was inspired by the Vicar of Wakefield. His work marked the beginning of a dynamic of socially conscious Telugu literature and its transition to the modern period, which is also part of the wider literary renaissance that took place in Indian culture during this period. Other prominent literary figures from this period are Gurajada Appa Rao, Viswanatha Satyanarayana, Gurram Jashuva, Rayaprolu Subba Rao, Devulapalli Krishnasastri and Srirangam Srinivasa Rao, popularly known as Mahakavi Sri Sri. Sri Sri was instrumental in popularising free verse in spoken Telugu (vaaduka bhasha), as opposed to the pure form of written Telugu used by several poets in his time. Devulapalli Krishnasastri is often referred to as the Shelley of Telugu literature because of his pioneering works in Telugu Romantic poetry.

Viswanatha Satyanarayana won India's national literary honour, the Jnanpith Award for his magnum opus Ramayana Kalpavrukshamu . [154] C. Narayana Reddy won the Jnanpith Award in 1988 for his poetic work, Viswambara. Ravuri Bharadhwaja won the 3rd Jnanpith Award for Telugu literature in 2013 for Paakudu Raallu, a graphic account of life behind the screen in film industry. [155] Kanyasulkam , the first social play in Telugu by Gurajada Appa Rao, was followed by the progressive movement, the free verse movement and the Digambara style of Telugu verse. Other modern Telugu novelists include Unnava Lakshminarayana (Maalapalli), Bulusu Venkateswarulu (Bharatiya Tatva Sastram), Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao and Buchi Babu.


Telugu support on digital devices

Telugu input, display, and support were initially provided on the Microsoft Windows platform. Subsequently, various browsers, computer applications, operating systems, and user interfaces were localized in Telugu language for Windows and Linux platforms by vendors and free and open-source software volunteers. Telugu-capable smart phones were also introduced by vendors in 2013. [156]

See also

Related Research Articles

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