Update: 2014-04-20 03:26 AM +0630


A Dictionary of Pali Language


from: A Dictionary of the Pali Language, by Robert C. Childers, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., Ltd., London, 1874, reprint 1909, reprint 2007

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Childers notes

Note to TIL-editor 130208: This is an old file from 2002. I am reconstructing it to meet 2013 format. Childers' fn follows individual pages. Need to bookmark them giving page number & particular number, e.g. (fn-roman07-01), (fn-roman14-03). Because, the font used is an old font, I have no way of reproducing the words by myself. Remember Childers could be using the same fn more than once, in which case the back-fn would have to be given a new bookmark.

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UKT note to TIL editor 140420: I had typed out the following by myself and should be checked with scanned pages, which I am unable to do at present because my able assistant Daw KhinWutyi and I are occupied with BHS which is also based on Prakrit,
• BHS-Lat, Franklin Edgerton, 1885–1963, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary  (FE-BHS), - BHS-indx.htm (link chk 140420)

The Pali language is one of the Prakrits, or Aryan vernaculars of ancient India. (fn-roman07-01). It was spoken in the sixth century before Christ, and has therefore been a dead language for considerably over two thousand years.  I see no reason to reject the Buddhist tradition that Pali was the dialect of Magada (fn-roman07-01), and that it was the language in which Gautama Buddha preached. (fn-roman07-02) Originally a mere provincial idiom, the Magadhese tongue was raised by the genius of a great reformer to the dignity of a classic language (fn-roman07-02), and is regarded by the Buddhists with the same feelings of veneration with which a Jew of the present day looks upon the language of the Pentateuch.  A language is generally what its literature makes it.  Had, Gautama never preached, it is unlikely that the Magadhese would have been distinguished from the many other vernaculars of Hindostan, except perhaps by an inherent grace and strength which make it a sort of Tuscan among the Prakrits.  The existing Pali literature is of great extent and importance; it is valuable alike to the philologist, the historian, the student of folklore, [{roman08}] and the student of comparative religion. A considerable portion of it is known to as in outline, but only the merest fraction has as yet been published textually. It may broadly be classed under three heads: first the Buddhist Scriptures, which are the oldest Buddhist writings extant; secondly the commentaries of Buddhaghosha, which date only from the fifth century A.D., but are based upon records of great antiquity; and thirdly, historical, grammatical and other works, varying in date from the second or third century to the present day.

The Buddhist Scriptures are called Tripitaka, "The Three Baskets and are divided into Vinaya, Sūtra and Abhidharma. or Discipline, Doctrine (note 01), and Metaphysics. The Vinaya Pitaka contains the laws and regulations of the Buddhist priesthood, and forms a great code of monastic discipline; it is besides rich in history and folklore, and contributes innumerable details of the life and ministry of Gautama. The Sûtra Pitaka consists chiefly of sermons preached by Gautama and in some stances by his apostles (note 02), but it also contains other matter, as the Jātaka tales, the Niddesa attributed to the apostle Sāriputra, and Theragāthā, a collection of stanza uttered on different occasions by eminent saints. In the Abhidharma we find metaphysics pressed into the service of religion: it introduces no new dogma, but discusses the various doctrines of Buddhism from a metaphysical point of view, employing a terminology of great wealth and precision (note 03). The Three Baskets form a canon of Holy Writ, and are invested by the Buiddhists with all the sanctity of a canon. They are reverenced as containing the Word of Buddha, and are the ultimate appeal on all questions of belief and conduct. Owing to their great extent; estimated at eleven times that of our own Bible, they are able to treat in great detail of all the relations of life, and the doctrine they contain is consistent throughout and set forth with clearness and logical accuracy.

