Friday, August 21, 2009

Telugu (తెలుగు) is a Dravidian language mostly spoken by the people of Andhra Pradesh, one of the states in India. It is the mother tongue of Andhra Pradesh. It is also spoken in the state of Tamil Nadu where it holds a secondary language status, as well as in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. It is the 14th largest spoken language in the world. Including non-native speakers, it is the most spoken Dravidian language[3] and the third most spoken language in India.[4] It was conferred the status of a Classical language by the Government of India.[5][6]

It is one of the twenty-two official languages of the Republic of India.[7] It is widely spoken in Andhra Pradesh and also spoken in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa, Chattisgarh, Andaman and Nicobar and Puducherry, with major populations in Bengaluru and Chennai (Complete List); the dialects spoken in these places vary greatly from the standard version of the language.


Telugu originated from a hypothesized Proto-Dravidian language. Although Telugu belongs to the South-Central Dravidian language subfamily, it is a highly Sanskritized language. As Telugu savant C.P Brown states in page 35 of his book "A Grammar of the Telugu language": "if we ever make any real progress in the language the student will require the aid of the Sanskrit Dictionary, and cannot even talk or write Telugu with any ease or precision, unless he masters the first principles Sanskrit orthography." Inscriptions containing Telugu words dated back to 400 BCE were discovered in Bhattiprolu in Guntur district. English translation of one inscription as reads: “Gift of the slab by venerable Midikilayakha".[8]


The etymology of Telugu is not known for certain. It is explained as being derived from trilinga, as in Trilinga Desa, "the country of the three lingas". According to a Hindu legend, Trilinga Desa is the land in between three Shiva temples namely Kaleshwaram, Srisailam and Draksharamam. Trilinga Desa forms the traditional boundaries of the Telugu region.The people who lived in these regions were also referred to as Telaga Caste seems to have been derived from Trilinga Desam. Other forms of the word, such as Telunga, Telinga, Telangana and Tenunga were also seen. It is also said that Trilinga, in the form "Triliggon" occurs in Ptolemy as the name of a locality to the east of the Ganga river. Other scholars compare Trilinga with other local names mentioned by Pliny, such as Bolingae, Maccocalingae, and Modogalingam. The latter name is given as that of an island in the Ganges. A.D. Campbell, in the introduction to his Telugu grammar, suggested that Modogalingam may be explained as a Telugu translation of Trilingam, and compared the first part of the word modoga, with mUDuga, a poetical form for Telugu mUDu, three. Bishop Caldwell, on the other hand, explained Modogalingam as representing a Telugu mUDugalingam, the three Kalingas, a local name which occurs in Sanskrit inscriptions and one of the Puranas. Kalinga occurs in the Ashoka Inscriptions, and in the form Kling, it has become, in the Malay country, the common word for the people of Continental India.

According to K.L. Ranjanam, the word is derived from talaing, who were chiefs who conquered the Andhra region. M.R. Shastri is of the opinion that it is from telunga, an amalgamation of the Gondi words telu, meaning "white", and the pluralization -unga, probably referring to white or fair-skinned people. According to G.J. Somayaji, ten- refers to "south" in Proto-Dravidian, and the word could be derived from tenungu meaning "people of the South".[citation needed]

The ancient name for Telugu land seems to be telinga/telanga desa. It seems probable that the base of this word is teli, and that -nga, or gu is the common Dravidian formative element. A base teli occurs in Telugu (teli meaning "bright" and teliyuTa meaning "to perceive"). However, this etymology is contested. Telugu pandits commonly state Tenugu to be the proper form of the word, and explain this as the ‘mellifluous language’ from tene or honey. However, this claim does not appear to be supported by scholarly opinion. The renunciation[clarification needed] of the name of the language; 'Telugu' is a British legacy that still clings on in the print media. In fact, many of the 'Thelugu' words referred below in this article have to be rewritten to differentiate between 't' and 'th', and similarly 'd' and 'dh' sounds; otherwise some words mean either funny stuff, or a completely different meaning than what an intended word represents, or offensive.


