is a Dravidian language which, according ton the 1971 Census, is spoken by 43.4
million people in the sub-continent of India. It is the official language of the
State of Andhra Pradesh and ranks only next to the Hindi in population figures
in India. The ratio of urban to rural population is 20 : 80 per cent and only
24 per cent of the people are classified as 'literate' (D.R.Ramanujan 1972 :12)
The existence of Telugu as an independent language can be traced to the early
centuries of the Christian era. Native place names and personal names occur in
Prakrit inscription as early as the 2nd century A.D. (Mahadeva Sastri 1969: 23-31).
The first datable Telugu inscription belongs to 575 A.D. (EI 27. 221-25). Until
the 11th Century our only source of Telugu language history are inscription which
already reflect two styles of writing, a literary variety embodied in verse (padya)
and ornate prose (gadya) and the colloquial variety in simple localized prose.
The first available work of Telugu literature is a translation of the first three
parvans (the third only partly) of the Mahabhararta by Nannaya Bhatta of the mid-11th
century A.D. in the campu format (running verses occasionally interspersed with
gaya 'ornate prose'). Although some scholars believed that Nannaya 'standardizes'
the language of his time in order to make it a vehicle of literary expression,
it can be shown, on linguistic grounds, that the literary language got stylized
for several centuries before Nannaya and his 'language' only represented a
literary tradition, which was already becoming archaic. This conclusion is based
on the following observations:
(1) The language of Nannay's Mahabhararta was archaic in phonology and morphology
when compared with that of his contemporary inscriptions, e.g., systematic preservation
of the contrast of ?: r, preconsonantal nasals (ardhanuswara), and initial Cr-clusters,
all of which had undergone change in the spoken language by the 11th Century,
viz. ?> r, Cr- > C-, long vowel + nasal + stop > long vowel (nasalized)
+ stop, respectively (Radhakrishna 1972 : dd2. 3ff.).
(2) There were certain verb forms in speech, not at all traceable to the language
of early classics, like teccu-ta-ru 'they (will) bring' (modern Telugu tes-ta-ru),
Kon-? u 'bringing', poyite (nu) 'if one goes'. ¹
(3) There was already a considerable degree of variation within Nannaya's language
which could not have happened unless it derived from a long tradition of literary
usage representing different chronological layers, for several centuries before
him. For instance, the neuter sg. Suffix occurs in three freely varying shapes,
-mbu,-mmu, -mu, of which -mbu > -mmu represents an earlier chronological stratum.
The habitual tense had at least two or three variant morphs, ed?u!ed?i!ø
(3rd pers. Sg.), eda!du (all other persons and members). It is characteristics
of the literary language that the number of free variants increases with the passage
of time. The ordinal marker in Nannaya was agu and awu, but in later poets, it
was agu!awu!awa!o2. These four varieties only represent four ordered developments
of the suffix at different periods.
(4) A continuous chain of historical developments can be constructed from the
language of inscription and not from that of the early and later classics.
It is, therefore, conceivable that one of the upper-class varieties must have
developed as the medium of the language of poetry, perhaps five or six centuries
before the time of Nannaya. Our assumption is that the spoken language and the
literary language of the 11th century had already diverged, and were not related
as contemporary spoken and written.
From the 11th to the 19th century, the only genre of literature that flourished
most in Telugu was the campu (verse combined with
prose). The themes were all drawn from Sanskrit epics or puranas, elaborated and
translated in Telugu in the campu style. Such literature apparently catered to
a select group of high-class Sanskrit zed elite and their Royal patrons. Popular
literature like the ballad, the dance-drama and the devotional song had not emerged
until very late in history (post-15th century). Prose a popular form of literature
did not come about before the exposure of the Telugus to English education in
the 19th century. There is evidence of chronicles, local records, commentaries
on grammatical texts, etc., in prose from the 16th century onwards, but they never
formed a part of respected literature.
The language of the Kavitraya (the trio of poets, Nannaya: 11th century, Tikkana:
13th century, and E??apraggada : 14th century) who translated the Mahabhararta
in Telugu became the model for all the later writers. There were innovations in
the literary language presumable drawn from contemporary educated usage- but it
has always been deliberately kept to a minimum. For instance, words like waccinad?u
'the one who came' occurred originally as predicative nouns and later as finite
verbs in the usage of Tikkanna and later writers. In Nannaya, such forms occur
always as predictive nouns in their earlier shapes, viz. waccinawadu without the
loss of w and absence of Sandhi, a+ a?a. Loanwords of Perso-Arabic origin occurred
right from the 13th century in classical literature. The Prabandha poets of the
16th century and later occasionally used colloquial verbs and nouns in their works.
