|Total speakers:||76 million native, 86.1 million total (including second language speakers)|
|Writing system:||Telugu script|
|Official language of:||India|
|Regulated by:||no official regulation|
Telugu (తెలుగు;['t̪elʊgʊ]), a Dravidian language (South-Central Dravidian languages), is the official language of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, and one of the twenty-two official languages of India. Including non-native speakers, it is the most-spoken Dravidian language, and the third most spoken language in India after Hindi and Bengali. Telugu is mainly spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh and in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, and Chhattisgarh in India. It is also spoken in Bahrain, Fiji, Malaysia, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and the United Kingdom, where there is a considerable Telugu diaspora.
Telugu belongs to the South-central Dravidian language subfamily, whose members originated from the Proto-Dravidian spoken in the central part of the Deccan plateau. Most of the songs (kirtanas) of Carnatic music are in Telugu language. Telugu has a long literary tradition, which experienced its "golden age" during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries C.E., often referred to as the "Southern Period." Kandukuri Viresalingam Pantulu (1848-1919) is known as the father of modern Telugu literature. His novel, Rajasekhara Charitamu, inspired by the Vicar of Wakefield, marked the beginning of a dynamic of socially conscious Telugu literature and its transition to the modern period. Kanyasulkam (Bride-Money), the first social play in Telugu by Gurazada Appa Rao, was followed by the progressive movement, the free verse movement and the Digambara style of Telugu verse.
Telugu originated from the Proto-Dravidian language, belonging to the south-central family. Telugu belongs to the South-central Dravidian language subfamily, whose members originated from the Proto-Dravidian spoken in the central part of the Deccan plateau. Other languages of the South-Central group include the rustic Gondi, Konda, Kui, and Kuvi languages, all of which are linguistically closest to Telugu. It is the most widely spoken language in the Dravidian language family.
The etymology of the word 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, Kaleshwaram, Srisailam, and Draksharamam. Trilinga Desa forms the traditional boundaries of the Telugu region. Other forms of the word, such as Telunga, Telinga, and Tenunga also existed. 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 instead 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."
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” (“bright”); “teliyuTa” (“to perceive”), and so on. 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. The word Kalinga might be derived from the same base as Telugu kaluguTa, to live to exist, and would then simply mean "man."
It is possible to broadly define four stages in the linguistic history of the Telugu language:
The discovery of a Brahmi lable inscription, reading Thambhaya Dhaanam, engraved on a soap stone reliquary datable to the second century B.C.E. proves on paleographical grounds that Telugu language predates the known conception in Andhra Pradesh. Primary sources are Prakrit/Sanskrit inscriptions found in the region, which incorporate Telugu places and personal names. From this, we know that the language of the people was Telugu, while the rulers, who were of the Satavahana dynasty, spoke Prakrit. Telugu words appear in the Maharashtri Prakrit anthology of poems, Gathasaptashathi, collected by the first century B.C.E. Satavahana King Hala. Telugu speakers were probably the most ancient peoples to inhabit the land between the Krishna and Godavari rivers.
The first inscription that is entirely in Telugu corresponds to the second phase of Telugu history. This inscription, dated 575 C.E., was found in the Kadapa 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 coastal Andhra Pradesh comes from about 633 C.E.. Around the same time, the Chalukya kings of Telangana also started using Telugu for inscriptions. 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 C.E.). 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.
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. This period also saw the beginning of Muslim rule in the Telangana region.
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 the Godavari 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. In the latter half of the seventeenth century, Muslim rule, now in the hands of the Mughals, strengthened and 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 in the Telugu language, especially among the people of Hyderabad. The effect is also felt in the prose of the early nineteenth century, as in the Kaifiyats.
British rule during the period from the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries introduced influence of the English language and printing presses and modern communication, 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.
Since the 1940s, 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 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.
Telugu is mainly spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh and in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, and Chhattisgarh in India. It is also spoken in Bahrain, Fiji, Malaysia, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and the United Kingdom, where there is a considerable Telugu diaspora. Telugu is the second most widely-spoken language in the country after Hindi.
Telugu is one of the twenty-two official languages of India. It was declared the official language of Andhra Pradesh when the state was formed in October 1953 on linguistic lines.
It also has official language status in the Yanam District of the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
SIL Ethnologue under Telugu lists four languages besides "Telugu proper:"
The dialects of Telugu identified by SIL are Berad, Dasari, Dommara, Golari, Kamathi, Komtao, Konda-Reddi, Salewari, Telangana, Telugu, Vadaga, Srikakula, Vishakhapatnam, East Godavari, West Godavari, Rayalseema, Nellore, Guntur, Vadari, and Yanadi (Yenadi).
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 Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, and Hindi, 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.
