Typecraft v2.5
Jump to: navigation, search

Typological Features Template for Telugu

by Sree Ganesh

Feature Description
Phonological Features In the following fields I describe the phonological inventory of Telugu (Krishmamurti.BH, 1985)[1]
Vowel inventory Telugu has twelve oral vowels: a aa i ii u uu e ee ai o oo au. The symbols `ai` and `au` represent diphthongs.

The table below shows an overview of the vowels in the language (Sastry, J. V, 1972) [2].

Articulation Front short Front long Back short Back long
Front i ii u uu
Mid e ee o oo
Back a aa
Vowel harmony In Telugu vowels in inflectional suffixes are harmonised with the vowels of the preceding syllable (Kelley, G.1963). [3]

There are many rules to describe the vowel harmony (Balavyakaranam). For example sequences of two vowels occur in the orthography but are always reduced to one in speech.

     eg1: rAmudu awadu → rAmudawadu
Consonant inventory Telugu has 33 consonant symbols. According to traditional practice they are pronounced and written with an inherent vowel. That means క `ka` refers to the pure consonant `k` and not to the sequence `k` plus `a`.
Articulation Labial Denti-alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar


p, ph

b, bh

t, th

d, dh

T, Th

D, Dh

c, ch

j, jh

k, kh

g, gh

Fricative f s sh S h
Nasal m n N
Lateral l L
Flap r
Semivowel w y

`ca` has two varieties of pronunciation, `ca` and `ts` depending on what vowel follows. If it is followed by i, ii, e, ee, ai (front vowels) it is pronounced as `ca` like the english `ch` in `chair`. When it is followed by the back vowels a, aa, u, uu, o, oo its pronunciation is `ts`.

     eg2: cinna (small) - `ca` pronunciation
          caduvu (study) - `ts` pronunciation

`ja` also has two pronunciations. When follows front vowels the pronunciation is `j` and `dz` before back vowels.

     eg3. jila (itch) - `j` pronunciation
          jaagu (delay) - `dz` pronunciation

Many people pronounce `j` like `z` between vowels when the following vowel is `u or uu`.

     eg4. rooju (day) - `z` pronunciation

Retroflex `L` and `N` never occurs at the beginning of Telugu word. `M` anusvaara is a covered symbol for n, N and m in different positions with the following phonetic values. Before `k` and `g` it is pronounced as English `ng` in `sing` or the `n` in `sink`.

     eg5. jiMka/jinka (deer),   saMgati/sangati (matter)

Before `c` and `j`with a following front vowel, it is pronounced like english `n` in `punch`.

     eg6. maMci/manci (good)

Before `c` and `j` with following back vowel it is like `n` as in `pant` pronunciation. Before `T` and `D` it is pronounced like `N`.

     eg7. paMTa/paNTa (crop)

Before p, b it is pronounced like `m`at the beginning of a word.

     eg8. pampu (send)

At the end of word and also before w, S, s and h it is pronounced like `m` occurring between vowels.

     eg9. simham/siwhaw (lion)
Syllable Structure Syllable structure in Telugu is as follows.

Telugu syllable structure represented as C*VC* in most of Indian languages (Krishnamurti, Bh.1961)[4]. The syllables in Telugu language can exist as vowel alone or as CV, VC, CVC. CCVC.

1. When nasals such as `mz` (half pronounced `m` sound) succeed a vowel immediately, they are treated as a part of the vowel and the same syllable. For example, `mz` in samzskrit (language) will be a part of syllable containing `sa`.

2.Whenever there are three or more consonants between two consecutive vowels, the first consonant would be a part of the coda of the previous syllable while the remaining consonants would be onset of the next syllable. Applying these rules to `samzskrit`, the obtained syllable sequence would be:

         eg10. `samzs` - `krit`.

3. When there are exactly two consonants between two vowels, the first consonant would be part of coda of previous syllable and the second would be onset of the next syllable.

         eg11. `dharti`(earth)

would be split as it `dhar` - `ti`. Exceptions for this rule are the following cases. When the second consonant is a member of the set { /r/ /s/ /sh/ /shz/ }, both the consonants would be a part of onset of the next syllable.

         eg12. `yaatra` (tour) would be split as `yaa` - `tra`.
Morpho-syntactic Features In the following fields I describe some of the basic morpho-syntactic parameters of Telugu.
morphological classification (1) Telugu is an agglutinative (SOV) language. Telugu nouns can be divided into 3 classes (Lisker, 1963).[5].

Proper- and common nouns, pronouns and a special group of nouns such as adverbial nouns, verbal nouns etc..

