Telugu grammar

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The first treatise on Telugu grammar (Telugu: వ్యాకరణం vyākaraṇam), the Andhra Sabda Chintamani (Telugu: ఆంధ్ర శబ్ద చింతామణి Āndhra śabda cintāmaṇi) was written in Sanskrit by Nannayya, who is considered the first poet (ādikavi) and grammarian of the Telugu language, in the 11th century CE. After Nannayya, Atharvana and Ahobala composed the sutras, the vartikas and the bhashyam.

In the 19th century, Chinnaya Suri wrote a simplified work on Telugu grammar called Bāla Vyākaraṇam (lit. Children's grammar), borrowing concepts and ideas from Nannayya, in Telugu.[1]

According to Nannayya, language without 'Niyama' or the language which does not adhere to Vyākaranam is called Grāmya (lit of the village) or Apabhraṃśa, is unfit for literary usage. All literary texts in Telugu follow the Vyākaraṇam.[1]

Inflection[edit]

Telugu is more inflected than other literary Dravidian languages. Telugu nouns are inflected for number (singular, plural), gender (masculine and non-masculine) and grammatical case (nominative, accusative, instrumental, dative, ablative, genitive, locative, and vocative).[2]

Gender[edit]

Telugu has three genders:

  • masculine (puru liṅgamu),
  • feminine (strī liṅgamu),
  • neuter (napunsaka liṅgamu).

In Telugu the occurrence of the suffix (–ḍu) almost always encodes masculine gender. For example:

  • tammuḍu (younger brother),
  • mukhyuḍu (important man),
  • Rāmuḍu (Rāma),
  • nāyakuḍu (leader).

However, there are nouns that do not end in (-ḍu) that belong to the masculine class.For example:

  • annayya (elder brother),
  • māmayya (uncle).

Most of the words ending in -ḍu are borrowings from Sanskrit words ending in -a, and therefore the feminine forms of these words are equivalent to the Sanskrit words.

Masculine Sanskrit original Feminine
nartakuḍu nartaka nartaki
vācakuḍu vācaka vācaki
premikuḍu premika preyasi

Sometimes, a word ending in -ḍu is feminized by adding the suffix -ālu to the root. The -a ending of the root becomes -ur. This phenomenon is known as the rugāgama sandhi.

Masculine Sanskrit original Feminine
nartakuḍu nartaka nartakurālu
priyuḍu priya priyurālu
bhaktuḍu bhakta bhakturālu

Neuter-gendered words usually contain the suffix -amu. This suffix descends from the Old Telugu suffix -ambu and is increasingly losing the final -u to become -aṁ. These neuter words are often borrowed from Sanskrit neuter-gendered words ending in -a, -am, -i, or -u. The final -a usually becomes -amu, and the final -u becomes -uvu.

Sanskrit original Telugu
citrapaṭam citrapaṭamu
ākāśam ākāśamu
nīra nīru
madhu madhuvu

However, Telugu sometimes uses the same forms for singular feminine and neuter genders – the third person pronoun (అది /ad̪ɪ/) is used to refer to animals and objects.[3]

Number (vachanam)[edit]

Anything with quantity one is singular (ekavachanam). Anything more than one in number is called plural (bahuvachanam), as in English.

In Telugu the plural is also used to address elders with respect. Some nouns are always plural and some are always singular. For example, water (neellu) is always plural.

God (bhagavantudu), sun (suryudu), earth (bhūmi), and moon (chandrudu) are always singular form. However, ḍevullu is a plural form of bhagavantudu, used when referring to multiple deities.

Case (విభక్తి vibhakti)[edit]

Telugu has eight cases.

