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Re: Unwritten language

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  • Ong Yong Peng
    Dear Ed and friends, Pali, not doubt, is a dead language . But, it is still liturgical, i.e. used in chanting in Theravada countries, preserving its spoken
    Message 1 of 9 , Nov 7, 2004
      Dear Ed and friends,

      Pali, not doubt, is a "dead language". But, it is still liturgical,
      i.e. used in chanting in Theravada countries, preserving its spoken
      aspect. Buddhist texts are still written in Pali, preserving its
      written aspect (with South Asian, Southeast Asian and Roman
      scripts). Further insights into its grammatical structure and
      etymological aspects can all be derived from comparative language
      studies. Most of the Pali texts have also been translated into other
      languages, such as Chinese and Tibetan (and then to Japanese and
      Korean). Hence, the doctrinal authenticity is preserved too.


      metta,
      Yong Peng


      --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, emillersa1 wrote:

      I am confused. How is it that scholars can provide correct
      pronunciation and correct grammatical structure, yet it is a "dead
      language" that was only a spoken language. At least with Latin and
      ancient Greek there are written records left to compare to modern
      languages.
    • emillersa1
      Thank you for a succinct response which a great deal of sense. ... other
      Message 2 of 9 , Nov 8, 2004
        Thank you for a succinct response which a great deal of sense.


        --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, "Ong Yong Peng" <ypong001@y...> wrote:
        >
        > Dear Ed and friends,
        >
        > Pali, not doubt, is a "dead language". But, it is still liturgical,
        > i.e. used in chanting in Theravada countries, preserving its spoken
        > aspect. Buddhist texts are still written in Pali, preserving its
        > written aspect (with South Asian, Southeast Asian and Roman
        > scripts). Further insights into its grammatical structure and
        > etymological aspects can all be derived from comparative language
        > studies. Most of the Pali texts have also been translated into
        other
        > languages, such as Chinese and Tibetan (and then to Japanese and
        > Korean). Hence, the doctrinal authenticity is preserved too.
        >
        >
        > metta,
        > Yong Peng
        >
        >
        > --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, emillersa1 wrote:
        >
        > I am confused. How is it that scholars can provide correct
        > pronunciation and correct grammatical structure, yet it is a "dead
        > language" that was only a spoken language. At least with Latin and
        > ancient Greek there are written records left to compare to modern
        > languages.
      • Piya Tan
        Dear Yong Peng, It is an academic question whether Pali is a dead language or not. Technically, a dead language was once a living spoken language. Pali however
        Message 3 of 9 , Nov 8, 2004
          Dear Yong Peng,

          It is an academic question whether Pali is a dead language or not. Technically, a
          dead language was once a living spoken language. Pali however was never a "living
          spoken" language. It was a Kunstsprache used by monks probably from the Avantii
          region, with additions and modifications to recite the Buddha's Teachings. The
          language spoken by the Avantii people is probably dead by now or evolved into
          something modern.

          As such, I think it is more correct to call Pali a "sacred language" that is, we use
          it only for scriptural purposes, and not as a spoken language. Although I remember my
          abbot, the present acting Sangharaja of Thailand speaking Pali to the Sinhalese monks
          in Sri Lanka since neither side was conversant with the language of the other.

          Sukhi

          Piya

          Ong Yong Peng wrote:

          > Dear Ed and friends,
          >
          > Pali, not doubt, is a "dead language". But, it is still liturgical,
          > i.e. used in chanting in Theravada countries, preserving its spoken
          > aspect. Buddhist texts are still written in Pali, preserving its
          > written aspect (with South Asian, Southeast Asian and Roman
          > scripts). Further insights into its grammatical structure and
          > etymological aspects can all be derived from comparative language
          > studies. Most of the Pali texts have also been translated into other
          > languages, such as Chinese and Tibetan (and then to Japanese and
          > Korean). Hence, the doctrinal authenticity is preserved too.
          >
          > metta,
          > Yong Peng
          >
          > --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, emillersa1 wrote:
          >
          > I am confused. How is it that scholars can provide correct
          > pronunciation and correct grammatical structure, yet it is a "dead
          > language" that was only a spoken language. At least with Latin and
          > ancient Greek there are written records left to compare to modern
          > languages.
          >
          >
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        • Gunnar Gällmo
          ... I would like to re-formulate that: Pali however was never anyone s first language. It was a Plansprache... For two reasons: 1. Any language with a
          Message 4 of 9 , Nov 8, 2004
            --- Piya Tan <libris@...> skrev:
            >
            > Pali however was never a "living
            > spoken" language. It was a Kunstsprache...

