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Panini and Pali

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  • George Bedell
    Since I have not contributed to this discussion group before, perhaps a brief self introduction will not be out of place. I taught linguistics at the
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 25, 2006
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      Since I have not contributed to this discussion group
      before, perhaps a brief self introduction will not be
      out of place. I taught linguistics at the University
      of California in Los Angeles from 1968 to 1991, and at
      International Christian University in Tokyo from 1991
      to 2005. Last year I retired from ICU and moved to
      Thailand. My interest in Pali comes from its position
      among so-called Indo-Aryan languages and its
      traditional grammars, as well as its influence (via
      Theravada Buddhism) on Burmese and Thai.

      In this initial posting, I have a small bone to pick
      with Dmytro Ivakhnenko. In a posting to this group on
      3/16/06, he stated:

      Sanskrit didn't exist at the time of Buddha.

      In the accompanying text, he referred us to a brief
      chronology he originally posted on 11/22/05, in which
      we find the following:

      (500 BC) Probably the Indian Brahmanists feel the
      need to counteract the popularity of Buddha's teaching
      by propagating their knowledge. Indian grammarian
      Panini begins a project of resurrecting Vedic language
      (which he calls 'chandaso') in a form that can be
      widely used, and composes a grammar.

      There, he refers us to the Wikipedia entry for Pali,
      in which it is stated:

      However it [Pali] was ultimately supplanted by
      Sanskrit as a literary and religious language
      following the formation of Classical Sanskrit by the
      scholar Panini in India.

      I am quite willing to accept, for present purposes,
      that the Buddha belongs to the 6th century BC, and
      Panini to the 5th, though not much is known about
      Panini's life and his date remains quite
      controversial. Still, it is overwhelmingly clear from
      comparing Sanskrit and Pali, on phonological,
      morphological or syntactic grounds, that Sanskrit
      represents a historically prior stage of Indo-Aryan to
      Pali. This is why in the accepted view Sanskrit is
      termed 'early Indo-Aryan' and Pali 'middle
      Indo-Aryan'. Panini's Astadhyayi (A) represents, not
      the first grammar written in India, but rather the
      culmination of development over a considerable period.
      Panini refers to ten predecessors by name; though
      their works have not been preserved, some of their
      ideas can be gathered from the commentarial literature
      on A.

      Like most grammarians or lexicographers, Panini had
      an agenda, which may well have included preserving a
      conservative variety of his language. But his
      grammar, judging both from what it says and from what
      commentators say about it, is primarily descriptive.
      His use of 'chandasi' referring to the Vedic language
      is always to distinguish that language from what later
      came to be called 'sanskrit'. See for example, A
      3.4.117 (which describes the use of the technical
      terms saarvadhaatuka and ardhadhaatuka) or A 4.1.29
      (which deals with the use of a suffix -ii in
      bahuvriihi compounds).

      There is a sense in which we might say that Panini
      created Sanskrit: roughly the same sense in which it
      is said that Martin Luther created German. But from
      this it hardly follows that the German language did
      not exist before Luther translated the Bible into it.
      We cannot find a parallel case with a European
      grammarian simply because (for better or worse)
      grammar never played the central role in European
      culture history that it did in Indian.

      Great poets, dramatists, philosophers, religious
      leaders, translators and (at least in India)
      grammarians have an influence on languages which it
      will not do to ignore. But it also will not do to
      forget that languages belong to entire populations and
      not just to those who use them in a memorable fashion.
      The changes which relate different stages of
      development in Indo-Aryan (say Sanskrit and Pali), as
      in all languages, are driven by social forces to which
      the details of culture history are largely irrelevant,
      however difficult culture history may make it for us
      to trace them.

      There is no reason to think that Panini was even
      aware of Buddhism, much less that his grammar is in
      any sense a reaction to it. Indian grammar, from
      before Panini through the medieval grammarians
      (including the Pali grammarians) to relatively recent
      times, can be understood as a product of the ritual
      concerns of Brahmanism; it cannot be understood in
      relation to Buddhist concerns. There is also no
      reason to blame Panini for the adoption of Sanskrit as
      the language of northern (Mahayana) Buddhism.
      Whatever sectarian conflicts led to the disappearance
      of Buddhism in India should not be read back to the
      time of the Buddha or Panini.

