| Home | Prabandha | Sataka | Script |

 

Top

Previous

Next

Notes on Telugu Script contd..

Under construction…..

General Characteristics of Telugu Script

 

Telugu is a syllabic language. Similar to most languages of India, each symbol in Telugu script represents a complete syllable. There is very little scope for confusion and spelling problems (a "spelling bee" contest in Telugu is unthinkable since every one will score 100%!). In that sense, it is a WYSIWYG script. This form of script is considered to be the most scientific by the linguists. This syllabic script has been achieved by the use of a set of basic symbols, a set of modifier symbols and rules for modification. Officially, there are eighteen vowels, thirty-six consonants, and three dual symbols. Of these, thirteen vowels, thirty five consonants are in common usage There are two alternate symbols, viz., ‘nakAra pollu’ and ‘valapala gilaka (giraka)’ for ‘n’ and ‘r’ consonant sounds, respectively. In addition, symbols used in Sanskrit such as the avagraha are also permitted. Although rare in modern Telugu, use of one symbol from Tamil script ('zh') was also allowed. Each basic letter has at least one more symbol of union to be used when it is a subordinate sound to one or more consonants. Telugu uses the same decimal system that is commonly referred to as the Hindu-Arabic system of numerals. It has its own symbols for numerals. Most often however, modern numerals are used in place of traditional numeric symbols.

Telugu script has the capability to represent almost the entire phonetic spectrum of all Indian (and most world) languages. For example, the only sound of the English language not represented fully in Telugu (in a theoretical sense) is the ‘a’ sound as in ‘apple.’ However, the sound is common in some commonly spoken words such as vaccaanu, veLLaanu, etc. Of the sounds indigenous to India, the current Telugu script does not represent the ‘zh’ sound of tamiL (tamizh) properly. Centuries ago, this sound was a regular part of Telugu pronunciation. Even today, it survives in the form of the letter usually called the ‘banDi rA’ (or by the Sanskritized name SakaTa rEpha). The associated sound however, has degenerated to something close to regular ‘ra.’ Theoretically, it is also the closest sound to the Hindi letter ra/Da as in sarak/saDak. The European/Middle Eastern sound ‘F’ as in ‘father’ is not part of the original Telugu script. But the script has adapted itself to an almost seamless representation of this sound using ‘Pha It must be pointed out that each living linguistic tradition includes several sounds and nuances that are not entirely represented by the rigid written script.  However, all the sounds and nuances are familiar to the practitioners of that language and will not cause any problems.  The ease with which the sounds and their corresponding character associations can be identified defines the ‘soundness’ of the script.  In that sense, Telugu stands as one of the best scripts in the world while maintaining an extensive sound base.  

Since all Indic scripts have descended from braahmee, the similarities between modern dEvanAgari and telugu scripts will become apparent upon close observation. For example, the dEvanAgari (Hindi) letter ‘ka’ if turned by 90 degrees on the side will resemble ‘ka’ in kannaDa. If the central bar in this symbol is omitted, it becomes telugu ‘ka.’ The top bar in dEvanaagari is replaced by short bar with a curl at the end in kannaDa. It becomes a full-fledged tick mark in telugu. Many such simple comparisons can be made. During this process of assimilating braahmee script, telugu took in all the symbolic representations of praakRtaM. It also retained its original sounds that are common to Dravidian linguistic family. These include the short forms of vowels ‘e’ and ‘o’ and consonants 'La' and '~ra' (banDi ra) among other things. For completeness sake, Telugu also invented a couple of letters not generally listed in Sanskrit (long forms of vowels ‘R’ and 'alu') although they are not being used commonly at the present time.

Telugu script has a basic tendency towards circular forms. All the letters and their modifiers can be derived by a combination of parts of circles. The basic character set and the modifiers to basic letters have been illustrated by Sri Srinivas Sirigina. A detailed scheme aimed at teaching the basics of Telugu for Internet users is being developed by Andhra Today with the help of Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University in Hyderabad. Click here for details.

To be continued……

……

……

 

Further Reading

The most famous book in Telugu for teaching the basics of the script has been the pedda baala Siksha. This book was first published in 1847 as the first primer for young children. It contains a wealth of information besides the basics of Telugu and generations of Telugu children have grown up with it. Numerous companies have published it in different forms. A most up to date (and reportedly the best) version was brought out recently:
buDDiga subbaraayan, 1998. "surabhi peddabaalaSiksha," Pub. Educational Products of India, IEHI-line Apts., 3-4-495 Barkatpura, Hyderabad 500227. pp.400. Price: Rs. 49.99.

Besides the pedda baala Siksha, several grammar books also list the basics of the script, e.g.,
Arden, A.H., 1873. "A Progressive Grammar of the Telugu Language," The Christian Literature Society, Madras. The book was reissued and updated several times till recently. Copies are available at the CLS bookstore in Hyderabad.

 


Top

Previous

Next

| Home | Prabandha | Sataka | Script |