The prescriptive grammar condemned non-Kavitraya usage as 'ungrammatical', and
prohibited any mixture of colloquial (gramya) with the literary language.
In the first half of the 18th century, the British rule had taken roots in
South India and this brought about a number of changes in the socioeconomic and
educational setup of the Telugu country. The first printing press in Telugu was
set up in Madras in 1806. The British Parliament assed the 'Charter Act' in 1813
according to which 'A Church Missionary Society' was to be established in India
and education in Indian languages was to be promoted. In the same year a college
in Fort St. George was established in Madras. With the founding of the Madras
University in 1857, a number of high schools and colleges cropped up to promote
the British mode of education. The Madras Schoolbook and Vernacular Society came
into existence in 1820, which produced many school-level textbooks in biography,
history, and geography. ³
The language used in these books was in the same style as that of the 19th century
local records and chronicles-an educated colloquial variety with occasional mixture
of classicisms in verbal and nominal inflection. Even traditional pundits wrote
in this style.
Chinnayasuri, who was a senior Telugu Pundit in the Presidency College, became
the chairman of the Schoolbook Society. He published a standard Telugu grammar
of the poetic language, called Balavyakara-namu in 1855 and earlier wrote n i
ticandrika a prose translation of Sanskrit Pan?catantra. For the first time he
wrote in a literary prose which equaled the poetic prose (gadya) of the early
Telugu classics. A complement to Balavyakara-namu called Praudhavyakaramu, was
published in 1885 by B. Sitaramcharyulu, who also published in the same year a
standard Telugu -Telugu dictionary, Sabdaratnakarasmu. The publications of these
two standard prespective grammars for the poetic language had a tremendous impact
on the language attitudes of scholars and constituted a bastion for the defense
of the classical language. It is clear from the 19th-century social history of
the Telugu area that the vernacular had to function as a medium of general education
for large numbers for the first time. Earlier it was cultivated only as a medium
the mid-19th century Telugu language scholars, by and large, did not think that
spoken language could be a subject for teaching. C. P. Brown, who was a pioneer
in Telugu textual criticism and publication of literary works, in the following
passages vividly describes the problems of the English officials wanting to learn
Telugu as a second language. These also reflect the attitudes of language scholars
towards the first-language teaching.
Hindù grammarians, like those
of China, neglect the
colloquial dialect, which they suppose is already known
the student, and teach only the poetical peculiarities : They
willing to aid our studies, either in Telugu poetry or in
Sancrit : they
are reluctant to teach us the language of
common business. Instead of ordinary
dialogues, tales, trails
letters, and histories, Telugu assistants counsel
us to read
the venerated Sri Bhagawat (as a pious act), and the prose
Telugu Ramayan, one or two books of the Mahabharat,
The Sanscrit vocabulary
by Andhra-Bhasha-Bhushanam, or
the treatises on grammar written by Nannaiia
Appa Cavi* (Brown 1857 : ii,iii)
*" These unprofitable books are still, in 1856, taught to
native pupils in the Madras University."
. . . . We ask for grain : they give it on the condition that
we will, with
it, submit to eat the straw. Their memory is
well exercised, their judgment
is fettered : and they counsel
us to learn, as they do, long vocabularies
by rote, whereas
by reading the poets we can easily acquire an ample stock
all the words that are in use. Such unwise counsels have
many a student, while others, more submissive,
have stored their memories,
with all the tutor prescribed,
and yet remained unable to use the language
Our native teachers would willingly reject common Telugu
teach us the poetical dialect alone : which
they themselves, however, cannot
use in daily talking and
writing (Ibid 33).
appears that language pundits projected the model of the relationship between
Sanskrit and Prakrit on to the poetic languages and the contemporary modern language
within Telugu. Just as Prakrit was used for low-class characters in Sanskrit plays,
spoken Telugu was used for low-class characters and the poetic Telugu for the
hero and heroine, etc. in Telugu plays.4 Even the spoken variety of upper classes
was called graamya 'vulgar' although it differed from uneducated speech. Sri K.
Veeresalingam, a great social reformer and the founder of modern literature, experimented
with all forms of prose?the novel, short story, essay, social play. He introduced,
for the first time, the nation of Saaltagranthika 'the simplified classical style'.
In his style he eliminated archaic vocabulary and Sandhi but continued to use
verbal and nominal inflection of the classical language.
Hindu, a reputed national daily, critically assessing the style of Sri K. Veeresalingam
says as follow :
consider that the golden mean is somewhere between
the rigid and artificial
style found in standard books and
carried into the daily business life of
the Editor of the
late Andhrabhasha sanjeevani and the loose lifeless style
of the various translations of the Vernacular Literature
we are sorry have found their way into the
university curriculum. (Ramapatirao
1971 : 39 quotes from
the Autobiography of K. Veeresalingam).
