origins of Pali

L.S.Cousins selwyn at DTN.NTL.COM
Sun Jan 9 07:42:37 UTC 2000

Prof. Witzel, Substrates in OIA, EJVS, 1999 is quoted as saying:

>But it has a form closer to meluHHa in Middle Indian (MIA): Pali, the
>church language of S. Buddhism which originated as a western N. Indian
>dialect (roughly, between Mathura, Gujarat and the Vindhya) has
>milakkha, milakkhu.

The view that Pali is a western dialect is largely dependent upon the
Girnar version of the edicts of the Emperor Asoka. But there is much
evidence to show that the similarities are due to the scribe at
Girnar i.e. he has in effect Sanskritized (or put in a more 'learned'
form) his exemplar. This naturally produces similarities with Pali,
itself a Sanskritized form of Middle Indian.

K.R.Norman has discussed this point in various papers. It seems more
likely that Pali originates somewhere further east i.e. in the area
of larger Maagadha, rather than in the narrower area where the
Maagadhii dialect (as later defined by grammarians) was spoken.

L.S. Cousins


L.S.Cousins at or selwyn at

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