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Excerpts from the 1906 edition of Linguistic Survey of India (Telugu)




Telugu is the principal language of the Eastern part of the Indian Peninsula from Madras to Bengal, and it is spoken by about 20 millions people.


Name of the Language


The language is called Telugu or Tenugu. Formerly it was often called Gentoo by the Europeans. Gentoo is a corruption of the Portuguese gentio, a heathen, and was originally applied to all Hindus as opposed to the Moros or moors, i.e. the Muhammadans. Another name is Andhra, which word is already used in the Aitareya-Brahmana to denote an Indian people. The Andhras are also mentioned in the aSOka Inscriptions (3rd century B.C.). Pliny calls them Andarae. We do not know anything about the origin of this last name


The people themselves call their language Telugu or Tenugu. This word is generally supposed to be a corruption of Sanskrit Trilinga. It is explained as meaning ‘the country of the three lingas,’ and a tradition is quoted according to which Siva, in the form of a linga, descended upon the three mountains kALESvara, SrISaila, and BhImESvara, and that those mountains marked the boundaries of the Telugu country.

In favour of this derivation other forms of the word, such as Telunga, Telinga, and Tenunga are urged, and it is pointed out that Trilinga, in the form "Tr i ¢ l i g g o n" occurs in Ptolemy as the name of a locality to the east of the Ganges. Other scholars compare Trilinga with other 1ocal names mentioned by Pliny, such as Bolingae, Maccocalingae, and Modogalingam. The latter name is given as that of an island in the Ganges. Mr. 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 Asoka Inscriptions, and in the form Kling, it has become, in the Malay country, the common word for the people of Continental India.


All these derivations are based on the supposition that Trilinga, and not Telugu, is the original form of the word. This supposition is, however, just as improbable as the derivation of Tamil from Dravida. The old Aryan name for the Telugu country seems to be Andhra, and the replacing of this term by Trilinga seems to be due to an adaptation by the Aryans of a Telugu word. Such a word could probably only be borrowed through the medium of a Prakrit dialect, and in the Prakrits we must suppose the form to have been Telinga. It seems probable that the base of this word is teli, and that nga, or gu is the common Dravidian formative element. At all events, the derivation from Trilinga is so uncertain that it cannot be safely adhered to. A base teli occurs in Telugu teli, bright; teliyuTa, to perceive, etc. But it would not be safe to urge such an etymology. Telugu pandits commonly state Tenugu to be the proper forn1 of the word, and explain this as the ‘mellifluous language,’ from tEne, honey. The word Kalinga might be derived from the same base as Telugu kaluguTa, to live to exist, and would then simply mean ‘man.’


Under such circumstances I think we had better follow the opinion held by C.P. Brown, who rejected all etymologies of the word which had hitherto been brought forward, and regarded the word as not derived from any known root.


In the Tamil country, the Telugu language is known as vaDugu, the northern language, from vaDa, north. Vadga is apparently derived from vaDa in exactly the same way as Telugu from teli. From Vadugu is derived the names Waruga in old German books, and Badages which was used by the early Portuguese and in the letters of St. Francis Xavier.


Area within which spoken


The Telugu country is bounded towards the east by the Bay of Bengal from about Barwa in the Ganjam District in the north to near Madras in the south. From Barwa the frontier line goes westwards through Ganjam to the Eastern Ghats, and then south-westwards, crosses the Sabari on the border of the Sunkam and Bijji Talukas in the Bastar State, and thence runs along the range of the Bela Dila to the Indravati. It follows that river to its confluence with the Godavari, and then runs through Chanda, cutting off the southern part of that district, and farther eastwards, including the southern border of the district of Wun. It then turns southwards to the Godavari, at its confluence with the Manjira, and thence farther south, towards Bidar, where Telugu meets with Kanarese. The frontier line between the two forms of speech then runs almost due south through the dominions of the Nizam. The Telugu country further occupies the north-eastern edge of Bellary, the greater, eastern, part of Anantapur, and the eastern corner of Mysore. Through North Arcot and Chingleput the borderline thence runs back to the sea.


Linguistic Boundaries


Telugu is bordered on the north by Oriya and the hal(a)bI Dialect, gOnDI and marAThi, on the west by marAThi and Kanarese, and on the south by Tamil.




Telugu is not a uniform language over the whole territory where it is spoken as a vernacular. … We have not sufficient materials for sketching out the dialectic varieties existing in the various localities. Most of them do not fall within the scope of this Survey. The dialects known from Northern India do not differ much from the Standard form of the language. In Chanda, for instance, the local Telugu is known under several denominations such as kOmTAu, sAlEwArI, and gOlarI. In reality, however, the difference in phonology and inflexional system is so unimportant that these local forms scarcely deserve the name of a dialect.