There is no definite or indefinite article in Telugu, Common nouns can be divided into count and non-count nouns. Count nouns can be singular or plural. Non-count nouns can be either singular or plural but not both. In contrast to English mass nouns are plural in Telugu. All nominal root forms can function as nominative singular. `lu` is the plural suffix which can be instantiated as `LLu, ru, Ø` (zero affix) reflecting morpho-phonemic changes (Krishmamurti.BH, 1985). Here an example:

All stems ending in `di, du, ru` and for stems of more than two syllables ending in `li` and `ri`, the final syllable becomes `L` before `Lu`.

          eg13: baDi – baLLu  school(s)
                paMdiri – paMdiLLu 
morphological classification (2) Telugu has two genders, masculine and non-masculine. There is no feminine gender as such. Nouns denoting female persons and neuter things are treated as non-masculine in singular, but in plural they are treated as masculine.

Consequently, demonstrative pronouns have two forms in the singular, one for a male person

         eg. VADu – he 

one for female person person and for things

         eg. Adi – she/it 

and two forms in the plural, one for male and female persons

         eg. VALLu – they/those 

and one for things

         eg. Avi – they/those. 

In addition suffixes are used to denote the difference between the male and female.

      Example:  snEhituDu – male friend
                snEhiturAlu – female friend

Case: Telugu has seven cases, these are: nominative, accusative, instrumental, ablative, genitive, dative and locative. At morpho-syntactic level the accusative is part of the genitive.

Case Telugu example English
Ablative rAmudinuMcI = rAmuDu + nuMcI (from) "from" Rama
Genitive rAmuni = rAmu + ni (`s) "generic reference to" Rama
Dative rAmuniki = rAmu + ni + ki (for) specifically referring something "about" referring to Rama)
Instrumental rAmunithO = rAamu + ni + thO (with) specifically referring something "with" Rama
nominal modification and specification In this field I indicate the basic types of nominal modifiers (adjectives, relative clauses, adpositions...)

as well as the use of demonstratives (deixis), numerals, quantifiers in Telugu.

possession In Telugu possession is expressed based on the root endings.

If root ends with '-a' possession marker is `ø`. else where `i` is the possession marker. If possessor is plural then it takes `-a` prefix to indicate the possession.

pronominal system In this field i will describe Telugu pronoun forms, grammatical function (object versus subject pronouns), pronoun doubling and reflexives expressed by pronouns (Subbarao.K, 2000)[6].
Verbal Phrases In the following fields serve for the description of some of the basic morpho-syntactic properties of verbal constituents.
word order Telugu is verbal ending (SOV) language.(Krishnamurti, Bh.1961)[7].
TAM Every Telugu verb has a finite and non-finite form. In Telugu a finite form can stand as the main verb of a sentence and occur before a final pause. Finite verb carry gender-number-person suffixes.
                 eg. unnAnu (`is` - 1st person singular) can be analyzed in to: verb root (un) + tense suffix (nA) + personal suffix (nu)

In Telugu there are eight suffixes for different persons and numbers (Lisker, 1963):

Person Singular Plural
1st person nu mu
2nd person vu ru
3rd person(m.) Du ru
3rd person(f.n) di yi

In colloquaial speech the final syllable `nu` is sometimes omitted in the 1st person singular of the verb and in the pronoun `neenu (I)`.

           eg. rUpAyi istA
               rupee  will give
              (I will give a rupee)

In Telugu there are six inflectional types of finite verb which involve tense-mode distinctions are constructed in this way:

Affirmative: past, future habitual, imperative, hortative

Negative: future-habitual, imperative

Past tense and feature-habitual formation principles:(Subrahmanyam, P.S, 1974)[8]

1.A stem final short vowel is lost before a vowel which begins a word or suffix.

           eg. Ammu (stem) + A (past tense) +Du (agr.) = ammADu

2.A short vowel `u` occuring in basic stem of the form (c)vcvc(v) becomes `i` when followed by a front vowel in the next syllable

           eg. aDugu (stem) + A (past tense) + Du (agr.) = aDug + Du (by rule 1) and aDigADu (by rule 2)

3.A short vowel is lost between `n` and one of the consonants `d, r, D`. That short vowel may be followed or preceded by a morpheme boundary

           eg. amm (stem) + ina (past tense) + di (agr.) =  ammindi (She sold)

Negation: Special feature of Telugu is the formation of a verb paradigm in the negative tense rather than use of a separate word. Bellow are the principles for negative tense formation (Lisker,1963):

1.Negative tense is formed by adding to the basic stem the negative suffix `-a` followed by the personal suffix.

           eg. ammu (sell-root) + a (neg.suffix) + nu(per.su) = ammanu (I don't sell/I will not sell)

2.middle `u` of basic stem having two or three syllables of the shape (c)vc-u-c(u) change to `a` when followed by the negative suffix `a` in the next syllable.