In essence, the style invented by K. Veeresalingam in his writings is closer to
his speech in syntax but to the classical language
morphology. It is this style which goes in the name of standard language of literature
and that of the people by the 19th century.
The poetic variety alone enjoyed the veneration of scholars and received royal
support and patronage. Prose was never cultivated as a vehicle of respectable
literary expression. It was employed in the inscription only as a means of conveying
information and simple messages to the common people.
The popular forms of literature like the folktale, the ballad, and the song (sung
on different social occasions) did not get documented for many centuries since
they were not considered by literati as worth preserving.
Grammars were written for the classical language keeping the usage of the Kavitraya
as the norm and any deviation from this literary standard of a work was not only
judged by its conformity to the Kavitraya usage but also its distance from contemporary
colloquial usage. Both the prescriptive grammarian and the average poet have thus
consciously inhibited the influence of the changing spoken language on the poetic
variety. The gap which thus began several centuries before Nannaya widened with
passage of time.
(4) The grammarian expressly prohibited the spoken language
of even the
educated and the learned by labeling it gramya or 'vulgar', although
this technical term should have been used to characterized the speech of the rustic
and the uneducated.
The prose medium exploiting the colloquial language has all along been used
in teaching grammatical and literary texts as evidenced from commentaries, local
records, correspondence, popular stories, contracts, court decrees and in the
folk rendition of epics. It has never been treated as worthy of literary expression.
No creative writer of repute has therefore attempted it until the late nineteenth
century or the early twentieth century.
the controversy between the classicists and modernists had not surfaced until
the beginning of the 20th century.
Controversy : 1897-1915
Venkata Apparow, who is considered the true founder of literary renaissance in
modern Telugu, published an
social called Kanyasulkam ('Bride-price') in spoken Telugu in 1897. In its preface,
he said (p.viii):
If it is intended to make the Telugu literary dialect a
civilizing medium, it must be divested of its superfluous,
and Sanskrit elements, and brought closer to the
spoken dialect from which
it must be thoroughly replenished.
There is not much dialectical difference
in the Telugu Country :
So a new common literary dialect can be established
comparative ease if only able writers set about it in right
was the first conscious effort by a great creative writer to use the spoken language
as a vehicle of artistic expression which took the Telugu readership by storm.
He was later joined in his thinking and efforts toward language reform by Gidugu
Venkata Ramamurti who studied the newly developed science of language and phonetics
and published earlier (1892) his grammar and dictionary of the Sora language.
A. Yates, an Englishman, who was posted in 1906 as Inspector of Schools for the
three Circar Districts of Godavari, Visakhapatnam and Ganjam, was puzzled by the
Telugu language taught is school which was so very different from any variety
of the spoken language, educated or uneducated. He noticed a similar situation
in the Tamil area where he had worked earlier. He recalls his impressions as follows
(1933 : 24):
may perhaps laugh in later days at one's youthful ent
husiasms, yet I have
never condemned myself for the anger
that flared up in me when I entered
the miserable hovels,
as they often were, in which the children of the out-castes
were permitted to take their first steps to learning, and
observed the pitiable
waste of time taken to teach them l
literary forms of words even for such
simple processes as
counting annas that they did not possess. I could se
reason for teaching them a language they would never
hear from men
of the higher castes, literate or illiterate.
Was it not possible, I asked,
to find a cultivated current
Telugu, for their instruction? A parallel might
be found in
England If the children of the slums were taught Elizabethan
English or Chaucerians' English or Older West Saxon, or
to make the
parallel more exact, a hotch-potch of all
these ; but of course no parallel
of the sort could be found
for no one in England had taught of inventing such a
conglomeration of archaisms
as a means of modern in-
T. Sreenivasa Iyengar, then Principal of the Mrs. A. V. N. College, Visakhapatnam,
who himself had enlightened views on the language issue in schools advised Mr.
Yates to discus the question with G. V. Apparow (Epigraphist to H. H. the Maharaja
of Vizianagaram) and G. V. Ramamurti (History Professor in the Raja's College,
Parlakimidi). It was the enlightened discussions among these four scholars-two
non-Telugus and two Telugus. Yates, Srinivasa Iyengar, Apparow and Ramamurti-and
the organized efforts that followed their coming together that started the real
confrontation and controversy between the Classicists, on the one hand, and the
Modernists, on the other.
