Update: 2015-06-19 09:39 PM -0400


A Pali grammar on the basis of Kachchayano

Shin Kic-si, {rhing kic~sæÑ:} , or Kachchayano
Kic-si grammar, {kic~sæÑ: þûd~da}


by F. Mason, 1868, downloaded - PDF-Mason (link chk 150619)
See also downloaded - PDF-EM (link chk 150619)
Downloaded and edited with additions by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA) and staff of Tun Institute of Learning (TIL) . Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL  Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net

index.htm | Top

Contents of this page

UKT 150619: Pix with Lanka script is from - PDF-EM (link chk 150619)

The Alphabet and the Akshara (Abugida)
Akshara Alphabet
Origin of the Pali Akshara 

The total contents of this page:
Akshara. 001. Origin of the Pali akshara. 003. Simplicity of the Pali akshara. 005. Age of the akshara . 007. Modern akshara . 008. The Pali language. 010. Derivation of word Pali. 011. Extension of the Pali language. 013. The first Pali grammar. 014. Number of letters. 015. Division of letters. 017. Pronunciation. 017.

UKT 130919: Rev. Mason referred to Asokan akshara as Pali characters, and not as Brahmi. I opine that since the Brahmin-Poannas {braah~ma.Na. poaN~Na:} could not decipher it in the reign of Feroz Shah Tughlaq, who ruled from Delhi (ca. 1351 and 1388), they should have no claim to it.

"Five centuries ago, a Mohammetan [Muslim] sovereign assembled a number of learned Brahmins to decypher the inscription at Delhi, but their efforts were fruitless ; and a native historian wrote of it : "Round it have been engraved literal characters which the most intelligent of all religions have been unable to explain." (fn001star) "

UKT notes
Hottentot counting system

Contents of this page

Chapter 01

The Alphabet and the Akshara (Abugida)

-- UKT 110729:

The differentiation of Alphabet and the Akshara (Abugida) as different forms of writing was made only as the 20th Century was coming to a close. The consonantal glyphs representing the phonemes in the alphabetic system were without any vowels. They need vowels to make them pronounceable. Thus, <k> /k/ cannot be pronounced. It needs a vowel such as /i/ to make it pronounceable.

However, in the Akshara systems, the consonantal graphemes such as {ka.} already has an inherent vowel likened to the short English a /æ/. This must be killed by a vowel killer aka viram to become the same as the alphabetic grapheme. Thus,

{ka.} क + viram --> {k} क्

{ka.}, because it can be pronounced, is a syllable. Because of this the Abugida is also known as the alpha-syllabic system.

Contents of this page

The Akshara

UKT 130901: You'll see some quaint old English spellings in the original text [pdf]. I have left them to show how the English spellings have changed over a century.
   The Mason's footnotes at the foot of pages are listed by pages numbers, and moved to the end of the chapter.

When the [modern] Europeans first came to India, they noticed several remarkable stone pillars, scattered in different parts of the country with inscriptions cut on them. In some instances, inscriptions were found in three various characters. In the process of time, the languages of two were discovered, but the most ancient characters defied every attempt to decypher them.

Five centuries ago, a Mohammetan [Muslim] sovereign assembled a number of learned Brahmins to decypher the inscription at Delhi, but their efforts were fruitless ; and a native historian wrote of it : "Round it have been engraved literal characters which the most intelligent of all religions have been unable to explain." (fn-001star)  

UKT 130701: Trying to find who the Muslim ruler was, one name that I came across is Feroz Shah Tughlaq, who ruled from Delhi (ca. 1351 and 1388). -- Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashokan_Edicts_in_Delhi 130701 

Early ignorant European travellers reported the pillar at Delhi to been erected by Alexander the Great, and the writing on it to be Greek. (fn-001star)

UKT 130706: The arrogance of Europeans (including the British colonialists, and the present-day Americans) shows in what the early Europeans reported. It is a shame that they hold the cultures and religion of Europe to be superior to everything else in the world. It is a shame that the colonialist writers had written about my ancestors, the Bur-Myan, to be no better than half savages without writing or religion. See my half-finished work on The Burmese Empire a hundred years ago - by Father Vincenzo Sangermano, First published in Rome 1833, and additions by John Jardine, and others in later editions. -- sang-j-indx.htm (link chk 150619) 
& sang-s-indx.htm (link chk 150619)

It is interesting to note that John Jardine, 1884, did not mention anything about the Pyu who were the original inhabitants of Myanmarpré.

From the days of Sir William Jones, the eyes of all antiquarians in India had been directed to these inscriptions, but they were in vain. As late as 1833, one savant wrote of the characters : "They may be of a numerical or astronomical character, as hidden to our knowledge, as are the Egyptian hieroglyphics, for the square, triangle, circle, and Mercury are to be frequently met."

The first attempt to render any part of these inscriptions was made by a Bombay scholar, who, in 1834, translated the first thirteen letters : (Mason-fn001-01) (p001end-p002-begin

fn-001star - Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, July, 1837 ; Supplement 1864; October 1854 (?); and March 1838. fn-001star-b / fn-001star-b2


"In the two ways (of wisdom and works?) with all speed do I approach
the resplendent receptacle of the ever-moving luminous radiance."

In 1837, James Prinsep walked up to the inscriptions, and read them off to a wondering world, with as much apparent ease as Daniel did. MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN, to the bewildered Babylonian monarch. [UKT ¶]

UKT 130919: I wonder how the Hottentots would have done if they had tried to make sense of Calculus. Reading through Rev. Mason's account of the Myanmar akshara, which he unfortunately had thought to be inferior to the alphabetic system, has made me remember the Hottentots. See my note on the Hottentot counting system.

