Kaccāyana Translation Project (earliest Pāli grammar)

Perhaps foolishly, I have embarked on a somewhat ambitious (and perhaps unachievable) project to do an independent translation of Kaccāyana (earliest known Pāli grammar book) into English.

Why bother? Especially given there are already at least half a dozen other translations available. Obviously, I am not entirely satisfied with existing translations, but mostly because it is a way for me to improve my Pāli, especially in mastering the various production rules.

My translation is an attempt to fully respect the option markers in Kaccāyana, unlike some existing translations which conflate all the option markers to “optionally” I consistently distinguish vā as “optionally”, kvaci as “occasionally”, navā as rarely etc. There is debate where there are significant differences between the option markers, I believe they are significant enough to be translated uniquely.

The Kaccāyana rules are famously hard to decipher, as they are very succinct and rely on rule inference or rule inheritance, so understanding the full scope of a rule is like solving a jigsaw puzzle with pieces deliberately missing. In order to assist in rule intepretation, I provide full rule decipherment (using parentheses to indicate information inferred from previous rules) and I use block diagrams to illustrate the operation of rules.

I am also conceited enough to provide Brahmi and Devanagari versions of the rules. Although Brahmi is a “dead” script and not used in any surviving Buddhist literature, I like the look of this script and offer the use of this script in my translation so that others may appreciate the elegant simplicity of the letters.

There is a story that the Buddha learnt Brahmi as a child, which is improbable given that the earliest known surviving Brahmi inscription is at least 100 years after the Buddha, but just in case he did know Brahmi, it is nice to appreciate this script.

I realise this is a massive undertaking and I may never finish this project. For the last few weeks, I have been translating several rules a day, and I probably hope to complete the entire book within a year, but it is probable I may give up or something may happen to me, so my apologies if this is never finished.

In any case I have just completed Chapter 1 of Kaccāyana (the sandhi chapter) which I offer to the world, in the remote possibility that others may find my translation useful. The entire project is open source and hosted on Github, along with all my other work relating to buddhavacana.

The introduction is also worth reading, so that you understand my approach to translation. I generally translate independent of existing translations, but then I cross check with them to ensure accuracy. I base my translation on the CSCD version on tipitaka.org. This version is known to have several errors, which I have tried to correct along the way, but if anyone spots an error that I have not corrected, please let me know.


Incredible project!

Nice to see Brahmi back in use. (IMHO it should be used as the default or alternative representation of Pali/Sanskrit on Buddhist pages in Wikipedia.)

If anyone can’t see the Brahmi, you can download a font here:


Agreed! It’s such a beautiful and easy to read script. Maybe one day SuttaCentral can have a Brahmi reading option (hint hint)

My website will autoload Google Noto Sans so there should be no problems reading it on any browser (unless you are somehow against this and have blocked the font load - I must admit I empathise with that as I am somewhat anti-Google myself - I turned from being a fangirl to being deeply concerned about their privacy practices more than 10 years ago and now refuse to load any Google services on my devices, so I am making an exception for the font which is beautiful).



Yeah better just serve it yourself, you don’t get any benefits from actually using the Google Fonts service, except it’s a little easier to set up.

One thing to bear in mind, using Google fonts may cause it to be blocked or slowed in China (reports are inconsistent on this).

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Wow, super cool!!! Thanks!!!

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