Like other major Dravidian languages, the Telugu vowel set adds short /e/ and /o/ in addition to the long /eː/ and /oː/ of the Indo-Aryan languages.
The rhotics ఋ and ౠ (originally /r/ and /rː/), like the liquids ఌ and ౡ (originally /l/ and /lː/) have now turned into the syllables /ru/, /ruː/, /lu/, /luː/ respectively. They are fast going out of currency and are no longer included in the standard Telugu school textbooks issued by the government of Andhra Pradesh, which now prefers the actual consonants with a /u/ appended (e.g. /ruʃɪ/ (monk) used to be written ఋషి but nowadays, రుషి is preferred).
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 consonants correspond almost one-to-one to the set in Sanskrit, with two exceptions. One is the historical form of /r/ఱ which is now again being phased out by the current form ర. (e.g. /gurːam/ (horse) was written గుఱ్ఱం but is now written గుర్రం). The other is the retroflex lateral ళ /ɭ/.
The table below indicates the articulation of consonants in Telugu.
|Sparśam, Śvāsam, Alpaprānam||ka||ca||Ta||ta||-||pa|
|Sparśam, Śvāsam, Mahāprānam||kha||cha||Tha||tha||-||pha|
|Sparśam, Nādam, Alpaprānam||ga||ja||Da||da||-||ba|
|Sparśam, Nādam, Mahāprānam||gha||jha||Dha||dha||-||bha|
|Sparśam, Nādam, Alpaprānam,
Anunāsikam, Dravam, Avyāhatam
|Antastham, Nādam, Alpaprānam,
|Ūshmamu, Śvāsam,Mahāprānam, Avyāhatam||Visarga||śa||sha||sa||-||-|
|Ūshmamu, Nādam,Mahāprānam, Avyāhatam||ha||-||-||-||-||-|
Though the Telugu consonant set lists aspirated consonants (both voiced and unvoiced), they are 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.
In Telugu, Karta కర్త (nominative case or the doer), Karma కర్మ (object of the verb) and Kriya క్రియ (action or the verb) follow a sequence. Telugu also has the Vibhakthi విభక్తి (preposition) tradition.
|Telugu||రాముడు (Ramudu) బంతిని (bantini) కొట్టాడు(kottaadu)|
|Literal translation||Rama ball hit|
|Reformatted||"Rama hit the ball"|
Telugu is often considered an agglutinative language, in which certain syllables are added to the end of a noun in order to denote its case:
|Dative||Ramuniki||రామునికి||(కి; ki or కు; ku)|
These agglutinations apply to all nouns, generally, in the singular and plural.
Here is how other cases are manifested in Telugu:
|Case||Usage||English example||Telugu example|
|Adessive case||adjacent location||near/at/by the house||ఇంటి/పక్క /ɪŋʈɪprakːa/|
|Inessive case||inside something||inside the house||ఇంట్లో /ɪŋʈloː/|
|Locative case||location||at/on/in the house||ఇంటిదగ్గర /ɪŋʈɪd̪agːara/|
|Superessive case||on the surface||on (top of) the house||ఇంటిపై /ɪŋʈɪpaj/|
|Case||Usage||English example||Telugu example|
|Allative case||movement to (the adjacency of) something||to the house||ఇంటికి /ɪŋʈɪkɪ/, ఇంటివైపు /ɪŋʈɪvajpu/|
|Delative case||movement from the surface||from (the top of) the house||ఇంటిపైనుంచి /ɪŋʈɪnɪɲcɪ/|
|Egressive case||marking the beginning of a movement or time||beginning from the house||ఇంటినుంచి /ɪŋʈɪnɪɲcɪ/ (ఇంటికెల్లి /ɪŋʈɪkelːɪ/ in some dialects)|
|Elative case||out of something||out of the house||ఇంటిలోనుంచి /ɪŋʈɪnɪɲcɪ/ (ఇంట్లకెల్లి /ɪŋʈlakelːɪ/ in some dialects)|
|Illative case||movement into something||into the house||ఇంటిలోనికి /ɪŋʈɪloːnɪkɪ/ (ఇంట్లోకి /ɪŋʈloːkɪ/)|
|Sublative case||movement onto the surface||on(to) the house||ఇంటిపైకి /ɪŋʈɪpajkɪ/|
|Terminative case||marking the end of a movement or time||as far as the house||ఇంటివరకు /ɪŋʈɪvaraku/|
|Case||Usage||English example||Telugu example|
|Oblique case||all-round case; any situation except nominative||concerning the house||ఇంటిగురించి /ɪŋʈɪgurɪɲcɪ/|
|Case||Usage||English example||Telugu example|
|Benefactive case||for, for the benefit of, intended for||for the house||ఇంటికోసం /ɪŋʈɪkoːsam/ (ఇంటికొరకు /ɪŋʈɪkoraku/)|
|Causal case||because, because of||because of the house||ఇంటివలన /ɪŋʈɪvalana/|
|Comitative case||in company of something||with the house||ఇంటితో /ɪŋʈɪt̪oː/|
|Possessive case||direct possession of something||owned by the house||ఇంటియొక్క /ɪŋʈɪjokːa/|
While the examples given above are single agglutinations, Telugu allows for polyagglutination, the unique feature of being able to add multiple suffixes to words to denote more complex features:
For example, one can affix both "నుంచి; nunchi - from" and "లో; lo - in" to a noun to denote from within. An example of this: "రాములోనుంచి; ramuloninchi - from within Ramu"
Here is an example of a triple agglutination: "వాటిమధ్యలోనుంచి; vāṭimadʰyalōninchi—from in between them"
Like in Turkish, Hungarian and Finnish, Telugu words have vowels in inflectional suffixes harmonized with the vowels of the preceding syllable.
