It is possible to broadly define four stages in the linguistic history of the Telugu language:
400 CE - 500 CE
The discovery of a Brahmi label inscription reading Thambhaya Dhaanam is engraved on the soap stone reliquary datable to 2nd century BCE on Paleographical ground proves the fact that Telugu language predates the known conception in Andhra Pradesh. Primary sources are Prakrit/Sanskrit inscriptions found in the region, in which Telugu places and personal names are found. From this we know that the language of the people was Telugu, while the rulers, who were of the Satavahana dynasty, spoke Prakrit. Telugu words appear in the Maharashtri Prakrit anthology of poems (the Gathasaptashathi) collected by the first century BCE Satavahana King Hala. Telugu speakers were probably the oldest peoples inhabiting the land between the Krishna and Godavari rivers.
500 CE - 1100 CE
The first inscription that is entirely in Telugu corresponds to the second phase of Telugu history. This inscription dated 575 CE was found in the Kadapa and Kurnool district region and is attributed to the Renati Cholas. They broke with the prevailing fashion of using Sanskrit and introduced the tradition of writing royal proclamations in the local language. During the next fifty years, Telugu inscriptions appeared in the neighboring Anantapuram and all the surrounding regions. The first available Telugu inscription in the coastal Andhra Pradesh comes from about 633 CE. Around the same time, the Chalukya kings of Telangana also started using Telugu for inscriptions. Telugu was most exposed to the influence of Sanskrit, as opposed to Prakrit, during this period. This period mainly corresponded to the advent of literature in Telugu. This literature was initially found in inscriptions and poetry in the courts of the rulers, and later in written works such as Nannayya's Mahabharatam (1022 CE). During the time of Nannayya, the literary language diverged from the popular language. This was also a period of phonetic changes in the spoken language.
1100 CE - 1400 CE
The third phase is marked by further stylization and sophistication of the literary language. Ketana (thirteenth century) in fact prohibited the use of spoken words in poetic works. This period also saw the beginning of Muslim rule in the Telangana region.
1400 CE - 1900 CE
During the fourth phase, Telugu underwent a great deal of change (as did other Indian languages), progressing from medieval to modern. The language of the Telangana region started to split into a distinct dialect due to Muslim influence: Sultanate rule under the Tughlaq dynasty had been established earlier in the northern Deccan during the fourteenth century. South of the Godavari river (Rayalaseema region), however, the Vijayanagara empire gained dominance from 1336 till the late 1600s, reaching its peak during the rule of Krishnadevaraya in the sixteenth century, when Telugu literature experienced what is considered to be its golden age.Padakavithapithamaha, Annamayya, contributed many atcha (pristine) Telugu Padaalu to this great language. In the latter half of the seventeenth century, Muslim rule extended further south, culminating in the establishment of the princely state of Hyderabad by the Asaf Jah dynasty in 1724. This heralded an era of Persian/Arabic influence on the Telugu language, especially among the people of Hyderabad. The effect is also felt in the prose of the early 19th century, as in the Kaifiyats.
1900 CE to date
The period of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries saw the influence of the English language and modern communication/printing press as an effect of the British rule, especially in the areas that were part of the Madras Presidency. Literature from this time had a mix of classical and modern traditions and included works by scholars like Kandukuri Viresalingam and Panuganti Lakshminarasimha Rao.
Since the 1940s, what was considered an elite literary form of the Telugu language has now spread to the common people with the introduction of mass media like television, radio and newspapers. This form of the language is also taught in schools as a standard. In the current decade the Telugu language, like other Indian languages, has undergone globalization due to the increasing settlement of Telugu-speaking people abroad. Modern Telugu movies, although still retaining their dramatic quality, are linguistically separate from post-Independence films.
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- "Classical tag recommended for Kannada". Online webpage of The Deccan Herald. Deccan Herald. http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Aug92008/scroll2008080983598.asp?section=frontpagenews. Retrieved 2008-08-08.