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Little is known about the origin of the term pāli (lit. a “line”) or how, in its diffusion from northern India to south-southeastern Asia over the course of several millennia, it came to be synonymous with the language of, and texts comprising, the Theravada canon of Buddhist scriptures. Called Māgadhī, in Buddhist literature the composite language of these texts bears witness to a lengthy and complicated development insofar as they preserve archaic linguistic features associated with several Middle Indo-Aryan vernaculars, known as Prākrit, that appear to have come under the homogenizing influence of Sanskrit, the language of classical Indian culture. Because these dialects are from the northwestern region of India and the itinerant Buddha lived and taught in the northeast, it is not known where ...

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