In his preface to the second and revised edition of Kanyasulkam published in 1909,
G. V. Apparow says (p.x):
Principal P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar recently started a Telugu
Society among the aims and objects of
which the cultivation of vernacular
Telugu holds a prominent
place, and Mr. Yates, whose name will always be
in the Telugu districts for the introduction of rational methods
of teaching into our schools has lent weight to the movement
the President ship of the Society.
the annual meetings of teachers and headmasters called by Yates, Ramamurti used
to lecture on the nature of language change and language variation. He explained
how there was an educated standard spoken variety which all teachers used for
respectable communication but which they were afraid of admitting in books. He
urged that mass education was possible only through the medium of the modern language.
A literary association called Andhra sahitya sanghamu was formed in Vizianagaram
in 1907, Professor K. Ramanujacharyulu (Principal, Maharajah's College) as President,
G. V. Ramamurti as Vice-President and Sri B. Seshagiri Rao as Secretary to promote
the modern language movement. Conference were held in Kovvuru and Yelamanchili
in support of the spoken language.
1911, P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar published a textbook of Arithmetic called Longman's
Arithme?ikkulu in modern Telugu and also a trenchant pamphlet, Death or Life :
a plea for vernaculars in which he attached the stand of the language purists
in Telugu. In 1911, Cetti Lakshminarasimham's grika mittulu (Greek Myths) and
Vedam Venkatachalamayya's play Vidhileka vaidyudu both written in
a variety of modern style were prescribed for non-detailed study of the School-final
class. This happened in the wake of a change in the educational policy in the
province whereby Telugu composition and translation were made compulsory subjects
for the School-final and Intermediate classes.
It was the prescription of these books for study that created a stir among the
traditional scholars, who then formed a literary forum called Andhra-sahitya-pari?attu
(Telugu Academy) in 1911 under the stewardship of Jayanti Ramayya. On their representation,
the government appointed two of the members of the Pari?at on the Textbook Committee.
The classicists scored their first round of victory when the government yielded
to their pressure and allowed freedom of choice of 'style,' first school-wise
and later pupil-wise, for study and examination a detailed in the following orders
of the secretary of the School-Final Board, issued in 1912-13:
from No.3098 dated 20-9-12 of the Secretary to
the S. F. Board, Madras.
I have the honor (by direction) to inform you
1. . . . . . .
2. . . .
. . .
3. . . . . . .
4. That the pupils in Telugu will be examined on
Supposition that they write modern or classical Telugu accor-
to the declaration of the school they come from (. . . . . .).
2. . . . .
3. . . . . . .
In the case of Telugu (group A and Group C) information
as to the number of pupils who will answer the papers in
should also be furnished in the statement.
(Sd.) Geo Maddox
3479, Dated 29-10-12
'Modern Telugu' the Board means language of the kind
Used in such Books as
Brown's Reader, the first part of the
Arden's Telugu Grammar and Enugula
Kasiyatra Charitram. Schools which do not favour this kind
of Telugu need make no declaration.
was reported to the Board that one and the same school
proposed to send up
some pupils of the school in classical
Telugu and the remaining pupils in
'modern' Telugu. It is
the desire of the Board that all the pupils belonging
school should be examined alike, that is, either in classical
alone or in Modern Telugu alone, not in both : it is
that this may be borne in mind in
filling in the enclosed form ; there is
thus to be only one entry
under Telugu-either against classical Telugu or
(Sd.) Geo Maddox
No. 20, Dated 10-1-13
having come to the notice of the President of the School
Board that there are good grounds for
individual pupils writing in a style
differing from that of the
majority of pupils for a school, heads of institutions
informed in modification of Circular No. 3479, dated 29-10-
all pupils will be required in the Examination to
mark their answer books
'Modern' or 'Classical' and that
their will be valued accordingly. This will
the same pupil answering papers in different styles as well as
of pupils from the same school using different styles.
(Sd.) Geo Maddox
for and against Modern Telugu, Scape & Co.,
Cocanada (1914), pp. 14-16.)
It appears that the third circular was issued owing to pressures brought
government by persons who apparently wanted to see the experiment
fail without involving the prestige of the school. In a letter published in the
columns of The Hindu on 9-7-1914, 'Master of Arts' writes as follow in reply to
an article written by a 'Telugu Head-master' published in the same paper on June
18 and 19, 1914:
Modern Telugu has not taken firm root in schools not
Because teachers cannot
teach or have not the necessity to
teach the pupils, but have started with
the wanton notion of
nipping the movement in the bud. I know of instances
where a reveling in slang was preached to the pupils to drag the movement into
the mire. (1bid, P. 40)
Encouraged by this success, the classicists continued
their offensive in the press and on the platform against the modern Telugu movement
and numerous meetings were held all over the Telugu speaking area denouncing the
'freedom of choice of style' given to the pupils in composition and translation
by Government. Dr. B. Seshagiri Rao (1933 : 5) retorts that 'all this advocacy
of traditions and denunciations of current polite Telugu, mis-named gramya was
carried on by these protagonists in the very style, grammar and diction to which
they took exception.' The arguments and counter-arguments of both the modernists
and the traditionalists are embodied in a large body of small pamphlet, essays,
letters to editors, and news reports (particularly published in The Hindu between
1911 and 1914).5
main arguments of the classicists and modernists are summarized below :
1. The Telugu literary dialect attained standardization and fixity by the usage
of the Kavitraya nine centuries ago (11th to 14th centuries A.D.). It is uniform
throughout the Telugu speaking area because it has not changed much. It has grammatical
sanction area there are definite rules in traditional grammars to decide what
is correct and wha5 is incorrect. Modern language varies from place to place,
age to age, and person to person. It has not tradition of literary usage, no uniformity,
and no 'grammar.'
