Pāli is the language of the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism,
(the Pāli Canon or the Tipitaka in Pāli), which
were written in Sri Lanka during the 1st century BC. Pāli has been
written in a variety of scripts, including Brahmi,
Devanāgarī and other Indic scripts,
and also using a version of the Latin alphabet devised by T. W. Rhys Davids of
the Pāli Text Society.
The name Pāli means “line” or “(canonical) text”, and probably comes
from the commentarial traditions, wherein the “Pāli” (in the sense of
the line of original text quoted) was distinguished from the commentary or
the vernacular following after it on the manuscript page. There are a number
of ways to spell the name of the language: Pali, Pāli, Paḷi,
Pāḷi, all four of which are found in textbooks.
Today Pāli is studied mainly by those who wish to read the original
Buddhist scriptures, and is frequently chanted in rituals. There are non-religious
text in Pāli including historical and medical texts. The main areas where
Pāli is studied are Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
Manopubbangamā dhammā, manosetthā manomayā;
Manasā ce padutthena, bhāsati vā karoti vā,
Tato nam dukkhamanveti, cakkam’va vahato padam.
Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all
mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering
follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.
(Translated by Acharya Buddharakkhita)
Appam pi ce saṃhitaṃ bhāsamāno dhammassa
hoti anudhammacārī, rāgañ ca dosañ
ca pahāya mohaṃ sammāppajāno suvimuttacitto,
anupādiyāno idha vā huraṃ vā sa
bhāgavā sāmaññassa hoti.
Even if he recites a little of scriptures, but lives in truth according
to the Dharma, having abandoned lust, hatred and delusion, has the right
knowledge, with a well emancipated mind, is not attached to anything, either
in this world, nor in the other one, he shares the [blessings of] monkshood.
(Source: of Digital Library & Museum of Buddhist studies)
The information on this page comes mainly from Oscar A. Solari.
Information about the Pāli language
Pāli language sources and resources
A Guide to Learning the Pāli Language
Tipitaka Network - includes information about the Pāli language and some lessons
Pāli Text Society
Nepal Bhasa / Newari,
This is an experimental script for Pali, the ecclesiastical language of Buddhism.
Pali is normally written in the Sinhala, Khmer, Burmese, Devanagari,
Lao or Thai scripts, or with the Latin alphabet using diacritics.
This script has a Classical serif font style,
with shapes based on those of ancient Brahmi and Pallava,
which were the ancestors of the Indic scripts just mentioned.
It aims at a unified, linear effect, without complicated
vowel placement or diacritics. The name means Letters of the Sage.
Most letters are quite easily recognizable from their counterparts in other Indic scripts.
As with almost all Indic scripts, and different from Ariyaka,
consonants have an inherent short /a/ if no vowel letter is written.
The glottal plosive acts as a prefix for initial vowels, as is found in many Indic scripts.
The two extra /s/ glyphs are for Sanskrit words. The dotted /m/ suffix is a vowel nasalizer,
being a common Pali morpheme. It may be noted the retroflex laterals are not encoded;
they are considered allophones of the retroflex plosives, emerging in speech when between vowels.
The written vowels follow their consonants in all cases,
in a linear, single-channel manner; this is unlike most Indic scripts,
whose vowels end up all over the place. The /ai/ and /au/ glyphs are for Sanskrit words.
A “no vowel” mark may be used to cancel the inherent short /a/,
as is required for consonants which close a syllable.
The “no vowel between” mark is for non-final, cluster or sandhi situations
where the consonants run together. Where a consonant is doubled, a colon-shape is used in place of the
second component. Note that where an aspirated consonant is doubled, an unaspirated form arises as the first
component of the gemination; in Akkhara Muni, only the aspirated consonant is written, and any loss
of aspiration due to doubling is ignored in writing.
Please note that Akkhara Muni seeks to capture the phonetics of the language,
and not duplicate existing systems of spelling. Even so, some further work may be required to
deal with all phonological conditions adequately, and/or simplify common morphological situations.
These are based on my own poor reading of the Romanized Pali, and so may not perfectly reflect the
classical pronunciation. Ideally, we will want to read and hear something close to what the Buddha
himself might have said.
1. This is the first verse of the Dhammapada.
“Mind precedes all mental states, mind is their chief, they are all mind-wrought.
If a person speaks or acts with an impure mind,
Suffering follows him like the wheel follows the foot of the ox.”
2. This is the 154th verse of the Dhammapada.
“Oh house-builder! You are seen, you shall build no house (for me) again.
All your rafters are broken, your roof-tree is destroyed.
My mind has reached the unconditioned; the end of craving has been attained.”
A version of this page can also be found on
OCBS Online Pali Course - Level 1: Lecture 04 (Pali Alphabet and Pronunciation)
Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies
Published on May 20, 2018
This is lecture 04 from Level 1 of the OCBS Online Pali Course.
Dr Alexander Wynne guides you through the Pali Alphabet and explains how to pronounce the various letters.
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The OCBS is a Recognised Independent Centre of the University of Oxford.
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