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  • Knowing Prakrit

    Andrew Ollett

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


    How was Prakrit known? This chapter analyzes the discourses that were Prakrit’s “forms of knowledge”: grammar, metrics, and lexicography. I offer a historical account of Prakrit grammar that traces it from its origins, in lost poetic handbooks composed in Prakrit in the first centuries of this era, to its development as one of the first systems of comparative linguistics in world history. The central conceit of these forms of knowledge was a “metagrammar” which set out three, or sometimes four, possible relationships between Prakrit and Sanskrit forms. Knowledge of Prakrit was distinctive for its attention to “regional” (dēśī) forms. For this reason it exerted a profound but largely unacknowledged influence on vernacular traditions, which recognized Kannada and Telugu as “regional” forms in contrast to Sanskrit, and which adopted the concepts and strategies of Prakrit grammar.

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

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    Published on Oct. 10, 2017