Traditional grammarians called the spoken form gramya (vulgar) and prohibited
it in literary expression. Even the educated modern speech is gramya and therefore
should be avoided in the written form.
If the colloquial language is used in literature it will become unintelligible
for future generations. Traditional literature would also be lost to posterity
if we do not continue its cultivation in all forms of writing.
is better to take modern language closer to classical (!) rather than
down the classical language.
5. The difference between the literary and colloquial Telugu is comparable to
standard English and spoken English rather than to Middle English and Modern English.
The literary language is archaic, old and dead. It is not suitable as a medium
of instruction for modern education on a mass scale. The literary language
was the preserve of a few and was never
intended for textbook use. No scholar, however great, can write prove in classical
language without committing blunders.
There is a polite speech of the educated Telugu speakers which is called
si??avyavaharika that should be used as a medium of instruction and examination
and in all forms of prose literature.
3. The colloquial form of the language has also a long history and tradition of
writing in translation of epics, local records, commentaries on Telugu and Sanskrit
works, etc. The literary language was only used for poetic compositions.
4. There is a distinction between vyavaharika (polite speech) and gramya (vulgar,
slang, rustic speech of the uneducated). Even the protagonists of the literary
school only used si??avyavahaarika in formal speech roles and there was no reason
why it should be prohibited from modern textbooks and literary forms.
In response to further pressures and representations form the classicists; the
Government said that they were awaiting the decision of the Madras University
which appointed a Composition Committee on the question of style.
In April 1913, the Madras University appointed a Committee to examine and advise
them on the style to be adopted for the Telugu composition of the Intermediate
Course which replaced the earlier F.A. This Committee consisted of ten members,
four representing the Modern school, four the Classical school, and two neutral
1. Gidugu Venkata Ramamurti
2. Guruzada Venkata Apparow
P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar
4. Burra Seshagiri Rao
5. Vedam Venkataraya Sastri
6. Jayanti Ramayya
7. K. V. Lakshmana
8. G. Venkata Rangayya
9. Professor. K. Rangachari (Chairman)
Rangachari explained that " the Syndicate felt that the literary dialect
each of the principal Dravidian languages had
diverged too far from polite speech and thought it desirable to bring them closer
together by fixing, if possible, a standard of colloquiality". The full texts
of all the resolution of the Committee are not available. A subcommittee was constituted
with G. V. Apparow, K. V. Lakshmanarow and J. Ramayya Pantulu to prepare lists
of forms classifying them as 'current' and 'archaic'.
nominal, pronominal and verbal forms be classified as
far as possible into
archaic and current varieties and that
current forms alone be allowed to
be used in modern prose
composition, current forms being determined from
usage in l
literature as well as in the polite speech prevailing among the
educated Telugu people.
(Quoted in Ramapatirao 1971 : 85)
resolution was favorable to the Modernist School. But, at the time of the preparation
of lists of words, K. V. Lakshmana Rao and J. Ramayya took only the classical
forms saying that the resolution referred to forms which to forms which existed
in classical literature 'as well as ' the polite speech of the educated people
throughout the Telugu speaking area. It was a deliberate misinterpretation of
the spirit of the Resolution.
the meantime the Pandits of Rayalaseema (Ceded districts) brought pressure on
the a University that their area should also find place in the lists. Four more
members from the Rayalseema districts were then appointed on the Committee and
all of them were supporters of the traditional school. They supported the interpretation
given by K. V. Lakshmana Rao and J. Ramayya Pantulu to the expression 'as well
as' in the resolution.
the move to introduce standard modern forms in Telugu composition got lost by
a majority decision in the Committee. Simultaneously protest meetings were organized
throughout the country against Modern Telugu and written appeals were sent to
the University and the Government to withdraw the choice of style earlier allowed
at the School-final examination. The Syndicate of the Madras University resolved
not to recognized the modern language on August 11, 1914 (Ramapatirao, 1971: 97):
Report of the Intermediate Composition Committee circulated by the direction of
the Syndicate with the information that the Syndicate is not at present in a position
to recognize what is known as Modern Telugu for University purposes.
