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549Re: [Pali] Re: History

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  • Robert Didham
    Nov 1, 2001
      Dear Yong Peng

      By vernacular I usually mean a spoken language rather than a literary
      language. In the case of Pali, it is a very mixed language in terms of
      origin - it draws on several vernacular dialects, both eastern and western
      MIA - but was essentially a written form which seems notto have coincided
      exactly with any particular Prakrit language or dialect as far as is known.
      This is not to say the language is somehow artifical - it isn't - but rather
      that it has its origins in a number of different spoken varieties of speech
      and appears to have been a literary language from the start (as a
      Dichtersprache as somebody called it - I think perhaps it was Bechert). It
      appears to have been used as a lingua franca at some stage (around the time
      of Asoka?) in some parts of what is now India.

      Nor does this mean that the original texts of the canon were not transmitted
      orally - just that Pali (as it was dubbed a couple of hundred years ago) is
      the written form into which the texts of the Theravada Tipitaka became
      crystallised, and not necessarily the language in which they were spoken

      These "literary" languages did not have to be written - oral literature is
      often transmitted in stylised forms of languages which helps preserve their
      integrity over time. Not sure if there has been a lot done on this aspect
      for Pali, but there is at least some excellent work (Mark Allon's thesis
      springs to mind) and I am sure much more widely read people than I could
      point us to the right places.

      However, I hope this sort of answers your question


      >From: "Ong Yong Peng" <ypong001@...>
      >Reply-To: Pali@yahoogroups.com
      >To: Pali@yahoogroups.com
      >Subject: [Pali] Re: History
      >Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 03:40:19 -0000
      >Dear Robert,
      >thanks. I have updated the page with more pointers.
      >Can you elaborate on the following statement you made.
      >Yong Peng.
      >--- Robert Didham wrote:
      >We also know that Pali was not exactly a vernacular.

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