            I would like to re-formulate that:

            "Pali however was never anyone's first language. It
            was a Plansprache..."

            For two reasons:

            1. Any language with a normalized grammar and spelling
            is more or less artificial; therefore, the term
            "Kunstsprache" ("artificial language") for languages
            like Volapük and Esperanto tends now to be replaced by
            "Plansprache" ("planned language").

            2. It is perfectly possible for a planned language to
            be a "living spoken" one, as can be testified by
            anyone who has visited an Esperanto congress - where,
            for many of its participants, the "artificial"
            language is actually more "living" than their second
            or third national language.

            What makes me doubt that Pali was ever a "living
            spoken" language, therefore, is not the fact that it
            is an artificial language, and perhaps a planned one,
            but the fact that it is so specialized. All Pali texts
            either deal directly with Buddhist matters (like the
            Tipitaka), or makes use of Buddhism for political
            goals (like the Mahava"msa), or are written to get
            into contact with Buddhists (like the Pali translation
            of the Bible), so the language seems never to have
            been meant for general use about everyday secular
            life.

            Gunnar


            =====
            gunnargallmo@...
          • Edward Miller
            If Pali wasn t a lingua franca of northern India, then what language did the Buddha speak? ... I would like to re-formulate that: Pali however was never
            Message 5 of 9 , Nov 8, 2004
              If Pali wasn't a lingua franca of northern India, then what language did the Buddha speak?

              Gunnar G�llmo <gunnargallmo@...> wrote:--- Piya Tan <libris@...> skrev:
              >
              > Pali however was never a "living
              > spoken" language. It was a Kunstsprache...

              I would like to re-formulate that:

              "Pali however was never anyone's first language. It
              was a Plansprache..."

              For two reasons:

              1. Any language with a normalized grammar and spelling
              is more or less artificial; therefore, the term
              "Kunstsprache" ("artificial language") for languages
              like Volap�k and Esperanto tends now to be replaced by
              "Plansprache" ("planned language").

              2. It is perfectly possible for a planned language to
              be a "living spoken" one, as can be testified by
              anyone who has visited an Esperanto congress - where,
              for many of its participants, the "artificial"
              language is actually more "living" than their second
              or third national language.

              What makes me doubt that Pali was ever a "living
              spoken" language, therefore, is not the fact that it
              is an artificial language, and perhaps a planned one,
              but the fact that it is so specialized. All Pali texts
              either deal directly with Buddhist matters (like the
              Tipitaka), or makes use of Buddhism for political
              goals (like the Mahava"msa), or are written to get
              into contact with Buddhists (like the Pali translation
              of the Bible), so the language seems never to have
              been meant for general use about everyday secular
              life.

              Gunnar


              =====
              gunnargallmo@...


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              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Derek
              ... Dear Edward, It is sometimes said that the Buddha spoke the Magadhi language. The trouble is, we have no records of the Magadhi language, so simply saying
              Message 6 of 9 , Nov 9, 2004
                --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Edward Miller <emillersa1@s...> wrote:
                > If Pali wasn't a lingua franca of northern India, then what
                > language did the Buddha speak?

                Dear Edward,

                It is sometimes said that the Buddha spoke the Magadhi language. The
                trouble is, we have no records of the Magadhi language, so simply
                saying "the Buddha spoke Magadhi" may or may not answer your
                question!

