The Pali Companion
|Pali, the language of the Buddhist canonical writings, is the oldest literary Prakrit.|
The Language Tree
1. Pali is one of the many vernacular dialects derived from Sanskrit called Prakrits. Prakrits are known to be used since the 3rd century BC (Middle Indo-Aryan period).
2. The development of Indo-Aryan languages is generally divided into three stages as follows: Old Indo-Aryan (3rd century BC and before), Middle Indo-Aryan (from about 3rd century BC) and Modern Indo-Aryan (from about 10th century AD).
3. The Old Indo-Aryan period comprises Vedic Sanskrit (used in Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads) and classical Sanskrit (used in Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puranas). However, contemporary Sanskrit and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit (used in Mahayana texts) are later developments during the Middle Indo-Aryan period.
|Romance||Spanish, Portuguese, French|
|Indo-Iranian||Indo-Aryan (Indic)||Old Indo-Aryan||Sanskrit*|
|Modern Indo-Aryan||Hindi, Bengali, Sinhalese|
|Afro-Asiatic (Hamito-Semitic)||Semitic||North Central||Hebrew*|
|Sino-Tibetan||Chinese (Sinitic)||Mandarin Chinese**|
|Austronesian||Malayo-Polynesian||Western Malayo-Polynesian||Malay** (Malaysia, Indonesia)|
used in major religious texts:
- Pali: Theravada Tipitaka (Buddhism)
- Sanskrit: Vedas (Hinduism), Mahayana Texts (Buddhism)
- Hebrew: Old Testament (Judaism, Christianity)
- Latin: New Testament (Christianity)
- Greek: New Testament (Christianity)
- Arabic: Koran (Islam)
** Four official languages of Singapore.
Table 1: A Simplified Tree of World Languages