Updated 11 November, 2023
This page brings together basic information about the Telugu script and its use for the Telugu language. It aims to provide a brief, descriptive summary of the modern, printed orthography and typographic features, and to advise how to write Telugu using Unicode.
Richard Ishida, Telugu Orthography Notes, 11-Nov-2023, https://r12a.github.io/scripts/telu/te
ప్రతిపత్తిస్వత్వముల విషయమున మానవులెల్లరును జన్మతః స్వతంత్రులును సమానులును నగుదురు. వారు వివేచన-అంతఃకరణ సంపన్నులగుటచే పరస్పరము భ్రాతృభావముతో వర్తింపవలయును.
The Telugu script is used for writing the Telugu language, a Dravidian language spoken by almost 70,000,000 people in South India, and the official language of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It is also used for a number of minority languages, and other neighbouring Indian states.
తెలుగు లిపి (telugu lipi) Telugu script
This script and Kannada (which is similar enough for people who can read one to be able to read the other) both developed together from the Brahmi script, but diverged around the 13th century. From then until recently, Telugu was a literary language, reflecting an archaic spoken form, but it was altered to support modern communication in the second half of the 20th century.
Sources Scriptsource, Wikipedia.
See vowel_encoding for possible variant encoding approaches to vowel signs and independent vowels.
The Telugu script is an abugida. Consonants carry an inherent vowel which can be modified by appending vowel signs to the consonant. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for the modern Telugu orthography.
The script is visually different from scripts like Devanagari and Bengali due to the rounded bases of the letters, which sit on rather hanging from a baseline. It also differs in the replacement of the flat, joining headstroke with a hook above the top of many characters. The hook is removed to accommodate superscript vowel signs and the virama.
Telugu text runs left-to-right in horizontal lines.
Words are separated by spaces.
35 consonant letters are used for Telugu and one vocalic letter. ❯ consonants
Consonant clusters at any location are normally indicated using the virama between consonants. This results in a large number of conjunct forms expressed using half-forms, stacked consonants, and ligated glyphs. Occasionally, a visible virama is used. ❯ clusters
Conjuncts are fairly regular and nearly always consist of a full-form initial consonant followed by a subjoined version of the second. The subjoined version loses the hook, and in about 50% of cases is transformed. Many subjoined forms rise above the baseline to the right of the initial consonant, but any vowel signs attached to the cluster appear above or to the right of the initial consonant (which may be between the two consonant glyphs in the latter case). Some conjuncts are formed from conjoined pairs where the second letter is reduced and extends below the baseline. Gemination is quite common.
As part of a cluster, RA is formed in the same way as other conjuct members in the modern orthography, however historically there was a special behaviour.
Syllable-final consonant sounds may be represented by 2 dedicated combining marks (anusvara & visarga), but are generally ordinary consonants that are not marked by a virama. ❯ finals
The Telugu orthography is an abugida with one inherent vowel. Other post-consonant vowels are written using 11 vowel signs , all combining marks, and only one per base. ❯ vowels
There are no pre-base glyphs but there is 1 circumgraph. In principle, there are no multipart vowels, however the circumgraph can be decomposed into 2 parts, displayed on different sides of the base. ❯ circumgraph
Most vowel signs interact typographically with their base consonant, replacing the check mark above the base. A few also produce slightly different joined shapes. See shaping.
Standalone vowels are written using 12 independent vowel letters, one for each vowel sound, including the inherent vowel. ❯ standalone
Telugu has native number digits but doesn't often use them in modern texts. Until the adoption of the metric system, Telugu used a complicated system for writing fractions, with dedicated symbols that were combined in various ways. ❯ numbers
These are sounds of the Telugu language.
Click on the sounds to reveal locations in this document where they are mentioned.
Phones in a lighter colour are non-native or allophones. Source Wikipedia.
o cannot appear at the end of a word.wl,#Phonology
æː occurs in loan wordswl,#Phonology, but may also occur before a syllable with the sounds a, o, or u, and in some verbal forms.d,417
|stops||p b||t d||ʈ ɖ||c ɟ||k ɡ||ʔ|
|aspirated||pʰ bʰ||tʰ dʰ||ʈʰ ɖʰ||kʰ ɡʰ|
|affricates||t͡s d͡z||t͡ʃ d͡ʒ|
Aspirated or breathy consonants were introduced by and are mostly used by loan words, particularly from Sanskrit. The same goes for fricatives other than s.wl,#Phonology
ɲ and ŋ are associated with Sanskrit, and are relatively rare in Telugu.d,416
The typical unit of the orthography is the orthographic syllable, consisting of a consonant and vowel (CV) core and, optionally, one or more preceding consonants. Consonant letters by themselves constitute a CV unit, where the V is an inherent vowel. A dependent vowel sign is used to represent the V in CV units where V is not the inherent vowel.
