Pāli and Buddhism: Language and Lineage

This book is a collection of essays on the history and evolution of the Pāli language, which preserves the earliest record of the Buddha’s teaching. Although only the Pāli record has survived, it argues that the Buddha also taught in several of the indigenous languages of northern India, including Dravidian, probably Munda and possibly others. Pāli was derived from a koiné or common language for inter-dialect communication between the different dialects spoken by the Indo-Aryan immigrants, but was also strongly influenced by the languages of the indigenous peoples, Dravidian and Munda. The language of the Buddha’s native clan, the Sakyas, was probably Dravidian, which had a Munda substrate. The Buddha was bi- or multilingual and taught in the Indo Aryan koiné of the immigrants, but also in the local language(s) of his people, whose impact may be found in extensive word and cultural borrowing from these languages into Indo-Aryan, and a significant phonological, morphological and syntactical imprint on Pāli and other Indo-Aryan languages. The book examines this influence and other factors of language change over time in the context of current theories of comparative philology.


Bryan G. Levman is a Pāli scholar at the Department for the Study of Religion of the University of Toronto, Canada. He specializes in the languages of early Buddhism, the transmission of the Buddha’s teaching over time and the effects of the indigenous languages like Dravidian and Munda on the vocabulary and development of the Pāli language. To date, he has published 25 articles on Buddhist language in peer-reviewed journals and two full length monographs on the Pāli langauge (Pāli, The Language, The Medium and Message, 2020 being the most recent work). He completed his PhD at the University of Toronto in 2014 and also has a degree in English Language and Literature and a Master of Science degree in Geology. In addition to his work on Pāli and Buddhist languages, he has also published research on the genesis of music and language, and the evolution of ancient life.

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ISBN: 1-5275-7555-1

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-7555-4

Release Date: 15th November 2021

Pages: 490

Price: £67.99

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