Pali (päˈlē) [key], language belonging to the Indic group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. Some scholars classify it as a Prakrit, or vernacular dialect of classical Sanskrit. Pali, a tongue of the Middle Indic period (see Indo-Iranian languages) in which the Buddhist scriptures or canon ( Tipitaka ) were composed, became the main literary language of the Buddhists. As the number of Buddhists in India declined, Pali ceased to be employed in that country. The Buddhists of Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand, however, still use Pali as a liturgical language.

See W. Geiger, Pali Literature and Language (tr., rev. ed. 1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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