It is possible to broadly define four stages in the linguistic history of the Telugu language:

400 BC – 500 AD

Inscriptions containing Telugu words dated back to 400 BC were discovered in Bhattiprolu in Guntur district. English translation of one inscription reads: “Gift of the slab by venerable Midikilayakha.[8] The discovery of a Brahmi label inscription reading Thambhaya Dhaanam is engraved on the soapstone reliquary datable to 2nd century BC on Paleographical ground proves the fact that Telugu language predates the known conception in Andhra Pradesh. Primary sources are Prakrit/Sanskrit inscriptions found in the region, in which Telugu places and personal names are found. From this we know that the language of the people was Telugu, while the rulers, who were of the Satavahana dynasty, spoke Prakrit.[9] Telugu words appear in the Maharashtri Prakrit anthology of poems (the Gathasaptashathi) collected by the first century BC Satavahana King Hala. Telugu speakers were probably the oldest peoples inhabiting the land between the Krishna andGodavari Rivers.[citation needed]

500 AD – 1100 AD

The first inscription that is entirely in Telugu corresponds to the second phase of Telugu history. This inscription dated 575 AD was found in the Kadapa and Kurnool district region and is attributed to the Renati Cholas. They broke with the prevailing fashion of using Sanskrit and introduced the tradition of writing royal proclamations in the local language. During the next fifty years, Telugu inscriptions appeared in the neighboring Anantapuram and all the surrounding regions. The first available Telugu inscription in the coastal Andhra Pradesh comes from about 633 CE. Around the same time, the Chalukya kings of Telangana also started using Telugu for inscriptions.[citation needed] Telugu was most exposed to the influence of Sanskrit, as opposed to Prakrit, during this period. This period mainly corresponded to the advent of literature in Telugu. This 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 AD).[9] During the time of Nannayya, the literary language diverged from the popular language. This was also a period of phonetic changes in the spoken language.

1100 AD – 1400 AD

The third phase is marked by further stylization and sophistication of the literary language. Ketana (thirteenth century) in fact prohibited the use of spoken words in poetic works.[9] This period also saw the beginning of Muslim rule in the Telangana region.

During this period the separation of Telugu script from the common Telugu-Kannada script took place.[10] Tikkana wrote his works in this script.[citation needed]

1400 AD – 1900 AD

During the fourth phase, Telugu underwent a great deal of change (as did other Indian languages), progressing from medieval to modern. The language of the Telangana region started to split into a distinct dialect due to Muslim influence: Sultanate rule under the Tughlaq dynasty had been established earlier in the northern Deccan during the fourteenth century. South of theGodavari River (Rayalaseema region), however, the Vijayanagara empire gained dominance from 1336 till the late 1600s, reaching its peak during the rule of Krishnadevaraya in the sixteenth century, when Telugu literature experienced what is considered to be its golden age.[9] Padakavithapithamaha, Annamayya, contributed many atcha (pristine) Telugu Padaalu to this great language. In the latter half of the seventeenth century, Muslim rule extended further south, culminating in the establishment of the princely state of Hyderabad by the Asaf Jah dynasty in 1724. This heralded an era of Persian/Arabic influence on the Telugu language, especially among the people of Hyderabad. The effect is also felt in the prose of the early 19th century, as in the Kaifiyats.[9]

1900 AD to date

The period of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries saw the influence of the English language and modern communication/printing press as an effect of the 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 scholars like Kandukuri Viresalingam and Panuganti Lakshminarasimha Rao.[9]

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 as a standard. In the current decade the Telugu language, like other Indian languages, has undergone globalization due to the increasing settlement of Telugu-speaking people abroad. Modern Telugu movies, although still retaining their dramatic quality, are linguistically separate from post-Independence films.

