Since the 1930s, 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 movies, television, radio and newspapers.

This form of the language is also taught in schools and colleges as a standard.

The first treatise on Telugu grammar, the Āndhra Śabda Cinṭāmaṇi, was written in Sanskrit by Nannayya, considered the first Telugu poet and translator, in the 11th century AD.

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The effect is also evident in the prose of the early 19th century, as in the Kaifiyats.

In the princely state of Nizam, Andhra Jana Sangham was started in 1921 with the main intention of promoting Telugu language, literature, its books and historical research led by Madapati Hanumantha Rao (Founder of Andhra Jana Sangham), Komarraju Venkata Lakshmana Rao (Founder of Library Movement in Hyderabad State), Suravaram Pratapareddy and others.

At 7.2% of the population, Telugu is the third-most-spoken language in the Indian subcontinent after Hindi and Bengali.

In Karnataka, 7.0% of the population speak Telugu, and 5.6% in Tamil Nadu.; as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain, Canada (Toronto), Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Myanmar, Ireland, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom (London), as well as other western European countries, where there are also a considerable Telugu diaspora.

There are three major dialects: Telangana dialect, laced with urdu words, spoken mainly in Telangana, Andhra dialect spoken in Khammam district of Telangana and coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema dialect spoken in the four Rayalaseema districts of Andhra Pradesh.

In Karnataka the dialect sees more influence of Kannada and is a bit different than what is spoken in Andhra.

Telugu is natively spoken in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and Yanam district of Puducherry.

Telugu speaking migrants are also found in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, some parts of Jharkhand and the Kharagpur region of West Bengal in India.

During the time of Nannayya, the literary language diverged from the popular language.