SuttaCentral

What are all the languages that the early Buddhist/Dhamma-Vinaya textual sources can be found in?

What are all the languages that the Early Buddhist Texts can be found in?

If one wished to learn all the languages relevant to early Buddhism, what languages would be necessary for them to learn?

Pali
Prakrit
Sanskrit
Gāndhārī
Khotanese
Tibetan
Chinese
Tocharian A
Tocharian B
Sogdian
Tumshuqese

Are any languages missing from this list?

Please type/copy-and-paste the full list of languages (including those already mentioned) in your response so that I can award the solution to whoever posts the complete list of languages that early buddhist texts can be found in.

2 Likes

Tocharian A (I think)

3 Likes

Tocharian B
Sogdian
Tumshuqese

4 Likes

I think Venerable mentioned those because Pali and other languages were already mentioned in the original post. Some links:



4 Likes

If one wishes to read the Āgamas but finds the prospect of learning Chinese too daunting (as I do), then thanks to Thích Minh Châu one can always read them in…

Vietnamese.

5 Likes


Why would one need to learn Chinese language for that??

Chinese would provide access to translations of all four Āgamas, but Sanskrit only to the DA and part of the SA.

2 Likes

The Agamas were translated to Chinese during the 4th century AD, then were lost after the disappearance of Buddhism from India. We only have fragments of the Agamas in the Indic languages that have been discovered in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Another interesting thing (to the scholars, at least): While it’s true that we have most of the Dirgha Agama put together from Indic fragments, it turns out that it’s a different version of the Dirgha than the one in Chinese. So, we have three different Digha/Dirgha collections: Theravada, Sarvastivada, and Dharmaguptaka. It quickly gets complex when we realize that there was several sectarian canons that existed. We’ve just lost most of them. The Theravada is the only complete canon left.

3 Likes

Saka languages = Khotanese and Tumshuqese?

:sweat_smile:

Can all four be found in Vietnamese too?

Since it seems like the agamas were not initially found in Chinese, would you add Vietnamese to the list? :thinking: Would the Vietnamese version be considered equivalent to the Chinese version?

From what language?

Yes. I don’t know how much (if any) translation the Vietnamese did in pre-modern times, but in our time all four have been translated.

As the Vietnamese translations are modern ones, I probably wouldn’t.

Not within the terms of this thread, which I take it is concerned with the languages in which early Buddhist texts were preserved in ancient times. And so the modern Vietnamese translations would be no more equivalent to the Chinese than, say, Ven. Anālayo’s English translations. We can’t really speak of “equivalence” here, but only of how faithfully the meaning of the Chinese has been preserved in these two modern target languages.

It’s not known with certainty. It wasn’t recorded at the time, but scholars have tried to come to conclusions based on the transliterations in the Chinese, which is difficult because Chinese doesn’t capture Indic syllables very well (and it’s sometimes not that clear how the Chinese was pronounced in 4th c. AD). Some early texts seem to be Gandhari while others are Prakit or Hybrid Sanskrit.

1 Like

Yes, that is correct.

Makes sense, thank you for clarifying.

Ah, I see, interesting. :thinking: Thank you letting me know.


If anyone is aware of any other languages in which early Buddhist texts can be found, please feel free to add.

Khotanese and Tumshuq seem to be dialects of the Saka language.

Of the Saka dialect known as Tumshuq very little has survived, and despite its evidently close relationship to the much better known Khotanese dialect, full interpretation has proved difficult.

Iranian languages - The Middle Iranian stage | Britannica

2 Likes