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.

Telugu Vyanjana Ucchārana Pattika8Prayatna NiyamāvaliKanthyamu
(jihvā Mūlam)Tālavyamu
(jihvā Madhyam)Mūrdhanyamu
(adhōstamu)Sparśam, Śvāsam, AlpaprānamkacaTata-paSparśam, Śvāsam, MahāprānamkhachaThatha-phaSparśam, Nādam, AlpaprānamgajaDada-baSparśam, Nādam, MahāprānamghajhaDhadha-bhaSparśam, Nādam, Alpaprānam,
Anunāsikam, Dravam, AvyāhatamnganjaNana-maAntastham, Nādam, Alpaprānam,
Dravam, Avyāhatam-yara (Lunthitam)
La (Pārśvikam)la (Pārśvikam)
Ra(Kampitam)va-Ūshmamu, Śvāsam,Mahāprānam, AvyāhatamVisargaśashasa--Ūshmamu, Nādam,Mahāprānam, Avyāhatamha-----


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.

Teluguరాముడు (Ramudu) బంతిని (bantini) కొట్టాడు(kottaadu)Literal translation Rama ball hitReformatted"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:

Instrumental Ramunitoరామునితో(తో; to)DativeRamunikiరామునికి(కి; ki or కు; ku)AblativeRamudinunchiరాముడినుంచి(నుంచి; nunchi)GenitiveRamuniరాముని(ని; ni)

These agglutinations apply to all nouns, generally, in the singular and plural.

Here is how other cases are manifested in Telugu:


CaseUsageEnglish exampleTelugu exampleAdessive caseadjacent locationnear/at/by the houseఇంటి/పక్క /ɪŋʈɪprakːa/Inessive caseinside somethinginside the houseఇంట్లో /ɪŋʈloː/Locative caselocationat/on/in the houseఇంటిదగ్గర /ɪŋʈɪd̪agːara/Superessive caseon the surfaceon (top of) the houseఇంటిపై /ɪŋʈɪpaj/


CaseUsageEnglish exampleTelugu exampleAllative casemovement to (the adjacency of) somethingto the houseఇంటికి /ɪŋʈɪkɪ/, ఇంటివైపు /ɪŋʈɪvajpu/Delative casemovement from the surfacefrom (the top of) the houseఇంటిపైనుంచి /ɪŋʈɪnɪɲcɪ/Egressive casemarking the beginning of a movement or timebeginning from the houseఇంటినుంచి /ɪŋʈɪnɪɲcɪ/ (ఇంటికెల్లి /ɪŋʈɪkelːɪ/ in some dialects)Elative caseout of somethingout of the houseఇంటిలోనుంచి /ɪŋʈɪnɪɲcɪ/ (ఇంట్లకెల్లి /ɪŋʈlakelːɪ/ in some dialects)Illative casemovement into somethinginto the houseఇంటిలోనికి /ɪŋʈɪloːnɪkɪ/ (ఇంట్లోకి /ɪŋʈloːkɪ/)Sublative casemovement onto the surfaceon(to) the houseఇంటిపైకి /ɪŋʈɪpajkɪ/Terminative casemarking the end of a movement or timeas far as the houseఇంటివరకు /ɪŋʈɪvaraku/

Morphosyntactic alignment

CaseUsageEnglish exampleTelugu exampleOblique caseall-round case; any situation except nominativeconcerning the houseఇంటిగురించి /ɪŋʈɪgurɪɲcɪ/


CaseUsageEnglish exampleTelugu exampleBenefactive casefor, for the benefit of, intended forfor the houseఇంటికోసం /ɪŋʈɪkoːsam/ (ఇంటికొరకు /ɪŋʈɪkoraku/)Causal casebecause, because ofbecause of the houseఇంటివలన /ɪŋʈɪvalana/Comitative casein company of somethingwith the houseఇంటితో /ɪŋʈɪt̪oː/Possessive casedirect possession of somethingowned by the houseఇంటియొక్క /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"

Vowel harmony

Like in Turkish, Hungarian and Finnish, Telugu words have vowels in inflectional suffixes harmonized with the vowels of the preceding syllable.

