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Telugu ranks fourth among the languages with the highest number of native speakers in India, with 6. Speakers of Telugu refer to it as Telugu itself. Older forms of the name include Teluṅgu, Tenuṅgu and Teliṅga. The etymology of Telugu is not certain. Some historical scholars have suggested a derivation from Sanskrit triliṅgam, as in Trilinga Desam, “the country of the three lingas”.
Appa Kavi in the 17th century explicitly wrote that Telugu was derived from “Trilinga”. Brown made a comment that it was a “strange notion” since the predecessors of Appa Kavi had no knowledge of such a derivation. George Abraham Grierson and other linguists doubt this derivation, holding rather that Telugu was the older term and Trilinga must be the later Sanskritisation of it. Telugu Thalli Bomma, the personification of Telugu language in Andhra Pradesh. According to linguist Bhadriraju Krishnamurti, Telugu, as a Dravidian language, descends from Proto-Dravidian, a proto-language.
A legend gives the town of Lepakshi a significant place in the Ramayanam. This was where the bird Jatayu fell, wounded after a futile battle against Ravana who was carrying away Sita. It has been argued that there is a historical connection between the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia and the Telugu speaking peoples. Prakrit Inscriptions with some Telugu words dating back to between 400 BCE and 100 BCE have been discovered in Bhattiprolu in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. The coin legends of the Satavahanas, in all areas and all periods, used a Prakrit dialect without exception. Some reverse coin legends are in Tamil, and Telugu languages.
Certain exploration and excavation missions conducted by the Archaeological Department in and around the Keesaragutta temple have brought to light, a number of brick temples, cells and other structures encompassed by brick prakaram along with coins, beads, stucco figures, garbhapatra, pottery, and Brahmi label inscriptions datable to 4th and 5th centuries CE. One of the first words in the Telugu language, “Nagabu”, was found in a Sanskrit inscription of the 1st century B. According to Telugu lore, its grammar has a prehistoric past. Sage kanva was said to be the languages first grammarian.