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  • Inventing Prakrit: The Languages of Power

    Andrew Ollett

    Chapter from the book: Ollett, A. 2017. Language of the Snakes: Prakrit, Sanskrit, and the Language Order of Premodern India.


    Prakrit came into use as a literary language during the centuries when the Sātavāhanas ruled the Deccan, from the first century BCE to the third century CE. This chapter traces the languages practices of this dynasty through their inscriptions, and those of their contemporaries and successors. It shows that the Sātavāhanas consistently chose to represent themselves in a “language of power,” a highly expressive register of Middle Indic, and that their political conflicts were also, in part, a conflict over who would wield this language and what it should be. Their major adversaries in this respect were the Kṣatrapas, who introduced other languages, including Sanskrit, in place of the inscriptional Middle Indic preferred by the Sātavāhanas. An examination of these sources lets us discern, first, the opening up of a new domain of political-cultural discourse in Middle Indic, and secondly the rapid expansion of Sanskrit into that domain.

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    Ollett, A. 2017. Inventing Prakrit: The Languages of Power. In: Ollett, A, Language of the Snakes. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.37.b

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    Published on Oct. 10, 2017