Upon the important question of the origin of the Buddhist Canon much has been written, and the most conflicting opinions have been expressed. The time has hardly come from dogmatising on this subject, but the tendency of all recent discovery is to confirm the Buddhist traditions, which assign to the Canon venerable antiquity. The Tripitaka bears every mark of recension, and according to the Buddhist historians this recension dates from the 3rd General Council of Buddhism, held under the emperor Asoka in the year 309 B.C. (note 04). But even this is said to be a mere revival [{roman09}]


of the first recension which was made in B.C. 543, just after Gautama's death, when his words were fresh in the hearts and memories of his apostles (note 01). These high pretensions have drawn down, as was inevitable, the ridicule of many Western scholars (note 02) ,more than one of whom has held the Buddhist sacred books to be late compilations, scarcely even reflecting the teaching of Gautama. But the question has been placed on an entirely different footing since the discovery last year (UKT: 1908) by General Cunningham of the Bharhut sculptures. These sculptures, which belong to the third century B.C., are illustrations in bas-relief of a great number of Buddhist scriptural subjects, and are accompanied by inscriptions in the Asoka character (UKT: now termed Brahmi script.) Both illustrations and inscriptions are, so far as they have been identified in perfect accord with the Buddhist Scriptures as we now have them, and in  one instance a whole sentence, containing a remarkable expression ... quoted from the Vinaya Pitaka. (note 3)

Next in importance to the Tripitaka books are the Commentaries of Buddhaghosha, the history of which is a singular one. When the great missionary Mahendra went to Ceylon in B.C. 307, he carried with him (note 04) not only the Tripitaka but the Arthakathā  [{roman10}]


or Commentaries, -- a whole literature, exegetical and historical which had grown up around the Tripitaka during the two centuries and a half that had elapsed since Gautama Buddha's death. After accomplishing his mission of converting the island to Buddhism, he proceeded to translate these commentaries from Pali into Sinhalese and his Sinhalese version continued to exist in Ceylon for many centuries, while the Pali version disappeared. In the fifth century Mahendra's Sinhalese commentaries were retransIated into Pali by the famous divine Buddhaghosha, one of the most extraordinary men that Buddhism has produced and this third version is the one we now possess, the Sinhalese original having in its turn disappeared. (note 01) Buddhaghosha did not confine himself to translating Mahendra but incorporated other old Sinhalese chronicles existing in his time, and added immense contributions, chiefly exegetical, of his own. Much of the matter his commentaries contain is as old as the Tripitaka itself, while like the Tripitaka they 'are rich in history and folklore, and abound in narratives which shed a flood of light on the social, an& moral condition of ancient India. (note 02)

The remaining Pali literature is of very varying interest. The mere titles of the books ancient and modern which it embraces would fill many pages, and it will be sufficient here to mention a few of the more noteworthy. First in importance are the two famous histories Dīpavaṁsa and Mahāvaṁsa (note 03), the discovery of which made the name of Turnour illustrious, and which are almost our only authentic sources for the history of India previous to the Christian era. Next in order of interest should undoubtedly be named the Milinda Paña, or Questions of Menander. Whatever be the origin of this remarkable work, there can be no doubt of its great antiquity, for it exhibits a familiarity with Greek names and places, and records a religious discussion between the Buddhist divine Nāgasena and a 'Yona' king Milinda, who can bc identified with certainty with the Bactrian king Menander. (note 04) The latter lived towards the end of the second century B.C and is stated by the Greek historians to have ruled over part of Hindustan. Buddhaghosha's Vīsuddhi Magga or Path of Holiness is next deserving of mention. It may fairly be called an encyclopedia of Buddhist doctrine, and is a truly great work, written in terse and lucid language, and showing a marvelous grasp of the subjects. The Pali grammatical literature is very extensive, and centres around the famous grammar of Kachchāyana, which is unquestionably the oldest Pali grammar we possess, [{roman11}]


though its exact date cannot at present be even approximately fixed. (note 01) There are probably as many as sixty or seventy standard grammatical works in Pali, and minor ones even now from time to time issue from the native press in Ceylon and Burmah. Dictionaries in our sense of the term there are none, but in Abhidhānappadīpikā we have a vocabulary nouns of the highest authority, compiled on the model of the Sanskrit Amarakosha by a learned Sinhalese priest of the twelfth century. The Pali Tīkās which form quite a literature in themselves, are commentaries, chiefly exegetical, by different authors, and belonging to different periods. They are of unequal authority, but some of the more ancient ones contain an immense deal that is valuable. They comment not only upon the Tripitaka, but upon almost all the standard books, and the Tīkās on the commentaries of Buddhaghosha are often of great utility in clearing up obscure passages in those writings. The Pali books on such subjects as prosody, rhetoric and medicine are mostly very modern, and formed upon Sanskrit models. Among doctrinal works may be specially mentioned Sārasaṁgaha, a modern compilation very popular in Ceylon, and Abhidhammattasaṅgaha (note 02), a masterly analysis or compendium of the Abhidharma, by a modern Burmese scholar named Anuruddha Āchārya, whose work shows that the spirit of Buddhaghosha is by no means extinct among his successors in these latter days of Buddhism.

