Pāli and the languages of early Buddhism

K. R. Norman

in Indo-Iranian Languages and Peoples

Published by British Academy

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780197262856
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191753961 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Pāli and the languages of early Buddhism

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This chapter goes back to the beginnings of Buddhism, in fact to that ancient problem: What language or languages did the Buddha speak? It discusses Old Indo-Aryan and the origin of the Prakrit dialects, the language(s) of the Buddha and the Jina, Old Māgadhī, the migration of the Buddhist teachings, the writing down of the canon in Ceylon, anomalous forms in the Theravādin canon, anomalous forms and the Aśokan inscriptions, and why anomalies remain in the Pāli canon.

Keywords: Buddha; language; Old Indo-Aryan; Prakrit dialect; Jina; Old Māgadhī; Theravādin canon; Aśokan inscriptions; Pāli canon

Chapter.  7408 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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