3.A large number of basic stems ending in `c` and `s` replace these consonants by `v/y`in the negative.

           eg. pilcu (call-root) + a (neg.s) + Du (per.su) = pilvaDu (he don't call/ he will not call)


The imperative forms are used when a speaker in the 1st person address a hearer in the second person. Therefore they carry two suffixes: 2nd person singular and 2nd person plural. In the negative imperative 2nd person suffixes are to the negative stem consisting of a verb stem + `ak` (neg.) (Subrahmanyam, P.S, 1974).

' 2nd person


2nd person


Affirmative u/i aMDi/anDi
Negative aku akaMDi/akanDi


Hortative is conveyed in Telugu by a finite verb which is formed by adding to the verb stem the hortative suffix `dA` followed by the 1st person plural suffim `mu/M`. Hortative forms in Telugu also have a future meaning involving two participant subjects.

Hortative formation principle is:

                      Root + dA + personal suffix `mu/M` 
      eg. ammu (sell-root) + dA + mu = ammudAmu/M (let us sell)


As in English Telugu doesn't formally distinguish the present, past and perfect continuous. This distinction is brought out by the use of an adverb of time or by the context of discourse. In Telugu in the absence of any time specifying clues a durative verb carries the present continuous meaning. Every durative verb is technically a compound verb. Durative formation principle is:

Root + t/T (durative suffix) + person eg. un (be-root) + t/T(durative suffix) + nu (person) = unTAnu (to be)

infinitival forms In Telugu infinitive verb has 3 characteristics. (Krishnamurti.BH, 1961)

1.It doesn't carry PNG in agreement with the subject of the sentence 2.It is formed by adding the appropriate tense-mode suffix to a verb stem 3.It forms a subordinate clause

Infinitive verbs can be classified into:

1.Affirmative participles 1.1 past/perfective:Past participle is formed by adding the aspectual suffix `i` to the form of the stem.

      stem + i	
  eg. ammu + i = ammi (having sold)

1.2 Durative:Durative participle is formed by adding the suffix `tU/TU) to the stem.

      stem + tU
   eg.ammu + tU = ammutU (while selling/selling)

1.3 Conditional:Conditional clauses in Telugu end in a non-finite form of the verb in which the suffix `tE, TE`is added to the stem.

      stem + tE
    eg.ammu + tE=ammitE (if one sells)

1.4 Concessive:Concessive id formed by adding the tense-mode suffix `inA` to the stem.

      stem + inA
   eg.ammi + inA=amminA (although one sells)

Negative participle is formed by adding `aka/akuMDA` to the stem.

Infinitive in Telugu is not as common as in English.

It generally occurs: 1. before the noun 2. brfore the suffixes `E, gA, bTTi` 3. at the end of a sentence to form a special type of finite verb with an optative meaning and in compound verbs.

The infinitive suffix is `-an`. It is added to the stem which occurs in the negative tense. When the stem in the negative ends in a vowel, `an` becomes `n` (Krishnamurti.BH, 1961).

Root Negative tense Infinitive
tecc- (to bring) tEnu tEn
kOn (aux.verb) kOnu kOnlign="top"
verbal constructions Most verbs in Telugu may occur intransitively or transitively. A few verbs can also occur as transitively. Passive constructions are rare in colloquial Telugu. Verbal nouns and verbal adjectives are most common in general usage. (Krishnamurti.BH, 1961)

Verbal noun:

The verbal noun is formed by adding the suffix `aTaM/aDaM` to the stem. When the stem final constituent ends in a long vowel `v` is inserted before `aTaM/aDaM`

          eg.	   Root				verbal noun
                   ceppu (tell)			ceppu+aTaM = ceppaTaM/aDaM (telling)
                   rA (come)			rA+aTaM = rAvaTam/aDaM (coming)

Other verbs which lack tense marking and non-finite inflection can not be nominalized with `aTaM/aDaM`

         eg. ceppAli (one must tell)		*ceppAli + aTam = ceppAlaTam/aDaM

Whole clause is nominalized when the finite verb is replaced by the corresponding verbal noun.

         eg. nuvvu SramapaDaTam bAgOlEdu. (Your taking trouble is not good)

Verbal adjectives:

In Telugu verbal adjectives are used in the formation of noun phrases which take the place of relative clauses in English.

