Telugu (తెలుగు) is the native language of the Telugu ethnic group, and has official status in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in India. It belongs to the Dravidian language family like Tamil and Malayalam. Today, Telugu is among the most widely spoken languages in India, with more native speakers than any other Dravidian language. It is also spoken around the world in Telugu communities, and is among the fastest-growing languages in the United States, partly as a result of American software companies hiring students and workers from Hyderabad. In 2008, it was designated along with Telugu as a Classical Language of India.
Telugu is written using the Telugu script, which is one of many scripts derived from the ancient Brahmi system. It is particularly similar to the Kannada script. Telugu is categorized as an abugida, and unlike alphabets such as Greek or Latin, is not written with complete vowels. The 36 consonants of Telugu are written in full, and vowels are represented with the use of diacritics which modify the consonant letter. Like other Brahmic scripts, Telugu is written from left to right, without distinguishing between upper and lower case.
The earliest known writing entirely using the Telugu language is from the 6th century CE, at which time a descendant of Brahmi known as the Kadamba script was used in parts of southern India to write Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit. Specific versions for Telugu and Kannada evolved from this, and there remains a high degree of mutual intelligibility between Telugu and Kannada writing, despite the differences between the two standards. For hundreds of years, written Telugu differed significantly from the spoken language, but since the 20th century, it has become more common to write Telugu similarly to how it is spoken, and some of the letters present in older writing have fallen out of use.
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