Telugu English Usual Suffixes Transliteration of Suffixes
Prathamā Vibhakti (ప్రథమా విభక్తి) Nominative డు, ము, వు, లు ḍu, mu, vu, lu
Dvitīyā Vibhakti (ద్వితీయా విభక్తి) Accusative నిన్, నున్, లన్, కూర్చి, గురించి nin, nun, lan, kūrchi, gurinchi
Trutīyā Vibhakti (తృతీయా విభక్తి) Instrumental చేతన్, చేన్, తోడన్, తోన్ chētan, chēn, tōḍan, tōn
Chaturthi Vibhakti (చతుర్థి విభక్తి) Dative కొఱకున్, కై korakun, kai
Panchamī Vibhakti (పంచమీ విభక్తి) Ablative వలనన్, కంటెన్, పట్టి valanan, kaṇṭen, paṭṭi
Shashthī Vibhakti (షష్ఠీ విభక్తి) Genitive కిన్, కున్, యొక్క, లోన్, లోపలన్ kin, kun, yokka, lōn, lōpalan
Saptamī Vibhakti (సప్తమీ విభక్తి) Locative అందున్, ఇందున్, నన్ andun, indun, nan
Sambodhanā Prathamā Vibhakti (సంబోధనా ప్రథమా విభక్తి) Vocative ఓ, ఓయీ, ఓరీ, ఓసీ ō, ōī, ōrī, ōsī


Word order[edit]

Telugu word order is relatively free, and nouns are inflected for case. However, the most common word order tends to be SOV (subject–object–verb).

Sentence రాముడు బడికి వెళ్తాడు.
Words రాముడు బడికి వెళ్తాడు.
Transliteration Rāmuḍu baḍiki veḷtāḍu
Gloss Ram to school goes.
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Ram goes to school.


Punctuation[edit]

Telugu uses single and double vertical bars to indicate a comma and a full stop. However modern Telugu uses punctuation marks which are borrowed from English.[4]

Sandhi or joining[edit]

Sandhi is the fusion of sounds across word boundaries and the alteration of sounds due to neighboring sounds or due to the grammatical function of adjacent words.

Telugu sandhis can be divided into native ones and those derived from Sanskrit ones.

Sanskrit Sandhis[edit]

These sandhis usually take place when the two words undergoing Sandhi are words borrowed from Sanskrit.

Savarṇadīrghasandhi (Vowel lengthening)[edit]

The savarṇadīrgha sandhi, from Sanskrit savarṇa 'same sound' and dīrgha 'long', this sandhi takes place when the first word ends in the same vowel that the second word starts with. The two vowels join to form one long vowel.

Examples of the savarṇadīrgha sandhi
Initial word Final word Result
deva ālayamu dēvālayamu
pārvati īśvaruḍu pārvatīśvaruḍu
aṇu utpatti aṇūtpatti

Guṇasandhi (Vowel raising)[edit]

The guṇasandhi takes place when a word final -a is followed by either -i, -u or -r̥. The sandhi yields -ē, -ō and -ar respectively. -ē, -ō and -ar are collectively called the guṇas, hence the name.

Examples of the guṇasandhi
Initial word Final word Result
mahā indra mahēndra
dhana utpatti dhanōtpatti
dēva ṣi dēvarṣi

Vr̥ddhisandhi (Diphthongization)[edit]

The vr̥ddhisandhi, from Sanskrit vr̥ddhi-, 'growth', takes place when a word final -a is followed by -ē or -ai, -ō or -au, and -ar or -ār, and yields -ai, -au and -ār respectively. -ai, -au and -ār are collectively called the vr̥ddhis, hence the name.

Examples of the vr̥ddhisandhi
Initial word Final word Result
vasudha ēka vasudhaika
mahā aikyata mahaikyata
vīra ōjassu vīraujassu
divya auṣadhamu divyauṣadhamu

Yaṇādēśasandhi (Glide insertion)[edit]

The yaṇādēśasandhi takes place when word final -i, -u or - is followed by a non-similar vowel. The sandhi yields either -y-, -v- or -r- respectively. These are known as the yaṇās.

Examples of the yaṇādēśasandhi
Initial word Final word Result
ati āśa atyāśa
su āgatamu svāgatamu
pit ājña pitrājña

Native sandhis[edit]

These sandhis usually occur when one or both of the words is a native Telugu word, or is a Sanskrit borrowing that is treated as such (ex. iṣṭamu).

Akārasandhi (Elision of a)[edit]

This sandhi occurs when a word final -a is followed by any vowel. The word final -a is removed, and the following vowel takes its place.

Examples of akārasandhi
Initial word Final word Result
iṅkā ēṇṭi iṅkēṇṭi
puṭṭina illu puṭṭinillu
amma aṇṭē ammaṇṭē
teliyaka uṇḍenu teliyakuṇḍenu

Ikārasandhi[edit]

This sandhi occurs when a word final -i is followed by any vowel. The word final -i is removed, and the following vowel takes its place.

