[Buddha-l] Ready for this, folks? Interesting idea.........
selwyn at ntlworld.com
Sat May 11 11:33:10 MDT 2013
> Didn't the Buddha speak Magadhi?
Well, no. We don't know what precise dialect the Buddha spoke. Any guess
would depend on what was the date when one thinks the Buddha lived and
whether the dialects spoken in Māgadha proper, Kosala and among the
Sakkas were exactly the same. And whether the Buddha spoke only one
The standard epigraphical language used in the Gangetic plain and beyond
in the last centuries B.C. and a little after was a form of Middle
Indian rather close to Pali. We have no reason to believe that any other
written language existed in that area at that time. Like Pali it is
eclectic with word-forms originally from different dialectics and also
with no standardized spelling (as was probably originally the case for
Pali). So the first Buddhist texts written down in that area should have
been in that form. Since the enlarged kingdom of Magadha eventually
extended over nearly the whole Gangetic plain, that language was
probably called the language of Magadha, if it had a name. And that of
course is the correct name of the Pali language.
Pali is essentially a standardized and slightly Sanskritized version of
that language. Māgadhī is a language described by the Prakrit
grammarians and refers to a written dialect that developed later (early
centuries A.D. ?) from the spoken dialect in some part of 'Greater Magadha'.
In effect, then, Pali is the closest we can get to the language spoken
by the Buddha. And it cannot have been very different — we are talking
about dialect diferences here, not radically distinct languages.
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