Is there a way to learn Pali like a natural language?

Tags: #<Tag:0x00007f7888909c70>


The new interactive version of ‘Introduction to Pali’ with Ajahn Brahmali (that rhymes!) deservers a mention.


Thank you so much, @Pasanna! I will definitely use this in the near future! Also, a big thanks to @brahmali for these updated lessons!

Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu!


In your experience, how much does contemporary spoken Pāli differ from the styles of the Pāli texts?

I ask because, famously, there is a village in India where they supposedly speak Sanskrit. But they are actually speaking a Sanskrit-derived Prākrit and Sanskritizing their speech as much as possible.

Similarly, Hebrew was “resurrected” in Israel, but with more or less modern innovative grammar & word-order based on Indo-European languages.

How is Pāli amongst those who speak it?


If I might offer one more note of praise, it is for the quality of the artwork.

One of my relatives gave me the Christian equivalent of one of these comics a while ago, “Manga Messiah”, which consisted mostly of Bible-paraphrases with the life of Jesus depicted in the style of popular Japanese animation, and the artwork was simply so wretched I can’t imagine how anyone would have read through it.

It makes me happy that Buddhists are doing a better job in their attempts at outreach to a younger audience.

In Manga Messiah, so little effort was put into the drawing, that all of the characters looked the same save for differentiated hair colours, essentially.


This is absolutely hilarious if you imagine it being said with the proper accents! :joy:


Bhante, there’s a better scan:


@Vstakan Interesting. So you think Russian is the most commonly spoken language similar to Pali? I currently only speak English, but I’ve been interested in Pali for years because I heard it was the most advanced at differentiating mental states. I’m trying to decide my next language, and I’m going to live in one of the eastern European countries soon. Thoughts on the most advances languages today? I doubt I’ll be able to learn Pali as my second language - I’m just not that into learning languages, but the time has come for me to learn one!


Russian is not very near to Pali, it just happens to be my native language. Besides, Slavic languages share quite a few words with Indo-Aryan languages for historical and linguistic reasons. Typologically they are also much more similar than Indo-Aryan and modern Germanic languages.

If you want to learn an East European language that is typologically similar to Pali you can choose pretty much any Slavic language: Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, etc.


Do you know much about the historical aspects? Hard to decide which to learn… Do you think the following is a bogus quote?
Czar Nicholas II: “There is no Ukrainian language, just illiterate peasants speaking Little Russian.”


I would say there is more similarity between Russian and Ukrainian than between dialects of German or Italian. However, for political reasons they are considered separate languages, just like Norwegian Bokmål and Danish.


@Vstakan You keep saying things that jive with my experience… Hope you don’t mind my line of questioning. I lived in Sweden and wonder about this. Is Swedish an off-shoot, you think? Norway seems more grounded in reality than Sweden.

I wonder what you see as the most powerful language combinations. That is, if you could only learn two languages as a human, then which ones would they be?
Thanks again.


English and Pali. English is pretty much the only language you need to communicate successfully anywhere, and as for Pali, well, it is obvious.

I have only been to Sweden, can’t say anything about Norway. However, Sweden seems to be a country where quite a few things have gone wrong and no-o e wants to admit it.


Agreed. And you think you can learn Pali straight from English? My exposure is it is via buddhist teachings. comes to mind.


Pali is easy but going to it straight from English might prove challenging. I would suggest getting to know some basic linguistic terminology, reading up on Indo-European languages and proto-language, and/or learning a bit of an intermediary language to get used to concepts like noun case. German or, even better, Latin may come in really handy there.


How do you compare Russian & Latin? I’m seriously considering learning Russian, but I doubt I have the patience to learn such an unspoken language as Latin.


Russian is more difficult. It has a more difficult phonology and writing system, less consistent grammar (yes, even less than Latin), a verbal system that is extremely obscure and weird for anyone speaking a Western European language. However, it is a living language, so there’s that.


This is a bogus quote. Ukrainian language is closer to Polish than to Russian, as can be seen on the map of lexical distances:


That’s a gigantic difference. Polish is a West Slavic language, Russian an East Slavic one.

Studying ethnomusicology at York University, I had a Ukrainian colleague who would often complain when text claiming to be in the Ukrainian language was actually just in the Russian language. I know neither Russian or Ukrainian, but it struck me as odd that most Ukrainian texts this colleague encountered were allegedly actually in Russian, which was something they linked to a concerted effort to erase Ukrainian culture, supposedly.


It looks like Ukrainian is also actually East Slavic, so its unlikely its closer to Polish:


Without having an opinion as to whether Czar Nicholas Ii actually said this, it seems the quote has been used lately as a criticism of colonialist prejudice concerning Ukrainian lanuguage or culture.

Hopefully no offense or disrespect or nationalism was intended by any on this forum.

:slight_smile: Perhaps in other realms Pali is a native language, and one might learn it as a natural language there. For now, study & practice?