Telugu exhibits one of the rare features that Dravidian languages share with few others: the inclusive and exclusive “we.” The bifurcation of the First Person Plural pronoun (we in English) into inclusive (మనము; manamu) and exclusive (మేము; mēmu) versions can also be found in Tamil and Malayalam, although it is not used in modern Kannada.
Telugu pronouns follow the systems for gender and respect also found in other Indian languages. The second-person plural మీరు /miːru/ is used in addressing someone with respect, and there are also respectful third-person pronouns (ఆయన /ɑːjana/ m. and ఆవిడ /ɑːvɪɽa/ f.) pertaining to both genders. A specialty of the Telugu language, however, is that the third-person non-respectful feminine (అది /ad̪ɪ/) is used to refer to animals and objects, and no special neuter gender is used.
Like all Dravidian languages, Telugu has a base of words which are essentially Dravidian in origin. Words that describe objects and actions associated with common or everyday life: Like తల; tala (head), పులి; puli (tiger), ఊరు; ūru (town/city) have cognates in other Dravidian languages and are indigenous to the Dravidian language family.
However, Telugu is also largely Sanskritized, that is, it has a wide variety of words of Sanskrit and Prakrit origin. The Indo-Aryan influence can be attributed historically to the rule of the Satavahana kings, who used Prakrit as the official language of courts and government, and to the influence of literary Sanskrit during the eleventh-fourteenth centuries C.E. Today, Telugu is generally considered the Dravidian language with the most Indo-Aryan influence.
The vocabulary of Telugu, especially in the Hyderabad region, has a trove of Persian-Arabic borrowings, which have been modified to fit Telugu phonology. This was due to centuries of Muslim rule in these regions: the erstwhile kingdoms of Golkonda and Hyderabad (e.g. కబురు, /kaburu/ for Urdu /xabar/, خبر or జవాబు, /ɟavɑːbu/ for Urdu /ɟawɑːb/, جواب).
Modern Telugu vocabulary can be said to constitute a diglossia, because the formal, standardized version of the language, heavily influenced by Sanskrit, is taught in schools and used by the government and Hindu religious institutions. However, everyday Telugu varies depending upon region and social status. There is a large and growing middle class whose Telugu is interspersed with English. Popular Telugu, especially in urban Hyderabad, spoken by the masses and seen in movies that are directed towards the masses, includes both English and Hindi/Urdu influences.
The earliest evidence for Brahmi script in South India comes from Bhattiprolu in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. Bhattiprolu was a great centre of Buddhism since the fourth century B.C.E. (Pre-Mauryan time), from which Buddhism spread to east Asia. A variant of Asokan Brahmi script, the progenitor of Old Telugu script, was found on the Buddha’s relic casket. The script also traveled to Rayalaseema region, the original home of the Chalukyas The famous tenth century Muslim historian and scholar, Al-Biruni, called Telugu language and script "Andhri."
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 (“achchu” or “swar”) and consonants (“hallu” or “vyanjan”). Consonants in consonant clusters take shapes which are very different from the shapes they take elsewhere. Consonants are presumed to be 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 “maatras.” The shapes of vowel “maatras” are also very different from the shapes of the corresponding vowels.
The overall pattern consists of sixty symbols, of which sixteen are vowels, three are vowel modifiers, and forty-one are consonants. Spaces are used between words as word separators.
The sentence ends with either a single bar | (“purna virama”) or a double bar || (“deergha virama”). Traditionally, in handwriting, Telugu words were not separated by spaces. Modern punctuation (commas, semicolon, and so on) was introduced with the advent of print.
There is also a set of symbols for numerals, though Arabic numbers are typically used.
Telugu is assigned Unicode codepoints: 0C00-0C7F (3072-3199).
