History of the Telugu language - తెలుగు భాష యొక్క చరిత్ర
It was also referred to as `Tenugu' in the past. `Andhra' is the name given to it since the medieval times. Some argued that `Telugu' was a corruption of `Trilinga' (Sanskrit meaning three `lingas'). A general description of the land of the Telugus was made in the medieval times as `the land marked by three lingas of the three famous shrines of Draksharamam (East Godavari district), Kaleswaram (Karimnagar district) and Srisailam (Kurnool district).
Telugu is the most widely spoken language of the Dravidian family which consists of 24 languages spanning the entire South-Asia, from Baluchistan to Sri Lanka. In terms of population, Telugu ranks second to Hindi among the Indian languages. According to the 1981* Census, Telugu is spoken by over 45 million in Andhra Pradesh. It has also spread to the other parts of the globe, i.e., Burma, Indo-China, South-Africa and the U.S.A. Being a mellifluous language, it is called, by its admirers as the `Italian of the East'.
Telugu originated from the Proto-Dravidian language. It probably split from Proto-Dravidian between 1500 BCE and 1000 BCE, which was roughly the same time the Tamil language became distinct in terms of literary activity. Telugu belongs to the Central Dravidian language subfamily, whose members originated from the Proto-Dravidian spoken in the central part of the Deccan plateau. Other languages of the central group include the rustic Gondi, Konda, Kui and Kuvi languages, all of which are linguistically closest to Telugu.