The Westerners had failed to see that the akshara is based on sound phonetic principles, and that to bring out the principles, they have to be presented in a 5x5 matrix-form, with the rows giving the POA (Points of Articulation), and the columns giving the MOA (Modes of Articulation). These principles have been known in the East for at least 3000 years or beyond.

Then we learned, that the first fifteen letters, so sublimely rendered above, read;

"Thus said King Devanampiya Piyadasi."


Prinsep deciphered the akshara as follows:


Combined with consonants, the vowels were found more fully developed, as:

In his remarks on [what he thought to be] the alphabet, he says:

"There is a primitive simplicity in the form of every letter, which stamps it at once as the original type whereon the more complicated structure of the Sanskrit has been founded.

If carefully analysed, each member of the alphabet will be found to contain the elements of the corresponding member, not only of the Deva-nágári, but of the Canonj, the Páli, the Tibetan, the Hala Canara, and of all derivatives from the Sanskrit stock." (fn002star)

fn002star  Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, June 1837 - fn002star-b1 / fn002star-b2

And he says, what has never been controverted, "I consider it the primeval alphabet of the Indian languages". (fn002star)

Contents of this page

Origin of the Pali Akshara

All the ancient alphabets west of the Indus have been satisfactorily traced to the Phoenicians, and all the



, as shown by Prinsep above, have been derived from the Pali. The Phoenician characters were probably formed on an Egyptian basis. [UKT ¶]

The origin of the Pali is not clear. Prinsep says, that all the consonant characters may be reduced to the following elements:

UKT 130919: I have added the Myan aksharas.

The question next arises, whence did these elements originate? If we turn to the Rosetta stone, we find every one of these characters in the Euchorial, or Demotic portion of the inscription.

There are twenty eight lines in the Euchorial character, and a careful examination of a fac-simile has shown, that the Pali characters are found in the different lines as noted below:

Besides the above ten elementary characters, twelve others found on the stone:

UKT 130919: There are no footnotes on p003.


The characters are not always erect on the stone, as in the Pali alphabet, and they may represented different sounds: for when new alphabets are formed from old materials, a new power is often given to an old character. [UKT ¶]

UKT 130919: In the above we see either Prinsep or Mason getting the idea that the characters might have been phonetic characters.

The Pali, [UKT: don't be misled: it is {hta.} and not {þa.}] furnishes an example, for in the Mon-Myan akshara Talaing alphabet it is used for <b>, and when the Red Karen language was reduced to writing, it was made to represent <v>; as in Etruscan, a sound not found in Burmese, Mon Talaing or the written Karen. [UKT ¶]

UKT 130919: I remember -- I would have to verify the source -- that before Panini, there were no Labio-dental /v/ sounds.

There are points of resemblance between this alphabet and the Bactrian, but the forms represent different sounds. [UKT ¶]

UKT 130919: Instead of the Bactrian script, I am presenting the Georgian shown on the right. 

Thus, ; and <rt> of the same alphabet, has almost the identical form of <kt> in a Pali inscription found in the Malayan Peninsula. (fn-004star)

fn004star Compare Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, July 1848, Plate IV; with Journal Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. XX, Plat IV - fn004star-b1

So in a published alphabet of Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, several have the same, or nearly allied forms, as the Pali letters, but they often represent different powers, and occasionally have the same form in a different position. Thus:

It is impossible for two sets of characters, so nearly alike, to have originated independently of each other, impossible because there is no parallel in history. They must have had a common origin, and since Euchorial character is Egyptian, we are shut up to the conclusions, that the Pali letters have had an Egyptian origin.

UKT 130919: Why not the other way around? It is also possible that Egyptians in trying to make their pictorial script come to have phonetic characters had borrowed from the Indian script. Only those like the ancient Rishis who were devoted to just one cause, living alone or just in the company of a small family in the mountain sides, could have looked into the various sciences such as phonetics, botany, astronomy, medicine, etc., thoroughly. Gautama Buddha held the Rishis in high regard because of their wisdom -- not because they were constantly singing praises to the Maha-Devas.

The fact seems improbable, but it is not so improbable as it at first appears. It is no more improbable that one portion of the Pali speaking people should use an alphabet derived from Egypt, than that another part should use one derived from Phoenicia; but the nineteenth century has disinterred an abundance of monuments and coins, which prove that the inhabitants of Bactria and the Cabul valley wrote Pali anterior to the Christian era, in an alphabet formed on a Phoenician basis.

Under the name of "The cave character", Dr. Wilson writes of Asoka's akshara alphabet : We now see clearly that the great trouble taken with the adjustment of the cave character would have been (p004end)

Continue reading in : - PDF-Mason (link chk 150619), and - PDF-EM (link chk 150619)

UKT 130919, 150619: My original plan was to present the downloaded pdf in small font as below, with my rendition by its side. However, as you can see the downloaded pdf could not be easily read, and I am forced to go in the format above.


Contents of this page

UKT notes

Hottentots and their counting system

Excerpt from: http://www.compaid.com/caiinternet/ezine/symons-pcs.pdf 130919

"A century ago, explorers in Southern Africa discovered that the Khoisan people, or ‘Hottentots’ as they became known, have the most primitive counting system known to man. They only have words for ‘one’, ‘two’, and ‘many’. A Hottentot who has more than two cows, can only tell you that he has ‘many’ cows, no matter how many."

In spite of my remark, I do admire the learned American missionaries who have done a great service to our akshara-script. As a Myanmar-Buddhist, I go down on my bended knees and gave them my highest salutations with my cupped hands to my forehead!

Go back Hottentot-note-b

Contents of this page

End of TIL file