V. Apparow, submitted his historic Minute of Dissent to the Composition Sub-Committee,
published by Vavi??a Venkateswarlu on April 20, 1914.
following Government Order, No. 196, Educational, dated the 22nd February 1915,
was issued withdrawing the freedom of choice of style in the School-final composition.
controversy arose sometime ago between two sections of
the Telugu people
as to whether the 'classical' or 'modern'
style should prevail in Telugu
literature generally and be the
language of Telugu school readers in particular.
the Secondary School Leaving Certificate Board, on the repre
sentation of some school manages and headmasters, issued
two circulars for
the guidance of candidates appearing for the
public examination conducted
by that body. While the first
circular declares that all pupils belonging
to a school would be
examined alike, i.e., either in 'classical' or in 'modern'
the second modified the first he liked. The issued of these circulars
was subsequently brought to the notice of the Government,
but no steps were
immediately taken in the matter, as it was
considered desirable to await
the result of the deliberations of
the committee which the Syndicate of the
has appointed to consider the possibility of fixing a standard
for composition in Telugu for the Intermediate examination.
having lately submitted its report and the
Syndicate having thereupon decided
that it is not in a position
to recognize what is known s 'modern' Telugu
purposes' the Director of Public Instruction will be requested
to arrange for the withdrawal of the circulars referred to supra.
this order of the Government the controversy ceased to be a topic of public discussion.
The school and college textbooks continued to be written in the classical or neo-classical
style. Undaunted by the reverses he encountered. G. V. Ramamurti carried on his
relentless crusade against the use to the classical language by traveling extensively,
lecturing before public and academic audience. Through the columns of the journal
Telugu which he started in 1919, he published articles and speeches of abiding
interest on this issue. In 1924, the Andhra Sahitya Parishat officially abandoned
their hostility to the vyavaharika style. In 1936 a new literary association called
Navya Sahitya Parishat was established with its own journal Pratibha with the
avowed object of
supporting the use of vyavaharika in creative literature. In 1937 Janavani a Telugu
daily was established under the editorship of Tapi Dharmarao which used modern
standard language only in editorials and news reports. A week before his death,
Sri G. V. Ramamurti Pantulu addressed the editors of Telugu newspapers when he
expressed great satisfaction at the spread of Modern Telugu in all means of communication.
He, however, deplored the obstinacy of the Education Department of the Government
and the University which alone sheltered the classical language in textbooks prescribed
He made a fervent appeal to them to fall in line with the times.
The present state : The nationalized school textbooks on Telugu as well as on
other subjects in Telugu up to the 10th Class (Secondary School Certificate) level
continue to be in quasi-classical style. The University-level textbooks produced
by the Telugu Akademi (State controlled Language Institute) for various subjects
are in modern Telugu. Language texts prescribed for the University recently will
soon spread and writing- newspapers, broadcasts, movies, fiction, advertisements,
teaching, lectures, etc.
Although there is now no public controversy with respect to the style of writing,
a small number of language teachers trained in traditional methods tend to support
the retention of the classical style in textbooks. The Heads of the Telugu language
Department at the three universities in the State have had exposure to modern
linguistics and are striving to bring about the changeover in examination medium
and language textbooks for university courses, quickly.
We have not so far defined or described the form of Telugu called modern standard
In the entire political history of Andhra, until the British rule came, no one
city or metropolis had developed as the hub of social, commercial, and cultural
activity of the Telugus, as in the case of Paris for French, London, for English,
and Calcutta for Bengali. Rajahmundry, Kondavidu, Warangal, Hampi, and Nellore
were political centers of kingdoms at different periods of the Andhra history.
We, therefore, do not know if there ever was a statewide spoken of the educated
classes of the central coastal districts (East and West Godavari, Krishna and
Guntur) has, in the course of time, formed the basis of modern Telugu writing.
By its strategic location and economic viability this are has served as a breeding
ground of intellectual activity. Most writers of fiction and plays and newspaper
editors hailed from this area in the formative period of the standard language.
Over the past 30 or 40 years this variety has attained a high degree of uniformity
and is now widely used in hundreds of newspapers, on the radio, on the platform
and for the proceedings of the legislature, etc., Through the mass media (particularly
the cinema) the coastal educated speech has also spread to the other regions like
Telangana and Rayalasima. A survey of the vocabulary used in native occupations
like agriculture and weaving has shown, beyond doubt, that there are four major
regional dialects in Telugu at the rural communication level as follows: (Krishnamurthi
Eastern Dialect: Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam
Southern Dialect : Rayalasima
Districts (including the Southern part of Mahboobnagar), Nellore and most part
of the Prakasam District.