At present, a committee of scholars have approved a classical language tag for Telugu based on its antiquity. The Indian government has also officially designated it as a classical language.[6]

Geographic distribution

Telugu is mainly spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Yanam district of Pondicherry as well as in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa,Chhattisgarh, some parts of Jharkhand and the Kharagpur region of West Bengal in India. It is also spoken in Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain, Canada, Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Ireland,South Africa, the United Arab Emirates,the United States and the United Kingdom where there is a considerable Telugu diaspora. Telugu is the third most spoken language in the Indian subcontinent after Hindi and Bengali.[4]

Telugu As Official Language - Vinukonda History

Telugu was made the official language by the Vishnukundina kings who ruled from their capital Vinukonda.

Official status - After Independence

Telugu is one of the 22 official languages of India. It was declared the official language of Andhra Pradesh when the state was formed in October 1953 on linguistic basis.[11]

Telugu also has official language status in the Yanam District of the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
See also: States of India by Telugu speakers


Waddar,[12] Chenchu,[13] Savara,[14] and Manna-Dora[15] are all closely related to Telugu.[16] Dialects of Telugu are Berad, Dasari, Dommara, Golari, Kamathi, Komtao, Konda-Reddi, Salewari, Telangana, Telugu, Vijayawada, Vadaga, Srikakula, Visakhapatnam, Toorpu (East) Godavari, Paschima (West) Godavari, Kandula, Rayalaseema, Nellooru, Prakasam, Guntooru, Tirupati, Vadari and Yanadi (Yenadi).[17]

In Tamil Nadu the Telugu dialect is classified into Salem, Coimbatore, and Chennai Telugu dialects. It is also widely spoken in Virudhunagar, Tuticorin, Madurai and Thanjavur districts. Along with the most standard forms of Indian languages like Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Bangla, Gujarati,Oriya and Marathi, Standard Telugu is often called a Shuddha Bhaasha ("pure language").


Nineteenth-century Englishmen called Telugu the Italian of the East as all native words in Telugu end with a vowel sound, but it is believed that Italian explorer Niccolò Da Conti coined the phrase in the fifteenth century. Conti visited Vijayanagara empire during the reign of Vira Vijaya Bukka Raya in 1520s.

Achchulu అచ్చులు (vowels)

Like other major Dravidian languages, the Telugu vowel set adds short /e/ and /o/ in addition to the long /eː/ and /oː/ of theIndo-Aryan languages.
అ-/a/ ఆ -/ɑː/ ఇ -/ɪ/ ఈ-/iː/ ఉ-/u/ ఊ -/uː/ ఋ -/ru/ ౠ -/ruː/ ఎ- /e/ ఏ-/eː/ ఐ -/ai/ ఒ- /o/ ఓ -/oː/ ఔ -/au/ అం-/um/ అః-/aha/

Hallulu హల్లులు (consonants)

క ఖ గ ఘ ఙ
చ ఛ జ ఝ ఞ
ట ఠ డ ఢ ణ
త థ ద ధ న
ప ఫ బ భ మ
య ర ల వ శ ష స హ ళ క్ష ఱ

The letters for the consonants correspond almost one-to-one to the set in Sanskrit. However, the pronunciation of these letters diverges from that of Sanskrit with respect to the aspirated series: in most varieties of spoken Telugu, aspiration is not phonemic. That is, the presence or absence of aspiration in spoken Telugu, does not generally distinguish one word from another. There are two exceptions to the general correspondence of Sanskrit and Telugu consonants in their written form. One is the historical form of /r/ఱ. The other is the retroflex lateral ళ /ɭ/.


Though the Telugu consonant set lists aspirated consonants (both voiced and unvoiced), they're reserved mostly for transcribing Sanskrit borrowings. To most native speakers, the aspirated and unaspirated consonants are practically allophonic (like in Tamil). The distinction is made however, rather strictly, in written or literary Telugu.

0 -౦
1 -౧
2 -౨
3 -౩
4 -౪
5 -౫
6 -౬
7 -౭
8 -౮
9 -౯

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