      Later in the brief chronology referred to above,
      Dmytro states:

      (200 BC) The language of Theravada canon comes to be
      known as 'Pali'. Buddhist grammarians write down the
      rules of this language.

      There are three 'schools' of Pali grammar: that of
      Kaccaana (in India?), that of Moggallaana (in Sri
      Lanka) and that of Aggava.msa (in Myanmar). The
      latter two are datable to the 12th century AD. The
      Kaccaayana grammar is the earliest; its origin is not
      clear, but most scholars agree that it could not
      really be earlier than the 7th century AD (a full
      millenium after Panini, and very much under his
      influence). So this reference to Pali grammarians
      active as early as 200 BC is rather mysterious.

      It goes without saying that I am no authority on any
      of the matters raised above. Some of them may have
      been considered already in this group, or there may be
      relevant points that I have overlooked. If so, I
      would value your guidance. In any case, I hope there
      are others interested in discussing these issues
      further.

      George Bedell

      * * * * *
      George Bedell
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    • lighthisertim
      ... overwhelmingly clear from comparing Sanskrit and Pali, on phonological, morphological or syntactic grounds, that Sanskrit represents a historically prior
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 7, 2006
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        --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, George Bedell <gdbedell@...> wrote: Still, it is
        overwhelmingly clear from comparing Sanskrit and Pali, on phonological, morphological or
        syntactic grounds, that Sanskrit represents a historically prior stage of Indo-Aryan to Pali.
        This is why in the accepted view Sanskrit is termed 'early Indo-Aryan' and Pali 'middle
        Indo-Aryan'.

        Hello,

        Oberlies, Thomas. “Middle Indo-Aryan and (the) Vedic (Dialects) (Miscellanea Palica VII).”
        Historische Sprachforschung 112 (1999): 39â€"57.

        This may be of some interest to you.

        tl
      • Jacques Huynen
        I think it is Vedic Sanskrit that is called Early Indo-Aryan while Classical post Panini Sankrit is posterior to prakrits - among which Pâli - of which it is
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 8, 2006
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          I think it is Vedic Sanskrit that is called Early
          Indo-Aryan while Classical post Panini Sankrit is
          posterior to prakrits - among which Pâli - of which it
          is a systematisation.

          J.Huynen

          --- lighthisertim <lighthisertim@...> wrote:

          > --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, George Bedell
          > <gdbedell@...> wrote: Still, it is
          > overwhelmingly clear from comparing Sanskrit and
          > Pali, on phonological, morphological or
          > syntactic grounds, that Sanskrit represents a
          > historically prior stage of Indo-Aryan to Pali.
          > This is why in the accepted view Sanskrit is termed
          > 'early Indo-Aryan' and Pali 'middle
          > Indo-Aryan'.
          >
          > Hello,
          >
          > Oberlies, Thomas. “Middle Indo-Aryan and (the)
          > Vedic (Dialects) (Miscellanea Palica VII).”
          > Historische Sprachforschung 112 (1999): 39â€"57.
          >
          > This may be of some interest to you.
          >
          > tl
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >


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        • Gunnar Gällmo
          ... It is true that the most important works in Classical Sanskrit are written later than the most important works in Pali. Nevertheless, Classical Sanskrit is
          Message 4 of 4 , Apr 8, 2006
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            --- Jacques Huynen <jhuynen@...> skrev:

            > I think it is Vedic Sanskrit that is called Early
            > Indo-Aryan while Classical post Panini Sankrit is
            > posterior to prakrits - among which Pâli - of which
            > it
            > is a systematisation.
            >
            > J.Huynen

            It is true that the most important works in Classical
            Sanskrit are written later than the most important
            works in Pali. Nevertheless, Classical Sanskrit is a
            more archaic language than Pali regarding both
            phonetics and grammar, and it is therefore classified
            as Early Indo-Aryan.

            In the same way, Latin is classified as an older
            language than Italian, in spite of the fact that late
            Latin was (and is) written later than early Italian.

            Gunnar
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