Central Dialect : West Godavari, East Godavari, Krishna and Guntur and the eastern
strip of Khammam adjacent to Krishna and Godavari.
Northern Dialect : The Telangana Districts (with parts of Khammam, Mahboobnagar
going with the adjacent major dialects).
It is now clear that the Central
dialect was the home of modern standard Telugu which is based on si??avyavaharika?the
speech of the educated middle class. It is also used extensively in modern poetry.
G. V. Apparow noted the evolution of modern standard Telugu as early as 1914 (Pp.
58. Historical conditions point to but one conclusion that
the Chalukyan court
at Rajahmundry set the standard both
for speech and for literature and that
the influence of that
standard extended to the utmost limits of the kingdom
Vengi. Beyond it, the standard was carried by the influence
and pandits-literary dictators whose rule was
not circumscribed by the narrow
limits of a kingdom. To this
day Rajahmundry maintains its preeminence In
59. There is overwhelming evidence to prove that a
speech exists in Telugu and that it is no other than the polite
speech of the Godavari and Krishna districts.
Galleti in his introduction to Gallett's Telugu Dictionary
expresses a similar
opinion (1935 : xiii).
every district with equal vehemence maintains its own
title to the home of
the true, the ancient, the perfect Telugu,
the choice is invidious. The opinion
of the learned is not
entirely agreed. Some favour the region of Guntur and
Nellore and some the region of Godavari and Krishna. The
author of this
dictionary is among the latter ; the vocabulary
he has compiled consists of
the words in common use from
Cocanada to Bezwada. In so defining his limits
and purging his
Language he has taken one step towards the king's Telugu.
Whether the evolution of standard Telugu from this locus started in the distant
past or only recently is not very relevant discussion. But it is true that modern
literature of outstanding influence has been produced in standard Telugu only
after the style controversy had ended and more specifically from the thirties
or forties onwards. Now we can cite innumerable writers and works as models of
standard Telugu, which it was hard to do in 1951 (with the exception of G. V.
Apparow's influential social play, Kanyasulkam)
Standard Telugu links up within a single network of communication all regional
varieties through the spread of mass media, education and urbanization. Speakers
of nonstandard Telugu make conscious efforts to imitate and acquire it because
it is prestigious to use it in speech and writing. As a frame of reference, speakers
are aware of the distinction between what is standard usage and what is not, mainly
in pronunciation, verbal and nominal inflection, and choice of certain lexical
Over sixty years have passed since the style controversy ended. If we look back
at the whole issue impartially as an academic exercise, it is not hard to see
why such a bitter controversy ever raged at all over a simple issue and how ultimately
modern Telugu has come to stay in all spheres of written communication.
As G. V. Apparow pointed out we did not have a tradition of vernacular education,
in any significant sense, until the British introduced it. Universal education
through the school system would not have been possible through the kind of literary
language that was upheld by writers like Cinnayasuri and Kokkonda. The classicists
through that the language of the poetic dialect with all its archaic vocabulary
and inflection could be employed for pros with equal validity and success. They
failed to see that the role of the Telugu language changed and literature was
not simply the preserve and privilege of a few, educated
in Sanskrit and Telugu classics alone. It must, however, be said that scholars
like Ramamurti and Apparow were born ahead of their times and cultivated a type
of scientific thinking on language which, through by our standards might be common
sense, was beyond the grasp of traditional scholars. Even those that could see
reason in the arguments of the modern school were overawed at the prospect of
being cut off from their glorious tradition of literature.
One vulnerable aspect of the modernists' stand at the dawn of this century was
that there really was not any standard creative or scientific work which reflected
current educated usage and could serve as a model for the style they were advocating.
Works like Grikpurana Kathalu by Cetti Lakshmi Narasimham and Veeraswamiya's Kasiyatracaritram,
which were prescribed for nondetailed study, could hardly be called good modern
Telugu prose. These works were heavily influential by classical forms and inflexion
and could not serve as models of polite educated speech. Even the language of
the first edition of Kanyasulkam shows a considerable degree of uncertainty in
the author as to the choice of form and diction between classical and modern.
It was, however, thoroughly streamlined and revised by the author in the second
edition in 1909. White G. V. Ramamurti succeeded in shaking up the confidence
of the classicists to write in the so-called pure literary dialect, he failed
to offer clear illustrations or models for the modern an arbitrary admixture of
classical and modern nominal and verbal forms although he would not have used
such a style in speech. The real prose literature and standard diction were yet
to come. This happened two or three decades after the modernists had lost the
battle on the composition issue. If there were no Apparow and Ramamurthi, perhaps
the process of change would have slowed down, but it could not have been stopped
if only because there was no alternative.