Though Carnatic music has a profound cultural influence on all of the South Indian States and their respective languages, most of the songs (Kirtanas) are in Telugu language. This is because the existing tradition is, to a great extent, an outgrowth of the musical life of the principality of Thanjavur in the Kaveri delta. Thanjavur was the heart of the Chola dynasty (from the ninth century to the thirteenth), but in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, a Telugu Nayak viceroy (Raghunatha Nayaka) was appointed by the emperor of Vijayanagar, thus establishing a court whose language was Telugu. Telugu Nayak rulers acted as the governors in the present day Tamil Nadu area with headquarters at Thanjavur (1530-1674 C.E.) and Madurai(1530-1781 C.E.). After the collapse of Vijayanagar, Thanjavur and Madurai Nayaks became independent and ruled for the next 150 years until they were replaced by Marathas. This was the period when several Telugu families migrated from Andhra and settled down in Thanjavur and Madurai.
Most of the great composers of Carnatic music belonged to these families. Telugu, a language ending with vowels, giving it a mellifluous quality, was also considered suitable for musical expression. Of the trinity of Carnatic music composers, Tyagaraja's and Syama Sastri's compositions were largely in Telugu, while Muttuswami Dikshitar is noted for his Sanskrit texts. Tyagaraja is remembered both for his devotion and the bhava of his krithi, a song form consisting of pallavi (the first section of a song), anupallavi (a rhyming section that follows the pallavi), and charanam (a sung stanza; serves as a refrain for several passages the composition). The texts of his kritis are all, with a few exceptions in Sanskrit, in Telugu (the contemporary language of the court), and this use of a living language, as opposed to Sanskrit, the language of ritual, is in keeping with the bhakti ideal of the immediacy of devotion. Sri Syama Sastri, the oldest of the trinity, was taught Telugu and Sanskrit by his father, who was the pujari (Hindu priest) at the Meenakshi temple in Madurai. Syama Sastri's texts were largely composed in Telugu, widening their popular appeal. Some of his most famous compositions include the nine krithis, Navaratnamaalikā, in praise of the goddess Meenakshi at Madurai, and his eighteen krithi in praise of Kamakshi. As well as composing krithi, he is credited with turning the svarajati, originally used for dance, into a purely musical form.
Telugu literature is generally divided into six periods:
In the earliest period there were only inscriptions, dating from 575 C.E. onwards. Nannaya's (1022-1063) translation of the Sanskrit Mahabharata into Telugu is the only piece of Telugu literature from this period as yet discovered. After the death of Nannaya, there was a kind of social and religious revolution in the Telugu country.
Tikkana (thirteenth century) and Yerrana (fourteenth century) continued the translation of the Mahabharata started by Nannaya. Telugu poetry also flourished in this period, especially in the time of Srinatha.
During this period, some Telugu poets translated Sanskrit poems and dramas, while others attempted original narrative poems. The popular Telugu literary form called the Prabandha evolved during this period. Srinatha (1365-1441) was the foremost poet, who popularized this style of composition (a story in verse having a tight metrical scheme). Srinatha's "Sringara Naishadham" is particularly well-known.
The Ramayana poets may also be referred in this context. The earliest Ramayana in Telugu is generally known as the Ranganatha Ramayana, authored by the chief Gonabudda Reddy. The works of Potana (1450-1510), Jakkana (second half of the fourteenth century) and Gaurana (first half of the fifteenth century) formed a canon of religious poetry during this period.
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries C.E. are regarded as the "golden age" of Telugu literature. Krishnadevaraya's Amuktamalayada, and Peddana's Manucharitra are regarded as Mahakavyas. Telugu literature flourished in the south in the traditional "samsthanas" (centers) of Southern literature, such as Madurai and Tanjore. This age is often referred to as the "Southern Period." There were also an increasing number of poets in this period among the ruling class, women and non-Brahmins, who popularized indigenous (desi) meters.
With the conquest of the Deccan by the Mughals in 1687, Telugu literature entered a lull. Tyagaraja's compositions are some of the known works from this period. Then emerged a period of transition (1850-1910), followed by a long period of Renaissance. Europeans like C.P. Brown played an important role in the development of Telugu language and literature. In common with the rest of India, Telugu literature of this period was increasingly influenced by European literary forms like the novel, short story, prose, and drama.
Kandukuri Viresalingam Pantulu (1848-1919) is known as the father of modern Telugu literature. 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 Rayaprolu Subba Rao, Gurazada Appa Rao, Viswanatha Satyanarayana, Katuri Venkateswara Rao, Jashuva, Devulapalli Venkata Krishna Sastry, and Sri Sri Puttaparty Narayana Charyulu.
Viswanatha Satyanarayana won India's national literary honor, the Jnanpith Award. Kanyasulkam (Bride-Money), the first social play in Telugu by Gurazada 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 (Malapalli), Viswanatha Satyanarayana (Veyi Padagalu), Kutumba Rao and Buchchi Babu.
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