[INDOLOGY] Traditional/ insider's view of language or dialect status of Prakrits

Hock, Hans Henrich hhhock at illinois.edu
Thu Dec 25 22:16:56 UTC 2014

While there may not have been notions like “language” and “dialect” as they are used nowadays, there was the notion of “correct” and “incorrect” (apabhraṣṭa) speech, manifested in many different ways; see especially the Mahābhāṣya on this issue. The different use of Sanskrit and Prakrits in Classical drama offers another perspective, with different forms of speech being appropriate for socially different participants in the action; here, linguistic difference is not directly associated with “correct” and “incorrect” speech but with social status (although the vidūṣaka’s use of [stage] Magahi can be correlated with stray statements in the Vedic tradition that associate l-pronunciation, which is characteristic of Magahi, with “incorrect” speech). What is interesting is that Sanskrit and Prakrit are treated as mutually intelligible. Does that mean they were considered “dialects” of the “same language”? Or does it indicate some kind of diglossia?

On this whole issue see also the following publication(s):

Hock, Hans Henrich, and Rajeshwari Pandharipande. 1976. The sociolinguistic position of Sanskrit in pre-Muslim South Asia. Studies in Language Learning 1:2.106-38. (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

Hock, Hans Henrich, and Rajeshwari Pandharipande. 1978. Sanskrit in the pre-Islamic context of South Asia. Aspects of sociolinguistics in South Asia, ed. by B. B. Kachru & S. N. Sridhar, 11-25. (= International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 16.)

Ultimately, a clear distinction between “language” and “dialects” eludes even modern linguistics, in spite of long discussions of this issue.

Best wishes for the New Year,

Hans Henrich Hock

On 24-Dec-2014, at 2:55, Nagaraj Paturi <nagarajpaturi at gmail.com<mailto:nagarajpaturi at gmail.com>> wrote:

When did the convention of treating Prakrits as 'languages' and not as dialects begin?

Was there such an attitude of 'languages' not 'dialects' towards Prakrits in Sanskrit or Prakrit sources of the ancient or medieval period?

Is there a work dealing with this issue?

Thanks in advance for any references in this direction.

Prof.Nagaraj Paturi
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