The modernists had an initial failure, because at that time, they had no models
to set up against the formidable tradition of classical writing, but they succeeded
without reviving the movement later when clear models of writing emerged from
the thirties onward. Conversely, although the classicists scored an initial victory,
it was short-lived, because the style they cherished and they themselves never
used it as a vehicle of communication on the platform even at the height of the
The modernists' attack on the Telugu literary dialect 'as disability imposed by
tradition upon the Telugus' (Kanyasulkam 2nd ed. Preface, p. xi) was also misplaced,
in a sense. Language is what its
make it. Even the literary was a natural phase in the history and evolution of
the Telugu language. No scholar can show that any word or inflection or phrase
in the literary language was concocted or fabricated by one or more poets out
of their fancy. The fact that there were grammatical rules to govern these shows
they were thoroughly natural. It was the attitude of the 19th and 20th century
writers and scholars who wanted to cling to an archaic dialect even for modern
education that was wrong. Out of respect for tradition certain scholars committed
a fanatic error of judgment. We do not totally subscribe to the view expressed
by G. V. Apparow (P. viii) when he said that ;
The Telugu literary dialect contains many obsolete words
and arbitrary verbal
contractions, and expansions, necessita
ted by a system of versification based
on alliteration and
quantity. A license, which no doubt has its own advantages
of introducing Sanskrit words to and extent, has been but too
by the poets who brought glossaries into
requisition, reveled in fantastic
compound formation, and
made the Telugu literary dialect doubly dead.
is hard to prove that there were any arbitrary contractions or expansions. If
there were any, they would be idiosyncratic and would not become part of a linguistic
tradition. It was true that long Sanskrit compounds were imported into Telugu
poetry. But it was these compounds that were 'doubly dead' and not the language.
Anything that does not suit the laws of a language would never get assimilated
by it. The attack which should have been directed towards the attitudes of conservative
and orthodox scholars was sometimes misdirected towards a historical phase of
the Telugu language which was perfectly natural for the society in which it flourished
as modern language now is. The traditional must have felt that the whole movement
of modern language was more an attack on the traditional values rather than merely
on the improper use of the literary dialect in changed circumstance. The whole
course of controversy shows that both the modernists and the classicists could
not separate these two issues-the form of the language and its function on the
one hand, and tradition vs, reform, on the other.
must also be said that it was again the tradition that enabled the modernist movement
and the educated spoken language to survive. All non-poetic written communication
in Telugu has always been, by and large, through contemporary spoken language.
This fact was established unequivocally by Ramamurti in his Gadyacintamn? i. The
who wanted to project the poetic dialect onto the areas where prose, through spoken
language, had a long tradition of usage were apparently going the tradition and
their movement naturally collapsed under its own weight of internal contradiction.
What they condemned as abominable gramya (wrongly used for even the polite spoken
form), they were all the time using on the platform for advocating their cause.
the case of Tamil in which there has always been a tradition of two styles-the
informal (spoken) and formal (written as well as spoken on all formal occasions).
The distance between modern written Tamil and spoken Tamil is generally parallel
to our saralaganthika and dialects including si??avyavaharika. The formal variety
is not as in the case of Telugu and the modern European languages. If any, it
is parallel to Arabic where two styles developed from the beginning, which have
not been historically related for centuries. If the so-called literary Telugu
or a variant of it had ever been traditionally used for all formal purposes (both
spoken and written) distinctly from informal speech used at home and the market,
the course of events would have ended up with a situation parallel to Tamil and
Arabic. But the Telugu tradition has been different from these languages right
from the beginning and this is what influenced the course of events and therefore
modern Telugu has now come to stay.
in the sense in which it obtains in Arabic and Tamil has never existed in Telugu.
Even the most militant of the classicists never advocated the use of the granthika
style for formal roles in speech. The controversy centered on a form of language
used for written purposes, and, here, no distinction was made between one type
of writing and the other. There would have been no controversy if the classics
insisted on granthika being used for poetry alone, because that is the only historically
attested role of the literary language. The basic fallacy of the classicists was
to make the 'poetic language' the medium of all forms of prose writing. Hence,
they called is granthika 'bookish' and not kavyabha?a the 'poetic language', and
they obviously failed in this limited objected.
would be a moot question now whether the classicists would have succeeded in creating
'diglossia' in Telugu by extending the role of the literary language to formal
occasions of speech like teaching lecturing, etc. As one of the modernists rightly
retorted, "all this advocacy of tradition and denunciation of current polite
Telugu, misnamed gramya, was carried on by these protagonists in the very style,
grammar, and diction, to which they took exception" (Seshagiri Rao 1933 :
5). Are we than justified in calling the failure of the Classicist movement in
Telugu a lost case of 'diglossia'?