The Pali or southern version of the Buddhist Scriptures is the only genuine and original one. (note 03). To a great pioneer of science, Brian H. Hodgson (note 04), is due the discovery [{roman12}]


in Nepal of an extensive Buddhist literature in the Sanskrit language, which at one time was generally considered to present Buddhism in its oldest form. This view is even now not without adherents of deserved reputation, but our increasing familiarity with South Buddhism is rapidly rendering universal the belief that the North Buddhist books have no claim to originality, but are partly translations or adaptations of the Pali sacred books, made several centuries after Gautama's time, and partly late outgrowths of Buddhism exhibiting that religion in an extraordinary state of corruption and travesty.

Pali scholarship is a science of comparatively recent origin and is the joint creation of two illustrious scholars, a Frenchman and a Dane. Burnof has left us the splendid legacy of his "Introduction à I'Histoire du Bouddhisme", and of his "Lotus de la Bonne Loi", and Fausböll, still in the meridian of life, is even now crowning his great services to Pali scholarship by an edition of the entire Jātaka.

Among the less eminent Palists the first place is due to the venerable Lassen, and the next to Spiegel, who shares with Burnouf and Lassen the gratitude felt towards a pioneer. Nor must I omit to record the name of Clough, for poor as his Pali Grammar appears to us now, we must remember that it bears the date 1824, and as a grammar remained unsuperseded for more than thirty years. And to come to more recent labourers, I would venture especially to mention the services of that distinguished scholar Albrecht Weber, of Senart the first editor of Kachchāyana, and of the younger Kuhn, the promise of whose early efforts has been amply fulfilled in his newly published treatise on Pali Grammar. The brilliant erudition of Max Müller has been devoted rather to Buddhism than to Pali philology, but in his 'Buddhaghosha's Parables' he has given a valuable contribution to this study, and one which I trust will not be his last.

If we compare Pali with classical Sanskrit, we find that about two-fifths of the vocabulary consist of words identical in form with their Sanskrit equivalents, as nāga, Buddha, nidāna. Nearly all the remaining words present a more of less late or corrupted form. The change is in some instances slight, as when sūtra becomes sutta or Prajāpati becomes Pajāpati; but there are extreme cases in which the change is so great that the identity is not at first sight apparent (note 01). Words of the above two classes nearly exhaust the Pali vocabulary; but there remains a small though important residuum of forms distinctly older than classical Sanskrit, and found only in the oldest known Sanskrit, that of the Vedas (note 02). Nay, I do not feel sure that Pali does not retain [{roman13}]

UKT: Pali "words present a more of less late or corrupted form": which appears in the above paragraph seemed to be based on the Childer's assumption that Pali was derived from Sanskrit. However, if we were to go along the assumption that Pali and its ancestor -- Magadi -- were Tibeto-Burman languages and that if we bear in mind that Sanskrit was an Indo-Aryan language which is more rhotic than Pali, we can expect the differences in spellings to exist. However, it must be born in mind that the present day Nepal in which Buddha was born had been populated by Tibeto-Burman speakers long before the Sanskrit speaking Indo-Aryans had filtered in from the West. Please note that in present times the theory of an Aryan invasion into modern India has been losing credence, and the theory of slow infiltration is becoming more popular.
   My second assumption is that Asoka belonging to the ruling class was not necessarily an Indo-Aryan. It is now accepted that Asoka's court language was Magadi and not Sanskrit. The Brahmans or Brahmanas, with their Sanskrit and its grammar, who belonged to the priestly class, were undoubtedly Indo-Aryans, however, the ruling class to which Asoka belonged need not be pure Indo-Aryans and he would be more familiar with the language of the majority at that time -- the Tibeto-Burman speakers.
   Therefore, Childer's statement that Pali "words present a more of less late or corrupted form" cannot be accepted.


a few precious relics older than the most ancient Sanskrit, and only to be explained through the allied Indo-Germanic languages (note 01).

