e: Language Buddha Spoke While Preaching

Anand M. Sharan asharan at ENGR.MUN.CA
Tue Oct 10 15:22:57 UTC 2000

I enquired about the above mentioned subject from  an expert on buddhism,
and his response in mentioned below:
Anand M. Sharan
Namaste Anand,
   Let's divide the language issue into two questions;

1.  What language did Sakyamuni speak?
He is said to have instructed his disciples to teach in the language of the
local people.  Presummably he did the same himself, as far as possible.
Perhaps then, as now, some many people could speak several dialects that
this was not a big issue.

2.  What language lies behind Pali?
First, the word pali means a "line" of text, so it doesn't help to identify
the underlying language.
Second, the Theravada commentators suggest that the languag of their texts,
that is, what the Pali, is Magadhi.  However, moderns linguists doubt that
it is.  They find many features of the old Pali grammar that do not fit with
what they know of the dialects of old Magadha.  Many have suggested that the
Pali preserves a dialect from Western India.  We have evidence that
Theravada monasteries existed in many regions of India, so it is hard to
work backwards from that.

The bottom line, to final solution to the question remains up for


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