Examples of ikārasandhi
Initial word Final word Result
mari eppuḍu mareppuḍu
vāḍi illu vāḍillu
ēmi aṇṭivi ēmaṇṭivi
ēmi a(y)inadi ēma(y)inadi
ēmi undi ēmundi

Ukārasandhi[edit]

This sandhi occurs when a word final -u is followed by any vowel. The word final -u is removed, and the following vowel takes its place.

Example of ukārasandhi
Initial word Final word Result
ceppu iṅkā ceppiṅkā
vāḍu evaḍu vāḍevaḍu
nīḷlu unnāyā nīḷlunnāyā
vāḍu annāḍu vāḍannāḍu

Trikasandhi[edit]

One of the most complicated of the sandhis, the trikasandhi is of two forms:

  1. When a final -ā -ī or is followed by a non-clustured consonant, the vowel is shortened, and the unclustered consonant is geminated.
  2. When the word mūḍu (three) is followed by a consonant, the word final -ḍu is eliminated. This triggers the first rule of the trikasandhi, and the now-word-final is shortened, and the following consonant is geminated. When the consonant is l-, sometimes it is geminated to -ḷḷ- instead.
Examples of the trikasandhi
Initial word Final word Result
ī kālamu ikkālamu
ē cōṭu eccōṭu
ā bhaṅgi abbaṅgi
mūḍu lōkamulu mullōkamulu
mūḍu kōṭi mukkōṭi

Āmrēḍitasandhi[edit]

This sandhi deals with repeated words, i.e., pairs of same words. This sandhi forms some of the most used irregular-looking words in the language. It has three rules:

  1. When a vowel-initial word is repeated, the final vowel of the first word is eliminated.
  2. Word final forms of ka (ka, ki, ku, ke, etc.) of the first word are eliminated and the first rule is applied.
  3. The andādi words (anduku, iggulu, tumuru, tuniyalu, etc.) when compounded lead to irregular forms.
Examples of the āmrēḍitasandhi
Word Result
aura auraura
endun endendun
appaṭiki appaṭappaṭiki
ūran ūrūran
ceduru cellāceduru
iggulu iṟṟiggulu

Dviruktaṭakārasandhi[edit]

Sometimes regarded as a form of the āmrēḍitasandhi, the dviruktaṭakārasandhi occurs when kaḍādi (kaḍa, naḍuma, madhyāhnamu, bayalu, etc.) words are compounded. A dviruktaṭakāra, a geminated -ṭṭ- forms from this sandhi, hence the name.

Examples of the dviruktaṭakārasandhi
Initial word Final word Result
madhyāhnamu madhyāhnamu miṭṭamadhyāhnamu
pagalu pagalu paṭṭapagalu
naḍuma iṇṭlō naṭṭiṇṭlō

Gasaḍadavādēśasandhi[edit]


  • Trika Sandhi.
  • Dugagama Sandhi.
  • Saraladesha Sandhi
  • Gasadadavadesha Sandhi.
  • Rugagama Sandhi.
  • Yadagama Sandhi.
  • Prathametara Vibhakti Sandhi.
  • Uchadadi sandhi.

Samasam or nominal compounds[edit]

Samasam or samasa occurs with various structures, but morphologically speaking they are essentially the same: each noun (or adjective) is in its (weak) stem form, with only the final element receiving case inflection.

Some of the Telugu samasams are:

  • Tatpuruṣa Samasam.
    • Prathama tatpurusha samasam
    • Dvitiya tatpurusha samasam
    • Trutiya tatpurusha samasam
    • Chaturthi tatpurusha samasam
    • Panchami tatpurusha samasam
    • Shashti tatpurusha samasam
    • Saptami tatpurusha samasam
    • Nai tatpurusha samasam
  • Karmadhāraya Samasam.
    • Viśeshana purwapada karmadharaya samasam
    • Viśeshana uttarapada karmadharaya samasam
    • Viśeshana ubhayapada karmadharaya samasam
    • Upamana purvapada karmadharaya samasam
    • Upamana uttarapada karmadharaya samasam
    • Avadharana purvapada karmadharaya samasam
    • Sambhavana purvapada karmadharaya samasam
  • Dvigu Samasam.
  • Dvandva Samasam.
  • Bahuvrīhi Samasam.
  • Amredita Samasam.
  • Avyayībhāva Samasam

