Voice Over Sydney: Pāli is the name given to the language of the texts of Theravāda Buddhism, although the commentarial tradition of the Theravādins states that the language of the canon is Māgadhī, the language supposedly spoken by the Buddha Gotama. The term Pāli originally referred to a canonical text or passage rather than to a language and its current use is based on a misunderstanding which occurred several centuries ago.

Voice Over Sydney: Pali the Language of Theravāda Buddhism

The language of the Theravādin canon is a version of a dialect of Middle Indo-Āryan, not Māgadhī, created by the homogenisation of the dialects in which the teachings of the Buddha were orally recorded and transmitted. This became necessary as Buddhism was transmitted far beyond the area of its origin and as the Buddhist monastic order codified his teachings.

Voice Over Sydney: Pali History

The tradition recorded in the ancient Sinhalese chronicles states that the Theravādin canon was written down in the first century B.C.E. The language of the canon continued to be influenced by commentators and grammarians and by the native languages of the countries in which Theravāda Buddhism became established over many centuries. The oral transmission of the Pāli canon continued for several centuries after the death of the Buddha, even after the texts were first preserved in writing. No single script was ever developed for the language of the canon; scribes used the scripts of their native languages to transcribe the texts. Although monasteries in South India are known to have been important centres of Buddhist learning in the early part of this millennium, no manuscripts from anywhere in India, except for one in Nepal have survived. The majority of the manuscripts available to scholars since the PTS began can be dated to the 18th or 19th centuries C.E. and the textual traditions of the different Buddhist countries represented by these manuscripts show much evidence of interweaving. The pattern of recitation and validation of texts by councils of monks has continued into the 20th century.
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