An Elementary Pali Course
by Ven. Narada Thera
Preface to Second Edition
PÂi means "the Text", though it has now come to be the name of a language.
Mgadhi was the original name for PÂi. It was the language current in the land of Magadha during the time of the Buddha (6th century B.C.).
Suddha Mgadh´, the pure form of the provincial dialect, was what the Buddha used as His medium of insruction.
The elements of PÂi can be mastered in a few months, PÂi opens one's ears to the Dhamma and the music of the Buddha's speech. It is also a lingua franca in Buddhist countries, and therefore worth acquiring.
This slender volume is intended to serve as an elementary guide for beginners. With its aid one may be able to get an intoduction to the PÂi language within a short period.
I have to express my deep indebtedness to my Venerable Teacher, Pelene Siri Vajirana Mah Nyaka Therapda, who introduced me to this sacred language. Words cannot indicate how much I owe to his unfailing care and sympathy.
My thanks are due to the Venerable Nynatiloka Thera, for his valued assistance.
|Ind. p.p.||-||Indeclinable Past Participles|
|Pres. p.||-||Present Participles|
Pronunciation of Letters
|Lesson I||A.||Declension of Nouns ending in "a" - Nominative & Accusative Cases|
|B.||Conjugation of Verbs - Present Tense, Active Voice, 3rd Person|
|Lesson II||A.||Declension of Nouns ending in "a" - Instrumental & Dative Cases|
|B.||Conjugation of Verbs - Present Tense, Active Voice, 2nd person|
|Lesson III||A.||Declension of Nouns ending in "a" - Ablative & Genitive Cases|
|B.||Conjugation of Verbs - Present Tense, Active Voice, 1st person|
|Lesson IV||A.||Declension of Nouns ending in "a" - Locative & Vocative Cases|
|B.||Conjugation of Verbs - Present Tense, Active Voice|
|Lesson V||A.||Full Declension of Nouns ending in "a"|
|Lesson VI||A.||Nouns ending in ""|
|Lesson VII||A.||Aorist (Ajjatan´) Active Voice|
|Lesson VIII||A.||Nouns ending in "i"|
|B.||Indeclinable Past Participles|
|Lesson IX||A.||Feminine Nouns ending in "i"|
|B.||Future Tense (Bhavissanti) - Active Voice|
|Lesson X||A.||Declension of Nouns ending in "´"|
|B.||The Formation of Feminines|
|Lesson XI||A.||Declension of Nouns ending in "u" and "è"|
|B.||Verbs: Imperative and Benedictive Mood (Pacam´)|
|Lesson XII||A.||Personal Pronouns|
|B.||Conditional Mood (Sattam´)|
|Lesson XIII||A.||Relative Pronouns|
|B.||The Interrogative Pronoun|
|Lesson XV||A.||Demonstrative Pronouns|
|Lesson XVII||A.||Some Irregular Nouns ending in "a"|
|Lesson XVIII||A.||Declension of Satthu|
|B.||Causal Forms (Krita)|
|Lesson XIX||A.||Declension of Go|
|B.||Perfect Tense (H´yattan´)|
|Lesson XX||A.||Compounds (Samsa)|
|Lesson XXI||A.||Indeclinables (Avyaya)|
|Lesson XXII||A.||Taddhita - Nominal Derivatives|
|Lesson XXIII||A.||Kitaka - Verbal Derivatives|
|Lesson XXIV||A.||Rules of Sandhi (Combinations)|
|Lesson XXV||A.||Uses of the Cases|
|Lesson XXVI||A.||Passive Voice|
|Selections for Translation
Notes on Selections for Translation
Guide to Excercises
PÂi was the language spoken by the Buddha and employed by Him to expound His Doctrine of Deliverance.
Mgadh´ is its real name, it being the dialect of the people of Magadha - a district in Central India.
PÂi, lit. "line" or "text", is, strictly speaking, the name for the Buddhist Canon. Nowadays the term PÂi is often applied to the language in which the Buddhist texts or scriptures were written.
The PÂi language must have had characters of its own, but at present they are extinct.
The PÂi Alphabet consists of forty-one letters, - eight vowels and thirty-three consonants.
|8 vowels (Sara)|
|a, , i, ´, u, è, e, o.|
|33 Consonants (Vyajana)|
*Dental and Labrial
|k, kh, g,
c, ch, j, jh, .
Ê, Êh, ¶, ¶h, ö.
t, th, d, dh, n.
p, ph, b, bh, m.
Pronunciation of Letters
PÂi is a phonetic language. As such each letter has its own characteristic sound.
a is pronounced like u in but
is pronounced like a in art
i is pronounced like i in pin
´ is pronounced like i in machine
u is pronounced like u in put
è is pronounced like u in rule
e is pronounced like e in ten
e (ee) is pronounced like a in fate
o is pronounced like o in hot
o (oo) is pronounced like o in note
k is pronounced like k in key
g is pronounced like g in get
º is pronounced like ng in ring
c is pronounced like ch in rich
j is pronounced like j in jug
is pronounced like gn in signor
Ê is pronounced like t in not
¶ is pronounced like d in hid
ö is pronounced like n in hint
p is pronounced like p in lip
b is pronounced like b in rib
m is pronounced like m in him
y is pronounced like y in yard
r is pronounced like r in rat
l is pronounced like l in sell
v is pronounced like v in vile
s is pronounced like s in sit
h is pronounced like h in hut
Â is pronounced like l in felt
µ is pronounced like ng in sing
The vowels "e" and "o" are always long, except when followed by a double consonant; e.g. ettha, oÊÊha.
The fifth consonant of each group is called a "nasal".
There is no difference between the pronunciation of "º" and "µ". The former never stands at the end, but is always followed by a consonant of its group.
The dentals "t" and "d" are pronounced with the tip of the tongue placed against the front upper teeth.
The aspirates "kh", "gh", "Êh", "¶h", "th", "dh", "ph", "bh", are pronounced with "h" sound immediately following; e.g., in blockhead, pighead, cat-head, log-head, etc., where the "h" in each is combined with the preceding consonant in pronunciation.