It results from all this that Pali cannot be derived from Sanskrit; both though most intimately connected being independent corruptions of tile lost Aryan speech which is their common parent; but that Pali is on the whole in a decidedly later stage than Sanskrit, and, to adopt a metaphor popularised by Max Müller, stands to it in the relation of a younger sister. If the proud boast that the Magadhese is the one primeval language fades in the light of comparative philology, Buddhists may console themselves the though that the teaching of Gautama confers upon it a greater luster than it can derive from any fancied antiquity (note 02).

The parallel between Italian in its relation to Latin and Pali in its relation to Sanskrit, is striking enough to deserve special notice. In the thirteenth century the literary language of Italy, the language of culture and science, was Latin, which however had long died out as the spoken tongue of cultivated society, and was probably reserved for the drama, and for ocassions of state and ceremony. The spoken language of Italy was to be found in a number of provincial dialects, each with its own characteristics, the Piedmontese harsh, the Neapolitan nasal, the Tuscan soft and flowing. These dialects had been rising in importance as Latin declined, the birth-time of a new literary language was imminent. Then came Dante, and choosing for his immortal Commedia the finest and most cultivated of the vernaculars, raised it at once to the position of dignity which it still retains. Read Sanskrit for Latin, Magadhese for Tuscan, Gautama for Dante, and the Three Baskets for the Divina Conimedia, and the parallel is complete. There is strong evidence that in Gautama's time Magada was one of the most important centres of Hindu civilization, and it is far from improbable that its language was the most esteemed of the Prakrits, just as the Tuscan was the most esteemed of the Italian vernaculars. Like Italian, Pali is at once flowing and [{roman14}]


sonorous: it is a characteristic of both languages, that nearly every word ends in vowel (note 01), and that all harsh conjunction are softened down by assimilation, elision or crasis, while on the other hand both lend themselves easily to the expression of sublime and vigorous thought (note 02).

We have seen that historically Pali was a vernacular or language of the people and this is fully confirmed by internal evidence. A close examination of its grammar and vocabulary reveals all the distinctive peculiarities of a vernacular. At every turn we meet with words like atraja for Sanskrit ātmaja, ... nilm,4i2ts6 for drisliad,.ialdbii for jai-,Iiu, parupaii,-z for p@'tvarana. inak(isa for masak@. for agni, pi@iia l-)r pieclia, bli-anzu for blir6, sit?i2sitiridra for sisuiu'ara,-, racy-of the soil and dear to the comparative philologist. - A,-aiii. the i regularity of - Sanskrit satidli;- finds no place in the free and easy pi Magadha, and though satidl!i is certainly used in Pali it is Hardly nio than in Italian oi, r!,iiglisli. Another well-known feature. of a vernacii frequency of double forms, like ttil,ti(teisi and licirtis(i I twelve,' 7-avt.-ii and 2pappoti and p ' t,(2idti Ito obtiti ii.' '.N'ot uncommonly these divcr,-,encies are differentiate meaning, as in the case of ai@iaty-a and tii-i'@tf(ttha, the foriiie 'excep and the lattcr -efqen,liere,' ivliile their Sanskrit original ai@yatra meanings.' litords in common use sometimes even appear under three or M4 as when ag@ii becomes @ggi, aggi2,-i, gini, @ or svgna beco-ne-@ sdna, qo@ia, su'lla, stzvdiza.' -But by far the most strikin@ evidence of the vernacular character o wealth of idiom and colloquial expression. Sanskrit is @enbwiy a formal an Ian'-uage : poetry and the. driiii a, scie iioe, philosophy and cxcgft-is, take tip whole of its literature,, leaving but a small space f(w the-light na@tive and


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Childer notes

fn-roman07-01  ...see my note to TIL-editor fn-roman07-01b

fn-roman07-02  ...see my note to TIL-editor  fn-roman07-02b



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