                Two hundred years after the time of the Buddha, yhe emperor Ashoka
                (3rd century B.C.) had pillars with edicts on them put up over large
                parts of India, and by studying the edicts on these pillars we can
                get some idea of the way language varied from place to place. Hence
                we can speculate a little about what Magadhi may have looked like.
                For example the vocative plural form bhikkhave is thought to be
                typically Magadhi. But that's about as far as we can go.

                Derek.
              • Ong Yong Peng
                Dear Derek, Edward, Gunnar, Piya and friends, thanks for the interesting discussion. To the common beliefs that 1. the Buddha may have never spoken Pali, 2.
                Message 7 of 9 , Nov 9, 2004
                  Dear Derek, Edward, Gunnar, Piya and friends,

                  thanks for the interesting discussion. To the common beliefs that

                  1. the Buddha may have never spoken Pali,
                  2. the Buddha spoke the Magadhi language.

                  I would like to add that due to the fact the Buddha spent a good
                  portion of his time in Magadha, and Kapilavatu was a political ally
                  of Magadha, Magadhi was the dialect most often used by Him.

                  However, Magadhi was not the only vernacular the Buddha used. The
                  Buddha had also learnt the 'religious language' of the Vedas.
                  Furthermore, He did not set a particular language to be superior
                  than others. As recorded in the Tipitaka, the Buddha allows his
                  disciples to preach the Dhamma in the local language.

                  The Buddha's footsteps covered the entire Northern India and Nepal.
                  So, it is unlikely that he spoke only one language. Just like it was
                  impossible to travel across Europe and preached to masses all in one
                  language.

                  It is interesting to note that while each sutta records certain
                  statistics of the meeting, such as the place, time and attendees,
                  there is no mention of the language used.

                  My guesses are:

                  1. The reciter (Ananda) of the suttas did not perceive language as
                  an issue. It is known to the assembly of the Arhats the Buddhist
                  attitude towards language usage (as the mean to an end, Zen
                  saying: "finger pointing the moon"), hence it is not recorded.

                  2. It is social norm for people to speak in different tongues in
                  different places. This is especially true as the Buddhist sangha was
                  not elitist and did not promote the use of the Vedic language. So,
                  the language used was not much of a concern for the records, as it
                  is (for academic purpose) today.


                  metta,
                  Yong Peng


                  --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Derek wrote:
                  > If Pali wasn't a lingua franca of northern India, then what
                  > language did the Buddha speak?


                  It is sometimes said that the Buddha spoke the Magadhi language. The
                  trouble is, we have no records of the Magadhi language, so simply
                  saying "the Buddha spoke Magadhi" may or may not answer your
                  question!

                  Two hundred years after the time of the Buddha, yhe emperor Ashoka
                  (3rd century B.C.) had pillars with edicts on them put up over large
                  parts of India, and by studying the edicts on these pillars we can
                  get some idea of the way language varied from place to place. Hence
                  we can speculate a little about what Magadhi may have looked like.
                  For example the vocative plural form bhikkhave is thought to be
                  typically Magadhi. But that's about as far as we can go.
                • Gunnar Gällmo
                  ... That s my theory as well. Asokas edicts, also, were written in different local Prakrits. That was practical when dealing with texts cut in stone, and not
                  Message 8 of 9 , Nov 10, 2004
                    --- Ong Yong Peng <ypong001@...> skrev:
                    >

                    > However, Magadhi was not the only vernacular the
                    > Buddha used.

                    ...

                    > The Buddha's footsteps covered the entire Northern
                    > India and Nepal.
                    > So, it is unlikely that he spoke only one language.

                    That's my theory as well. Asokas edicts, also, were
                    written in different local Prakrits. That was
                    practical when dealing with texts cut in stone, and
                    not to be carried around; but the Tipitaka, obviously,
                    needed some kind of standardized language, so I think
                    the members of the first council just elected one of
                    the Prakrits, or perhaps made a new one, without
                    making a great fuss about it.

                    Gunnar


                    =====
                    gunnargallmo@...
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