In some cases, diacritics can be used to represent a syllable-final nasal.
Telugu words almost always end in short vowels, although modern Telugu allows m, n, y, and w to end a word, and loan words sometimes end with long vowels.wl,#Phonology
Geminate consonants are also a common feature of Telugu, mostly in word-medial positions, and are distinctive,wl,#Phonology eg. compare గది గద్ది
Unlike some other Dravidian languages, voiced sounds were always part of the Telugu language.wl,#Phonology
Retroflex consonants appear initially (apart from ɳ and ɭ), and medially, where they may be part of a retroflex cluster.wl,#Phonology
j occurs in word-initial position only in borrowed words, such as jɐnɡu young.wl,#Phonology
For additional details see vowel_mappings.
క ka U+0C15 TELUGU LETTER KA
a following a consonant is not written, but is seen as an inherent part of the consonant letter.
కి ki U+0C15 TELUGU LETTER KA + U+0C3F TELUGU VOWEL SIGN I
Telugu uses the following dedicated combining marks for vowels. They may be used on their own, or in combination with others (see circumgraphs).
Two vowel signs are spacing marks, meaning that they consume horizontal space when added to a base consonant.
When a vowel is pronounced after a conjunct, the vowel sign is attached to the first consonant in the cluster, even where the vowel sign pushes the two consonant glyphs apart (see fig_vowel_position).
The text is still entered following the spoken order: it is incorrect to type the vowel sign after the first consonant. (Click on the image in fig_vowel_position to see the multipart code points, arranged in order of storage.)
Telugu represents standalone vowels using a set of independent vowel letters. The set includes a character to represent the inherent vowel sound.
One vowel is produced by a single combining character with visually separate parts, that appears on opposite sides of the consonant onset eg. కై.
Encoding. The circumgraph can be written as a single character, or as two.
The single code point per vowel sign is the form preferred by the Unicode Standard and the form in common use for Telugu. The parts are separated, however, in Unicode when normalised using Normalisation Form D (NFD).
Whichever approach is used, the vowel signs must be typed and stored after the consonant characters they surround. In the case of decomposed vowel signs, the order is also important and must be as shown above.
Differences in vowel length are indicated by the choice of vowel sign.
The following list shows where vowel signs are positioned around a base consonant to produce vowels for precomposed text, and how many instances of that pattern there are. The figure after the + sign represents combinations of Unicode characters,
At maximum, vowel components can occur concurrently on 2 sides of the base.
Telugu is not a tonal language.
Only one of the vocalics is common in Telugu.
The remainder are used for Sanskrit texts.
There doesn't appear to be a method of extending the repertoire to cover non-native sounds (other than those used for Sanskrit), such as using a nukta or similar approach.
In traditional Telugu there is always a vowel sound at the end of a word, however in the modern language it is possible for m, n, y, and w to end a word.wl,#Phonology
Telugu uses ్ [U+0C4D TELUGU SIGN VIRAMA] (called virāmamu in Telugu) to show that the inherent vowel after a consonant is not pronounced, eg. క్ [U+0C15 TELUGU LETTER KA + U+0C4D TELUGU SIGN VIRAMA] explicitly represents just the sound k.
The virama is usually hidden when the consonant is part of a consonant cluster.
Clusters of consonant letters at the beginning of an orthographic syllable occur in Telugu, and they are handled as described in the section clusters.
There are several ways of representing syllable-final nasals.
Nasals can be written using ం [U+0C02 TELUGU SIGN ANUSVARA]. Before a plosive this is pronounced as a homorganic nasal, eg. అంగము It is pronounced m when followed by a non-plosive consonant, or at the end of a word,d,415 eg. సింహ లగాం
Syllable final h (usually pronounced ha) can be written with ః [U+0C03 TELUGU SIGN VISARGA], which is principally used for Sanskrit words, eg. పునః
The Unicode Standard describes a final n sound that is represented by న్ [U+0C28 TELUGU LETTER NA + U+0C4D TELUGU SIGN VIRAMA], but there is an older shape called nakāra pollu which can be produced, if the font supports it. The difference is only font based. To prevent the virama joining the final n with an immediately following consonant, use U+200C ZERO WIDTH NON-JOINER after the virama.u,500
The absence of a vowel sound between two or more consonants is visually indicated by using conjunct forms, where the second consonant is a subscript. There are some variant behaviours here:
See also finals.
In Unicode, the transformation of the 2nd consonant is achieved by adding ్ [U+0C4D TELUGU SIGN VIRAMA] between the consonants. The font hides the glyph automatically.
