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I can't figure out how many grammatical cases Telugu has:

  • Wikipedia says 8 (Telugu grammar)
  • Telugu itself says 8, but I'm not sure if they map 1-1 to linguistic cases (విభక్తులు/viḅaktulu)
  • Another source says 7 (lists a few different cases than the Wikipedia article), but I'm not sure if I'd count it as 8, since it does merge two using a hyphen, but those two cases do exist separately (Telugu)
  • Another one (probably not very reliable) says 25, which seems a bit high to me, considering what the more reputable sources say (Telugu language)

Since all the others mostly match up in terms of count (7/8), concerning the 25, looking through it, it doesn't seem inaccurate. Telugu does have noun endings and inflection for all of those listed. It may have more endings than listed there, but I'm not sure, since I speak English better than I do Telugu.

So how do you count cases, and specifically, why not many of the ones in the last source? To me, 25 cases seem like too many, especially given the answers of more reliable sources, but I have no idea why it shouldn't be 25.

This is especially since Wikipedia does count these cases for other languages, e.g. Finnish (which has 10 cases in common with Telugu if we take the 25 to be valid), where the -ssa suffix is used for the inessive case (-లో/-lō in Telugu). Is there anything different that makes Finnish's inessive case (and other cases common between the two according to the last source) valid and not Telugu's?

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  • All the sources you give (including the Wikipedia article) are quite poorly and unclearly written – if you can’t read Telugu, as I can’t, it’s pretty much impossible to figure out what the structure of the different forms is. In Finnish, we can see that -ssa is a case because it behaves morphosyntactically just like the unquestionably grammatical cases (like the genitive), attaching to the inflectional stem of the word in the same slot (= after plural marker, before possessive markers). I can’t tell how the ‘additional’ Telugu cases behave from your sources… Jun 24, 2023 at 11:47
  • It does attach to the stem at the same slot. For example, 'in the homes' would be, in both languages: Finnish: kodeissa - I think kode means home (or some form of it), i is the plural marker, ssa is the inessive marker Telugu: Iḷlalō - Iḷlu is the plural of illu (home), and lō is the inessive marker - Iḷlu changes to Iḷla (genitive form) due to lō Jun 24, 2023 at 12:09
  • Well, that doesn’t really follow, then. You say that the plural form iḷlu (= what Wiktionary transcribes as iṇḍlu?) changes to the genitive iḷla due to -lō, which might mean that it doesn’t fall in the same slot, but is a suffix/postposition used with the genitive. Finnish has those too, and they behave differently from the actual cases; e.g., -kaa ‘with’: kodi-n-kaa ‘with the house’, kodi-n-kin-kaa ‘with the house too’ (with the suffix -kin ‘also’ in between the genitive kodin and the postposition/suffix -kaa). Jun 24, 2023 at 12:39
  • The Wikipedia article seems to indicate that this is indeed the case: “The grammatical function of the words are marked by suffixes that indicate case and postpositions that follow the oblique stem” and “the oblique stem, also usually but not always the same as the genitive”. So there’s a genitive case and an oblique stem (usually identical), the latter used as the basis for a number of postpositions that indicate spatial and temporal relations. Going by Wiktionary, I am guessing that ‘at the home’ (locative) would be illuna, while ‘in the home’ would be iṇḍilō? Jun 24, 2023 at 12:44
  • Both forms work for the plural. And it would be iṇtilō, but illuna is correct. I’m also not too familiar with linguistics or some of formal Telugu grammar (to an extent, I do know pretty much all of what is used in everyday speaking plus some beyond that) so excuse me if I make mistakes there. Jun 24, 2023 at 13:03

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For Telugu, due to agglutination, the line between postpositions and case-affixes is blurred to the point where it's useless to count how many cases there are. The 8 number comes from trying to map Telugu grammar onto Sanskrit grammar iirc.

Maybe a better way of analyzing case affixes is by taking all of the ones that don't transparently come from stand-alone words. For example, tō comes from tōḍu meaning companion. Using this analysis, nominative, genitive/oblique stem, -ni, -ki, and -na are the true cases. Also note that some nouns have a locative case which is made by changing the last vowel of the oblique stem to -a. For example, cēyi->cēta, bayalu->bayaṭa, pēru->pēra, etc. So counting these up, we get an answer of 5 (6 if you count the weird locative for some nouns and maybe 4 or even 3 in most cases because the nominative and genitive are usually the same and accusative is often dropped before inanimates). Coincidentally, these 5 are the least likely to be written by native speakers as seperate words, unlike most of the affixes in the 25 list that are usually written seperately from the noun.

The instances where the oblique stem is different from the genitive is for -am/-em nouns that change to -āni or -ēni before -ni and -ki, but for these nouns they stay as -am/-em before other case affixes like -tō or -lō. So maybe we can analyse the genetive and the oblique stem as the same but undergoes sandhi before certain affixes. I just wanted to clear this up.

Another case is with -na as in illuna. Honestly as a learner of Telugu I have no idea whether to put the oblique stem before -na or not. -na in spoken Telugu is most used to refer to the time of an event and for most of those words the nominative/genitive are the same so this problem doesn't come up. (Instead of "at the home" people tend to say "in the home" or "near the home" or "outside the home" or stuff like that.)Also a contracted form of -na may be the source of the weird -a locative but idk.

I also wanted to clear up that iḷḷu and iṇḍḷu are both correct plurals of illu and the difference is just dialectal variation. Generally, speakers who don't have a l/ḷ distinction will use iṇḍḷu.

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