Inclusive and exclusive pronouns

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.

Writing System

The name Telugu written in the Telugu script

The earliest evidence for Brahmi script in South India comes from Bhattiprolu in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.9 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.10 The script also traveled to Rayalaseema region, the original home of the Chalukyas11 The famous tenth century Muslim historian and scholar, Al-Biruni, called Telugu language and script "Andhri."12

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.13

There is also a set of symbols for numerals, though Arabic numbers are typically used.

Telugu is assigned Unicode codepoints: 0C00-0C7F (3072-3199).

Vocabulary examples


Carnatic music

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:

pre-1020 C.E.-pre-Nannayya period
1020-1400-Age of the Puranas
1400-1510-Age of Srinatha
1510-1600-Age of the Prabandhas
1600-1820-Southern period
1820 to date-Modern period

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.5

Jnanpith award winners for Telugu
  • 1970 Viswanatha Satyanarayana
  • 1988 Dr. C. Narayana Reddy

See also

  • Telugu cinema
  • List of Telugu films
  • Telugu slang and swear words
  • List of Telugu language television channels
  • Languages of India
  • List of national languages of India
  • List of Indian languages by total speakers
  • Telugu Cholas
  • Andhra Pradesh


  1. ↑ National Virtual Translation Center, Dravidian Language Family. Retrieved November 13, 2007.
  2. ↑, Image of Indian languages and total speakers. Retrieved February 13, 2007.
  3. ↑ Telugu World, Chandra Sekhar. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  4. ↑ Telugu World, Telugu online. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 AP Online, Languages. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  6. ↑ AP Online, Post-Independence Era. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  7. ↑ Ethnologue, Telugu, A language of India. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  8. Telugulo Chandovisheshaalu, 127.
  9. ↑ Ananda Buddha Vihara, BUDDHIST HERITAGE OF ANDHRA PRADESH. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  10. ↑ The Hindu, Andhra Pradesh. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  11. ↑ G. Durga Prasad, The History of Andhras. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  12. ↑ Al-Biruni, Kitab-ul Hind (New Delhi: National Book Trust).
  13. ↑ Charles Philip Brown, A Grammar of the Telugu Language (London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1857, ISBN 812060041X).


  • Hill, Edward C. 1991. A Primer in Telugu Characters. Indological primers series. New Delhi: Manohar Publications. ISBN 9788185425399.
  • Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju. 1961. Telugu Verbal Bases a Comparative and Descriptive Study. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju, and J. P. L. Gwynn. 1985. A Grammar of Modern Telugu. Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195616644.
  • Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju. 1998. Language, Education and Society. New Delhi: Sage Publications. ISBN 9780761992417.
  • Lisker, Leigh. 1963. Introduction to Spoken Telugu. New York: American Council of Learned Societies.
  • Morris, Henry. 2003. The Telugu Language a Simplified Grammar. Trubner's collection of simplified grammars. London: Trubner. ISBN 9781844530007.
  • Schmitthenner, Peter L. 2001. Telugu Resurgence C.P. Brown and Cultural Consolidation in Nineteenth-Century South India. New Delhi: Manohar. ISBN 9788173042911.
  • Vijayasri, N. 2003. Anaphora in Telugu. Tirupati: Sri Venkateswara University.

External links

All links retrieved November 18, 2015.

  • Telugu Language & Literature.
  • Ethnologue report for Telugu.
  • Brown, Charles Philip. A Telugu-English Dictionary. New ed., thoroughly rev. and brought up to date… 2nd ed. Madras: Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1903.
  • Gwynn, J. P. L. (John Peter Lucius). A Telugu-English Dictionary. Delhi; New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Useful Telugu phrases in English and other Indian languages.
  • Telugu Bhakti Pages.