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About Telugu Language

Telugu (natively తెలుగు telugu, sometimes also anglicized as Telugu) is a Dravidian language native to the Indian subcontinent. It is the official language of Andhra Pradesh, one of the largest states of India. It is also one of the twenty-two scheduled languages of the Republic of India and was conferred the status of a Classical language by the Government of India. The mother tongue of the majority of people of Andhra Pradesh, it is also spoken in neighbouring states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Maharashtra and Chattisgarh.

Telugu is the third most-spoken language in India (74 million native speakers according to the 2001 census) and is 15th in the Ethnologue list of most-spoken languages worldwide.

Recent history

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.

At present, a committee of scholars has approved a classical language tag for Telugu based on its antiquity. The Indian government has also officially designated it as a classical language.

Geographic distribution

Telugu is mainly spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Yanam district of Pondicherry as well as in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa,Chhattisgarh, some parts of Jharkhand and the Kharagpur region of West Bengal in India. It is also spoken in the United States, where the Telugu diaspora numbers more than 200,000; as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain, Canada, Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Ireland, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, where there is also a considerable Telugu diaspora. Telugu is the third most spoken language in the Indian subcontinent after Hindi and Bengali.

Official status

Telugu is one of the 22 official languages of India. It was declared the official language of Andhra Pradesh when the state was formed on 1st Nov 1956 on linguistic basis.

Telugu also has official language status in the Yanam District of the Union Territory of Pondicherry.

Dialects

Waddar, Chenchu, Savara, and Manna-Dora are all closely related to Telugu. Dialects of Telugu are Berad, Dasari, Dommara, Golari, Kamathi, Komtao, Konda-Reddi, Salewari, Telangana, Warangal, Mahaboob Nagar (Palamuru), Gadwal (Rayalaseema mix), Narayana peta (Kannada and Marathi influence), Vijayawada, Vadaga, Srikakula, Visakhapatnam, Toorpu (East) Godavari, Paschima (West) Godavari, Kandula, Rayalaseema, Nellooru, Prakasam, Guntooru, Tirupati, 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 Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Bangla, Gujarati, Oriya and Marathi, Nellore, Dondolu, Dondavolu, thadi, kolli, Standard Telugu is often called a Shuddha Bhaasha ("pure language").

Phonology

Though the Telugu consonant set lists aspirated consonants (both voiced and unvoiced), they're 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. British authors in the 19th century 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. Conti visited Vijayanagara empire during the reign of Vira Vijaya Bukka Raya in 1520s.

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

Vocabulary

Some words that describe objects/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. Though Telugu uses a high degree of Sanskrit words; it also contains lesser extent of Arabic and Persian words such as maidanam (maydan in Arabic), kalam (qalam in Arabic), Bazaar (originally Persian word) etc. Today, Telugu is generally considered as a Dravidian language with the most Sanskrit loan words.

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 substantially 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 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 4th century BC(Pre-Mauryan time) from where Buddhism spread to east Asia. A variant of Asokan Brahmi script, called Bhattiprolu Script, the progenitor of Old Telugu script, was found on the Buddha’s relic casket.

The famous Muslim historian and scholar of 10th century, Al-Biruni referred to Telugu language and script as "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 16 are vowels, three vowel modifiers, and forty-one 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, etc.) were introduced with the advent of print.

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

 

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