The following table shows consonants subjoined below themselves that are simply reduced in size, stripped of any headstroke, and positioned directly below the initial consonant.
ష [U+0C37 TELUGU LETTER SSA] is irregular when it follows క [U+0C15 TELUGU LETTER KA]. Unlike other combinations, that produces a transformed subjoined glyph, ie. క్ష k͓ʂ
The following consonants are also subjoined below the first, but are rendered with a very different shape.
The second consonant in these clusters is transformed into a spacing glyph that extends above and below the baseline.
In a cluster of this kind, any vowel sign is attached to the initial consonant letter, eg. అన్నీ
In modern Telugu, clusters that begin with r are formed in the normal way, eg. గూర్చి
In older texts, however, the r is represented as a special form to the right of the second consonant, and the second consonant is left intact and carries any vowel signs. See fig_gurci for an example. This effect can be produced in Unicode using U+200D ZERO WIDTH JOINER immediately after the virama, eg. in this case, ర్చ [U+0C30 TELUGU LETTER RA + U+0C4D TELUGU SIGN VIRAMA + U+200D ZERO WIDTH JOINER + U+0C1A TELUGU LETTER CA], although not all fonts support it.
In a font that shows the reph form by default, it should be possible to disable it using the ZWJ before the virama instead of after it, as long as the font supports it.
As mentioned in finals, Telugu represents some final consonants using diacritics. Such syllable-final diacritics are followed by ordinary consonant shapes in consonant clusters.
Gemination and consonant lengthening are handled using the normal approach to consonant clusters (see clusters).
These are other characters in the Telugu block that are archaic and have the general category of letter.
The Telugu block contains a single character with the symbol property, but it isn't used for modern Telugu.
Visually, several of the standalone vowels and some vowel signs look as it they could be composed of smaller parts. This section compares approaches and considers the relevance of Unicode Normalisation Form D (NFD) and Unicode Normalisation Form C (NFC) to give guidance on which approach is best.
The vowel signs for iː, eː, and oː should each be written with one of the single code points listed above. Those code points do not decompose in NFD. The Unicode Standard warns not to make up the shapes using combinations of characters.
|Use||Do not use!|
|ీ [U+0C40 TELUGU VOWEL SIGN II]||ి + ౕ [U+0C3F TELUGU VOWEL SIGN I + U+0C55 TELUGU LENGTH MARK]|
|ే [U+0C47 TELUGU VOWEL SIGN EE]||ె + ౕ [U+0C46 TELUGU VOWEL SIGN E + U+0C55 TELUGU LENGTH MARK]|
|ో [U+0C4B TELUGU VOWEL SIGN OO]||ొ + ౕ [U+0C4A TELUGU VOWEL SIGN O + U+0C55 TELUGU LENGTH MARK]|
The vowel sign for ai decomposes and recomposes during normalisation. It is therefore possible to find it encoded as either ై [U+0C48 TELUGU VOWEL SIGN AI] or ె + ౖ [U+0C46 TELUGU VOWEL SIGN E + U+0C56 TELUGU AI LENGTH MARK]. It is normal to use the precomposed version.
|ై [U+0C48 TELUGU VOWEL SIGN AI]||ె + ౖ [U+0C46 TELUGU VOWEL SIGN E + U+0C56 TELUGU AI LENGTH MARK]|
ౖ [U+0C56 TELUGU AI LENGTH MARK] is only used in decomposed versions of ై [U+0C48 TELUGU VOWEL SIGN AI].
The independent letters also should each be written with one of the single code points listed just above. The Unicode Standard warns not to make up the shapes using a combination of characters for aw and oː.
|Use||Do not use!|
|ఓ [U+0C13 TELUGU LETTER OO]||ఒ + ౕ [U+0C12 TELUGU LETTER O + U+0C55 TELUGU LENGTH MARK]|
|ఔ [U+0C14 TELUGU LETTER AU]||ఒ + ౌ [U+0C12 TELUGU LETTER O + U+0C4C TELUGU VOWEL SIGN AU]|
Telugu has native digits, but they are only used infrequently.
The CLDR standard-decimal pattern is
#,##,##0.###. The standard-percent pattern is
The Unicode Standard describes the use of fraction characters as follows.