Caste dialects of Telugu are also spoken in the Kanarese country and in Bombay. Three such dialects have been returned for the use of this survey, bEraDI and dAsarI from Belgaum, and kAmAThI from Bombay Town and Island. A similar dialect is the so-called vaDarI, spoken by a vagrant tribe in the Bombay Presidency, Berar and other districts. None of them, however, differs much from the ordinary form of the language.


On the other hand, the difference between the conversational language and the literary form is considerable. This point will be mentioned in connexion with Telugu literature in what follows.


Number of speakers


The greatest part of the speakers of Telugu 1ive outside the territory included in the operations of the Linguistic Survey. It is only from the Central Provinces and the Berars that estimates of the number of speakers hare been made for the purposes of this survey. For the other districts the figures given below have been taken from the reports of the Censuses of 1891 and 1901.


The number of speakers of Telugu in those districts in which it is the home language may be estimated as follows:-


Census of 1891

Census of 1901

Central Provinces (Chanda & Bastar)

99 527

79 927

Berar, Wun

28 750

23 006

Bengal Presidency (Orissa)

11 632

14 226

Madras Presidency (Ganjam to Sandur)

12 017 002

12 575 079


5 031 069

5 148 302


751 000

835 046




Andamans and Nicobars





5 259




Bengal Presidency (Bengal)


4 454


14 488

12 425

Bombay Presidency

62 860

109 998



96 601

Central Provinces

21 295

22 654


3 751

2 974

Madras Presidency (Tamil and Kannada Areas)

1 694 466

1 760 361

North-West Frontier






United Provinces






Central India






By adding all these figures we arrive at the following grand total for Telugu and its dialects:-

Census of 1891

Census of 1901

Telugu spoken at home

17 938 980

18 675 586

Telugu spoken abroad

1 796 860

2 016 974

Telugu spoken dialects

48 061

4 704


19 783 901

20 697 264

{Editorial Note:

The above is an abridged version. The original survey listing by Grierson contains full break down of population according sub-regions and gives a more interesting picture in comparison to the current statistics and popular notions about Telugu people.


For example, the Telugu speaking people in the Tamil areas of Madras Presidency in 1901 were 1.69 million. The Tamil population in the same area was 16.86 million. Therefore, in 1901, Telugus were about 9% of the population within the areas comprising of modern Tamil Nadu. The same number today is a mere 2%. The drastic difference cannot be due to falling fertility rates of Telugu population in Tamil Nadu. A big proportion of Telugu people in Tamil areas had basically assimilated with Tamil population. This process is in great measure a result of three factors: State reorganization; Pressure from Tamil people and Tamil Government policies; and not the least, Telugu people from Andhra Pradesh ignoring needs of and almost creating an alienating atmosphere towards the Telugu diaspora in Tamil Nadu.}



The greater part of Telugu literature consists of poetry and is written in a dialect which differs widely from the colloquial form of the language.


According to tradition the first Telugu author was KaNva, who lived at the court of Andhra-rAya. During the reign of that king Sanskrit is said to have been introduced to the Telugu country, and KaNva is supposed to have dealt with Telugu grammar after the methods of Sanskrit philologists. His work is now lost, and the earliest extant work in Telugu belongs roughly to A.D. 1050. About that time King VishNuvardhana, alias RAjarAjanarendra (A.D. 1022-1063) was a great patron of Telugu literature, and at his court lived Nannaya Bhatta, the author of the oldest extant Telugu grammar, and, according to tradition, the principal author of the Telugu version of the Mahabharata.


The bulk of Telugu literature belongs to the 14th and subsequent centuries. In the beginning of the 16th century the court of King Krishna Rayalu of Vijayanagar was famous for its learning, and various branches of literature were eagerly cultivated. The poet VEmana is supposed by some authorities to have lived during the 16th century. Bishop Caldwell places him a century later. A collection of aphorisms on religious and moral subjects is attributed to him.


Some particulars about Telugu literature will be found in J. Boyle, Telugu Ballad Poetry. Indian Antiquary, Vol. iii, 1871, pp. 1 and ff.; and G.R. Subramiah Pantulu, Discursive Remarks on the Augustan Age of Telugu Literature. Indian Antiquary, Vol.xxvi, 1898, pp. 244 and ff., 275.and ff., 281 and ff.; Some Milestones in Telugu Literature, ib. xxxi, 1902, pp. 40 and ff.






It has already been stated that the Telugu language has been known under several different denominations. The first name which meets us is Andhra, under which denomination it is mentioned by the Chinese pilgrim Hwen Thsang who visited India in the 7th century A.D. He tells us that the Andhras had a language of their own, written in an alphabet which did not much differ from those used in Northern India. The well-known Indian author KumArila BhaTTa mentions the Andhra-drAviDa-bhAshA.


St. Francis Xavier and the old Portuguese writers mention the Telugu people. According to a note furnished to Bishop Caldwell by C. P. Brown ‘the early French missionaries in the Guntur country wrote a vocabulary "de la langue Talenga, dite vulgairement le Badega."’ Compare Col. Yule’s Hobson-Jobson sub voce Badaga.


