Pali language

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The upper half shows a text in Sanskrit (praise of Vishnu) written in Devanagari while the lower half shows a text in Pali from a Buddhist ceremonial scripture called "Kammuwa" from Burma, probably in the Mon script.

Pali (/ˈpɑːli/; Pāli), or Magadhan, was a Middle Indo-Aryan language native to the Indian subcontinent. It is widely studied because it is the language of the Pāli Canon, and is the sacred language of all texts of Theravāda Buddhism. The earliest archaeological evidence of the existence of canonical Pali comes from Pyu city-states inscriptions found in Burma dated to the mid 5th to mid 6th century CE.[1]

Traditionally Therevadhans regard it as the language the Buddha himself spoke, though modern scholars suggest that he probably spoke Magadhi Prakrit. Pali continued as a literary language in mainland India through to the 14th century and elsewhere up to the 18th century.[2]


Bhikkhu Nanamoli states:

The word pāli is translatable by “text.” The pāli language (the “text language,” which the commentators call Magadhan) holds a special position, with no European parallel, being reserved to one field, namely, the Buddha’s teaching. So there are no alien echoes.[3]

Pali-English dictionaries


  1. Stargardt, Janice. Tracing Thoughts Through Things: The Oldest Pali Texts and the Early Buddhist Archaeology of India and Burma., Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2000, page 25.
  2. Pāli language, Encyclopedia of Britannica
  3. "Introduction" to Path of Purification, Buddhist Publication Society, p. 1


Further reading

  • American National Standards Institute. (1979). American National Standard system for the romanization of Lao, Khmer, and Pali. New York: The Institute.
  • Andersen, Dines (1907). A Pali Reader. Copenhagen: Gyldendalske Boghandel, Nordisk Forlag. p. 310. Retrieved 29 September 2016. 
  • Cone, Margaret (2001), Dictionary of Pali, vol. I, Oxford: Pali Text Society 
  • Cousins, L. S. (1982), Pali oral literature. In Denwood and Piatigorski, eds.: Buddhist Studies, ancient and modern, London: Curzon Press, p. 1-11 
  • Perniola, V. (1997). Pali Grammar, Oxford, The Pali Text Society.
  • Collins, Steven (2006). A Pali Grammar for Students. Silkworm Press.
  • Gupta, K. M. (2006). Linguistic approach to meaning in Pali. New Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan. ISBN 81-7574-170-8
  • Hazra, K. L. (1994). Pāli language and literature: a systematic survey and historical study. Emerging perceptions in Buddhist studies, no. 4-5. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld. ISBN 81-246-0004-X
  • Müller, E. (2003). The Pali language: a simplified grammar. Trubner's collection of simplified grammars. London: Trubner. ISBN 1-84453-001-9
  • Russell Webb (ed.) An Analysis of the Pali Canon, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy; 1975, 1991 (see
  • Soothill, W. E., & Hodous, L. (1937). A dictionary of Chinese Buddhist terms: with Sanskrit and English equivalents and a Sanskrit-Pali index. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.
  • Bhikkhu Nanamoli. A- Pāli-English Glossary of Buddhist technical terms. ISBN 9552400864
  • Mahathera Buddhadatta (1998). Concise Pāli-English Dictionary. Quickly find the meaning of a word, without the detailed grammatical and contextual analysis. ISBN 8120806050
  • Wallis, Glenn (2011) Buddhavacana, a Pali reader (PDF eBook). ISBN 192870686X
  • Lynn Martineau (1998) Pāli Workbook Pāli Vocabulary from the 10-day Vipassana Course of S.N. Goenka ISBN 1928706045

External links

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