There are four kinds verbal adjectives (Krishnamurti.BH, 1961):

1.Past verbal adjective: It is formed by adding the `ina` suffix to the stem variant which occurs in the past tense.

         eg. stem                past tense	past verbal adjective
             ammu (to sell)	  ammAnu	ammin
             pilucu (to call)	  pilicAnu	pilicina

2.Future-habitual verbal adjective: It is formed by adding the `E` suffix to the stem variant which occurs in the past tense.

         eg. stem                past tense    futu. habitual adjective
             ammu (to sell)      ammAnu        ammE
             pilucu (to call)    pilicAnu      pilicE

3.Durative verbal adjective: It is formed by adding the suffix `tunna` or `Tunna` to the form of stem which occurs in the durative.

         eg. stem                durative finite durative verbal adjective 
             ammu (to sell)      ammutunnAnu              ammtunna 
             pilucu (to call)	  piliustunnAnu		   pilistunn

4.Negative verbal adjective: It is formed by adding the suffix `ani` to form of the root which occurs in the negative tense.

         eg. stem                durative finite  durative verbal adjective
             ammu (to sell)	  ammanu	   ammani
             pilucu (to call)	  pilavanu	   pilavani

They correspond the past, future-habitual, durative and negative tense of the finite verb.

Any finite verb which also has non-finite inflection can be changed in to a nominal ending in `di`.

Inflectional categories of Verbs Finite forms:
                          r = root; p = personal suffix
Grammatical name Composition Example Meaning
past tense r + A + p amm-A-nu i sold
future-habitual r + tA +p ammu-tA-nu i (will) sell
negative (fut-hab) r + a + p amm-a-nu I will not sell
Hortative r + DA + mu/M ammu-dA-mu/M let us sell
imperative (sg.) r + u/ø (2.sg.) amm-u sell
imperative (pl.) r + aMDi(2.pl) amm-aMDi please sell
imperative negative r + ak + u(2.sg)

r + ak-aMDi(2.pl)



do not sell

do not sell

durative r + t + un- ammu-t-unnAnu i am selling

All the verb suffixes which combine with the root can divided into 3 groups (Krishnamurti.BH, 1961):

Group 1. suffixes whose main variants begin with a consonant Group 2. Suffixes whose main variants begin with a front vowel Group 3. Suffixes whose main variants begin with a back vowel

Group 1

Grammatical category Suffixies Environment
Durative participle tU/TU before a comma
Durative t/T before un-
Future-habitual tA/TA


before all personal suffixes

except -di before 3 neu.sg.suffix -di

Condational tE/TE after consonant ending roots
Hortative dA before -m (1st pl.)

Group 2

Grammatical category Suffixies Environment
Past participle i before a comma
Past tense E

in nA na DA Da

before allpersonal suffixes except -di

before 3 neu.sg.suffix -di after final roots and before all personal suffixes except -di before 3 neu.sg.suffix -di after 'pad' (fall), 'ceD' (spoil) before all personal suf. except -di

Past verbal adjective ina/na before a noun or pronoun
Concessive inA/nA before a comma
Future-habitual v.adj E before a noun or pronoun
Conditional aitE after vowel ending roots

Group 3

Grammatical category Suffixies Environment
Infinitive an/a/0


before another verb in compound verb

sentence finally as admonitive

Negative tense a/0 before personal suffixes
Negative aka/ka before another verb
Neg.participle akuMDA/kuMDA before a comma
Neg. v.adj ani/ni before a noun or pronoun
neg.imperative aku/ku before a sentence final pause
Imperative plural aMDi/nDi before a sentence final pause
imperative singular u/i/0 before a sentence final pause
Complementation In this field you describe complementation strategies. Does [your language] make use of complementizers?
Special Properties of [your language] In this field you should mention properties of [your language] which did not fit into any of the other categories mentioned in this template
Short Bibliography
  1. Krishnamurti.BH, (1985) A Grammar of Modern Telugu, Oxford university press
  2. Sastry, J. V, (1972), Telugu Phonetic Reader, CIIL, Mysore.
  3. Kelley,G. (1963), Vowel phonemes and external vocalic sandhi in Telugu, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol.83.P.67-73
  4. Krishnamurti.BH, (1961) Telugu Verbal bases, University of California Press.
  5. Lisker, (1963) Introduction to spoken Telugu, American Council of Learned Societies, New York
  6. Subbarao.K, (2000) Lexical anaphors and pronouns in Telugu,Lexical anaphors and pronouns in selected South Asian Languages. A Principled Typology,Mouton de Gruyter, P-217-276.
  7. Krishnamurti.BH, (1961) Telugu Verbal bases, University of California Press.
  8. Subrahmanayam,P.S, (1974) An introduction to Modern Telugu, Annamalai University, Department of Linguistics.