According to the same authority Gentoo as a name of the Telugu people was first used in A.D. 1648, in Jehan Van Twist’s Generall Beschrijfvinge van Indien, printed in Amsterdam.


The earliest account of the Telugu language is given by Frederic Bolling, in a work the full title of which is as follows:-

Friderici Bollingii Oost-Indiske Reise-bog hvor udi Befattis hans Reise til Oost-Indien saa vel og Eendeel Platzers Beskrifvelse med en Andtall Hedningers Ceremonier, baade i deris Guds-Tieniste saa og i deris Ecteskabs Begyndelse end og Negotierne med de regierendis itzige Hollandske Herrers Andkomst, Gage, Promotion og Polltie udi Oost-Indien diszligeste Hans Reise til Fæ(ae)derne-Landen igjen. Kiobenhafn, 1678. P. 69 deals with ‘Cormandel.’ We are told that the pagans living near Masulipatnam are called Yantives, and those about ‘Tranquebare or Dannisburg’ Mallebars. The numerals of the ‘Yantives’ are:-










































yeroi occati














John Fryer who published A New Account of East India and Persia in 8 Letters; being 9 years’ Travels. Begun 1672. And finished 1681. London 1698, states on p. 33, that ‘their language they call generally Gentu ----the peculiar Name of their speech is Telinga.’


The Gentoo language is further mentioned in Madras records from 1683 and 1719. See Yule’s Hobson-Jobson under Gentoo.


The ‘Talenga’ language is alluded to by Hadrianus Relandus De linguis insularaum quarundam orientalium, printed in his Dissertationes miscellaneae. Trajecti ad Rhenum 1706.


Valentijn Oud en Niew Oost-Indien, Amsterdam 1724-1726, tells us that ‘Jentiefs’ or ‘Telingaas’ is the vernacular of Golconda.


Some old authors confound the Telugu spoken on the confines of Orissa with OriyA, So Adelung in his Mithridates oder allgemiene Sprachenkunde . . . Vol. I, Berlin 1806, p 232. He states that the language is also called Badaga and in Orissa, Uriasch. He states that Anquetil Duperron declared the dialect to be closely related to Sanskrit while Sonnerat was unable to find any trace of that language. In other words, Anquetil Duperron meant OriyA, and Sonnerat Telugu. Adelung further mentions the fact that grammars and vocabularies of the language are found in the collections of manuscripts in the National Library in Paris. The old French vocabulary ‘de la langue Telenga dite vulgairement le Badega,’ mentioned above is probably one of those manuscripts.


The Danish missionary Benjamin Schulze was the first European who made a thorough study of the language. Adelung mentions a ‘Warugian’ Grammar written in the year 1728, which was probably written by him. He translated the Bible into Telugu, published a Catechismus telugicus minor, Halle, 1746; Colloquium religiosum telugice, Halle, 1747; Perspicua Explicatio Doctrinae Christianae secundum Ordinem quinque Capitum Catechismi majoris ex Lingua Tamulica in Telugicam versa, Halle, 1747, and so forth. He also gave an account of the alphabet in his Conspectus litteratturae Telugicae, vulgo Barugicae secundum figurationem et vocalium et consonantium, quae frequentissimo in usu sunt, studio omissis, quae in sacro codice non occurrunt, nec non eorundem multifariam variationem hic ordine alphabetico propriis characteribus ab invicem distincte appositam; sicut lingua ipsa in India orientali, nempe Madrastae, et in omnibus regionibus ubi vernacula est, auditur, Halle, 1747.


The language is again mentioned by Father Norbert in his Memoires historiques, Luques (Avignon), 1744.


47 Telugu words collected by Greg. Sharpe era printed in the Appendix to Thomas Hyde’s Syntagma Dissertationum. Oxoniae 1767, and the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, taken from a manuscript by Fra Paolino da S. Bartolomeo, has been printed by Adelung in his Mithridates, Vol. iv., p.76.


The Telugu language is also alluded to in severa1 books of Travels, e.g. by Anquetil Duperron (1771), Sonnerat (1781), Rennell (1793), Perrin (1807) and others.


A Telugu grammar was printed at Madras in 1807, and a new translation of the New Testament was issued from the press of the Serampore mission 1816, followed by a version of the Pentateuch, Serampore 1831. These works carry us down to modern times.


First posted on the World Wide Web: March 1999.
The original work was published in 1906 and subsequently reprinted by Motilal Banarsidass in 1967. Suggestions, additions and corrections to the above will be gratefully appreciated.
Electronic conversion and compilation carried out by:
Seshu Madhava Rao Adluri  
{Electronic conversion proved to be of considerable difficulty even with the best available software. It was especially so with the italics and characters around special symbols. Can any one kindly point out the tricks of the trade?}




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