Alankaram or ornamentation[edit]

Telugu Alankaram is a figure of speech which means ornaments or embellishments which are used to enhance the beauty of the poems. There are two types of Alankarams, 'Shabdalankaram' which primarily focuses on Sound and 'Arthalamkaram' which focuses on meaning. These two alankarams are further broken down in to different categories.[5] shabdalankaras are 6 types where as there are nearly 30 to 40 types in ardhalankaras.

  • Shabdalankaram
    • Vruttyanuprasa
    • Chekanuprasa
    • Latanuprasa
    • antyanuprasa
    • Yamakam
    • Mukta pada grastam
  • Arthalamkaram
    • Upamanaalankaram
    • Utprekshaalankaram
    • Rupakaalankaram
    • Shleshalankaram
    • Arthantaranyaasam
    • Atishayokti
    • Drushtantam
    • Swabhavokti
    • vyajastu
    • virodhi
    • vishamamu
    • parikaramu
    • branti madala
    • kramalam

Chandassu or Telugu prosody[edit]

Metrical poetry in Telugu is called 'Chandassu' or 'Chandas'. ya-maa-taa-raa-ja-bhaa-na-sa-la-gam is called the chandassu chakram. Utpalamala, Champakamala, Mattebha vikreeditham, Sardoola Vikreeditham, Kanda, Aata veladi, Theta geethi, Sragdhara, Bhujangaprayata, etc. are some metrics used in Telugu poetry.

Prakruti and Vikruti[edit]

Telugu has many Tatsama words. They are called Prakruti, which are equivalent to Sanskrit words. The equivalent colloquial words are called Vikruti, which means distorted. However, Prakruti is only used as a medium of instruction in educational institutions, offices etc.
For example:

Prakruti Vikruti
అగ్ని Agni (fire) అగ్గి Aggi
భోజనం Bhojanam (food) బోనం Bonam
విద్య Vidya (education) విద్దె Vidhe, విద్దియ Vidhiya
రాక్షసి Raakshasi (evil) రక్కసి Rakkasi
శూన్య Shoonya (zero) సున్న Sunna
దృష్టి Drishti (sight) దిష్టి Dishti
కనిష్టం Kanishtam (minimum) కనీసం Kaneesam
అగరవర్తి Agaravarti (inscent, agara+varthi, scent wounded) అగరవత్తి Agaravatti
విభూతి Vibhoothi (ash) విభూధి Vibhudhi
చనక Chanaka (chick pea, Chanakya is derived from the same root) శనగ śanaga
కవచ Kavacha (protective shell) గవచ Gavacha, గవ్వ Gavva
భిక్షం Bhiksham (alms) బిచ్చం Bicham
ద్వితీయ Dvitiya (second) విదియ Vidiya
తృతీయ Trutiya (third) తదియ Thadhiya
జాగ్రత Jaagrata (alert) జాగ్రత్త Jaagratta
వామతి Vamati (vomit) వాంతి Vanthi
స్వంత Swantha (own) సొంత Sonta
అటవి Atavi (forest) అడవి Adavi
త్వర Twara (fast) తొరగా Toraga
రక్తము Rakthamu (blood) రగతము Ragathamu

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Gopavaram, Padmapriya; Subrahmanyam, Korada (2011). "1". A Comparative Study Of Andhrasabdachintamani And Balavyakaranam. Hyderabad: University of Hyderabad.
  2. ^ Charles Philip Brown (1857). A grammar of the Telugu language (2 ed.). Christian Knowledge Society's Press.
  3. ^ Charles Philip Brown (1857). A grammar of the Telugu language (2 ed.). Christian Knowledge Society's Press. p. 39.
  4. ^ A Short Outline of Telugu Phonetics.
  5. ^ Gopavaram, Padmapriya; Subrahmanyam, Korada (2011). A Comparative Study Of Andhrasabdachintamani And Balavyakaranam. Hyderabad: University of Hyderabad.