An Elementary Pali Course

by Ven. Narada Thera

Preface to Second Edition

PŒi means "the Text", though it has now come to be the name of a language.

MŒgadhi was the original name for PŒi. It was the language current in the land of Magadha during the time of the Buddha (6th century B.C.).

Suddha MŒgadh, the pure form of the provincial dialect, was what the Buddha used as His medium of insruction.

The elements of PŒi can be mastered in a few months, PŒi 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 PŒi language within a short period.

I have to express my deep indebtedness to my Venerable Teacher, Pelene Siri Vajira–Œna MahŒ NŒyaka TherapŒda, 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 NyŒnatiloka Thera, for his valued assistance.

NŒrada
October, 1952.

Abbreviations

Adj. - Adjective
Ind., Indec. - Indeclinables
Ind. p.p. - Indeclinable Past Participles
f. - Feminine
m. - Masculine
n. - Neuter
p.p. - Past Participles
Pre. - Prefix
Pres. p. - Present Participles
Pres. - Present
Pro. - Pronoun

Contents

Preface
Abbreviations
Introduction
Alphabet
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 "Œ"
  B. Infinitive
Lesson VII A. Aorist (Ajjatan) Active Voice
  B. Possessive Pronouns
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 ""
  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 XIV A. Participles
Lesson XV A. Demonstrative Pronouns
  B. Adjectives
Lesson XVI A. Numerals
  B. Ordinals
Lesson XVII A. Some Irregular Nouns ending in "a"
  B. Conjugations
Lesson XVIII A. Declension of Satthu
  B. Causal Forms (KŒrita)
Lesson XIX A. Declension of Go
  B. Perfect Tense (Hyattan)
Lesson XX A. Compounds (SamŒsa)
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
Vocabulary Pali-English
Vocabulary English-Pali
Guide to Excercises

Introduction

PŒi was the language spoken by the Buddha and employed by Him to expound His Doctrine of Deliverance.

MŒgadh is its real name, it being the dialect of the people of Magadha - a district in Central India.

PŒi, lit. "line" or "text", is, strictly speaking, the name for the Buddhist Canon. Nowadays the term PŒi is often applied to the language in which the Buddhist texts or scriptures were written.

The PŒi language must have had characters of its own, but at present they are extinct.

Alphabet

The PŒi Alphabet consists of forty-one letters, - eight vowels and thirty-three consonants.

8 vowels (Sara)
a, Œ, i, , u, , e, o.
33 Consonants (Vya–jana)
Gutturals
Palatals
Cerebrals
Dentals
Labials
*Palatal
*Cerebral
*Dental
*Dental and Labrial
Dental (sibilant)
Aspirate
Cerebral
Niggahita
k, kh, g, gh, .
c, ch, j, jh, –.
, h, , h, .
t, th, d, dh, n.
p, ph, b, bh, m.
y.
r.
l.
v.
s.
h.
.
.
ka group
ca group
a group
ta group
pa group
*Semi-vowels    

Pronunciation of Letters

PŒi is a phonetic language. As such each letter has its own characteristic sound.

a is pronounced like u in but
Πis pronounced like a in
art
i is pronounced like i in p
in
is pronounced like i in mach
ine
u is pronounced like u in p
ut
is pronounced like u in r
ule
e is pronounced like e in t
en
e (ee) is pronounced like a in f
ate
o is pronounced like o in h
ot
o (oo) is pronounced like o in n
ote
k is pronounced like k in
key
g is pronounced like g in
get
is pronounced like ng in ri
ng
c is pronounced like ch in ri
ch
j is pronounced like j in
jug
– is pronounced like gn in si
gnor
is pronounced like t in no
t
is pronounced like d in hi
d
is pronounced like n in hi
nt
p is pronounced like p in li
p
b is pronounced like b in ri
b
m is pronounced like m in hi
m
y is pronounced like y in
yard
r is pronounced like r in
rat
l is pronounced like l in se
ll
v is pronounced like v in
vile
s is pronounced like s in
sit
h is pronounced like h in
hut
is pronounced like l in fe
lt
is pronounced like ng in si
ng

The vowels "e" and "o" are always long, except when followed by a double consonant; e.g. ettha, oha.

The fifth consonant of each group is called a "nasal".

There is no difference between the pronunciation of "" and "". 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", "h", "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.