Prior to the adoption of the metric system, Telugu fractions were used as part of the system of measurement. Telugu fractions are quaternary (base-4), and use eight marks, which are conceptually divided into two sets. The first set represents odd-numbered negative powers of four in fractions. The second set represents even-numbered negative powers of four in fractions. Different zeros are used with each set. The zero from the first set is known as hakki, ౸ [U+0C78 TELUGU FRACTION DIGIT ZERO FOR ODD POWERS OF FOUR]. The zero for the second set is ౦ [U+0C66 TELUGU DIGIT ZERO].u,501
The CLDR standard format for currency is
¤#,##,##0.00, and the symbol for the Indian rupee is ₹ [U+20B9 INDIAN RUPEE SIGN]
Telugu runs left to right in horizontal lines.
bidi_class properties for characters in the Telugu orthography described here.
This section brings together information about the following topics: writing styles; cursive text; context-based shaping; context-based positioning; baselines, line height, etc.; font styles; case & other character transforms.
You can experiment with examples using the Telugu character app.
Telugu has no special requirements for baseline alignment between mixed scripts and in general.
The orthography has no case distinction, and no special transforms are needed to convert between characters.
A majority of the Telugu consonants have a v-shaped headstroke, which is equivalent to the horizontal line in Devanagari. This headstroke is replaced when marks appear above the consonant, eg. క [U+0C15 TELUGU LETTER KA] becomes క్ when followed by an explicit virama and కి when followed by the i vowel sign.u,499
Out of 36 consonants, the following are the 9 that don't have a headstroke:
Most vowel signs interact typographically with their base consonant, replacing the check mark above the base.
A few also produce slightly different joined shapes. For example, in addition to the standard కి kiి [U+0C3F TELUGU VOWEL SIGN I] produces shapes such as the following: గి giచి ciAlso, ొ [U+0C4A TELUGU VOWEL SIGN O] and ో [U+0C4B TELUGU VOWEL SIGN OO] adopt very different shapes when they follow m or y, ie. మొ moమో mōయొ yoయో yō
Vowel signs need to be correctly positioned relative to the base character, and multiple marks can be combined with a single base character, eg. in అర్పించాలి ạr͓pim̽cāli offer the i vowel sign needs to be positioned over the initial consonant in the cluster, even though it occurs after the second in memory. The glyph also has to be carefully positioned with respect to the base character it is attached to.
That example also shows the use of multiple diacritics attached to the same base consonant.
See also the special positioning rules described in reph.
U+200C ZERO WIDTH NON-JOINER (ZWNJ) is used to prevent the formation of a conjunct (see finals).
U+200D ZERO WIDTH JOINER (ZWJ) is used to control font glyph selection (see reph).
Words are separated by spaces.
Telugu uses ASCII punctuation, but may also use a couple of indic punctuation marks.
, [U+002C COMMA]
; [U+003B SEMICOLON]
: [U+003A COLON]
। [U+0964 DEVANAGARI DANDA] (infrequent)
. [U+002E FULL STOP]
॥ [U+0965 DEVANAGARI DOUBLE DANDA] (infrequent)
। [U+0964 DEVANAGARI DANDA] and ॥ [U+0965 DEVANAGARI DOUBLE DANDA] are used primarily in the domain of religious texts to indicate the equivalent of a comma and full stop, respectively.u,501
Telugu commonly uses ASCII parentheses to insert parenthetical information into text.
Telugu texts use quotation marks around quotations. Of course, due to keyboard design, quotations may also be surrounded by ASCII double and single quote marks.
|initial||” [U+201D RIGHT DOUBLE QUOTATION MARK]|
|nested||’ [U+2019 RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK]|
Single quotation marks are used for quotations within quotations.
Spaces provide the main line break opportunities, however Telugu is an agglutinative language and Telugu words can be long. This can lead to large gaps during justification, and sometimes words that are longer than the available column width, so it is desirable to also hyphenate words.
Show (default) line-breaking properties for characters in the modern Telugu orthography.
Because of the length of Telugu words, in-word line-breaks (hyphenation) are very common and needed during layout, especially in narrow columns, such as newsprint.
Hyphenation mostly takes place at syllable boundaries, however there are also occasional exceptions and special cases.
Observation:InDesign produces a hyphen at the end of a line to mark that hyphenation has split a word.
Like most writing systems, certain characters are expected not to start or end a line. For example, periods and commas shouldn't start a line, and opening parentheses shouldn't end a line.
This section looks at ways in which spacing is applied between characters over and above that which is introduced during justification.
Telugu uses the so-called 'alphabetic' baseline, which is the same as for Latin and many other scripts.
You can experiment with counter styles using the Counter styles converter. Patterns for using these styles in CSS can be found in Ready-made Counter Styles, and we use the names of those patterns here to refer to the various styles.
The modern Telugu orthography uses a native numeric style.
The telugu numeric style is decimal-based and uses these digits.rmcs
Telugu commonly uses a full stop + space as a suffix.
This section is for any features that are specific to Telugu and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.