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Pali: Language and Literature

Pali is an Indo-European language, closely related to Sanskrit, the most important literary language of ancient India, and ultimately also related to most European languages. Its similarities to English are not very striking but may perhaps be guessed from parallels like~ "by me", supa "soup", bhitar "brother", nava "new", vamati "vomit". It has a rich inflectional system. The no~nd the adjective has, just as in its mother language, Sanskrit, eight different cases, although some of them have lost their separate forms. By means of the case forms, relations are expressed which we usually render by means of prepositions, e g tassa "to him" (dative) or "his" (genitive), aggina "by means of fire" (instrumental), tasmirp samaye "at this time" (locative). The verb has special terminations for the different persons, e g asmi "I am", atthi "he is". There is a present tense, a future tense and a past tense, called aorist. They are formed through modifications of the stem. Cf

karomi "I do" (present tense) karissami "I shall do" (future tense) akararp "I did" (aorist)

It will be found that -iss-is the characteristic of the future tense, and the so-called augment ~- is one of the elements that we usually find in the past tense. More difficult to cope with are the frequent compounds and absolute expressions which are used to express subordinate facts and circumstances: disva "having seen": gate, \hite etc (text No. 36) "whether he goes, stands etc", lit. "in (him) being gone, put upright" (locative); dukkha - nirodha-giminI-pa\ipada (text No.5) "the way going to the cessation of suffering". Constructions of these types sometimes requi re careful analysis in order to be understood correctly.