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  • Figuring Prakrit

    Andrew Ollett

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


    The central argument in this book for the position of Prakrit in the “language order” of premodern India is the precise and consistent way in which it was represented in relation to other languages. I claim that an “archetypal schema,” attested throughout the first millennium of our era, provided the linguistic parameters for textuality in the broadest sense. The most basic feature of this schema was the “co-figuration” of Sanskrit and Prakrit. These languages were considered to be identical in some underlying sense, but in other sense absolutely different from each other. Each of them was characterized by its contrast with the other. I claim that this way of thinking about language coincides with the actual use of Sanskrit and Prakrit as distinct literary languages around the beginning of the common era. I also claim that the “archetypal schema” underwent modifications through history, and that an earlier figure of “three languages” (Sanskrit, Prakrit and Apabhramsha) was expanded to a figure of three and a half and ultimately six languages.

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    Ollett, A. 2017. Figuring Prakrit. In: Ollett, A, Language of the Snakes. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.37.e

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    Published on Oct. 10, 2017