Introducing Pāli and Buddhist Literary Chinese
Since RYI will conduct Pāli and Buddhist Literary Chinese in the coming Summer Program, I am happy to introduce these languages here, which I have studied before. In my opinion, the most difficult language to study is Chinese since there is no alphabet in Chinese characters. In other words, to read Chinese, we need to memorize each distinct character. From grammatical aspects, nouns and adjectives which do not inflect for case, definiteness, gender make Chinese is more challenging and difficult to comprehend. Moreover, verbs do not inflect for person, number, tense, aspect, or voice. To study Buddhist literary Chinese, usually students are firstly guided from the basic Classical Chinese text, such as Sanzijing.
Pali and Sanskrit are very closely related and the common characteristics of both languages are easily recognized. In fact, a very large proportion of Pali and Sanskrit word-stems are identical in form, differing only in details of inflection. Pali nouns inflect for three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) and two numbers (singular and plural). The nouns also display eight cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, instrumental, dative, ablative, genitive and locative case. However, in many occasions, two or more of these cases are identical forms; especially the genitive and dative cases. The Pali grammar has rich nominal declension and usages of compound nouns. The Pali language includes six tenses (present, future, imperfect, aorist, conditional, and perfect) and outlines two types of voices: active and reflective. Pāli are written in few scripts, mainly in Singhala, Khmer, Burmese, Thai, Devanāgarī, and Roman. If we have studied Sanskrit, it will be much easier to approach Pāli.
Welcome to study Buddhist Literary Chinese and Pali! I rejoice on the opening of these new courses in next summer program. Hopefully you guys enjoy studying these languages at RYI!
~ Dedy Irawan