Pali as taught to monks, ect

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Kenshou
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Pali as taught to monks, ect

Postby Kenshou » Wed Dec 30, 2009 8:20 pm

Hello there Pali forum, nice to meet you.

I've noticed as I've listened to a variety of talks/chanting ect by various monks, I couldn't help but notice that there seems to be a lot of variety in the ways they pronounce it, even among monks of the same nationality and tradition. I'm curious as to if there is a certain sort of Pali taught to monastics, or if it is a case of meaning and understanding being stressed over pronunciation. I'm also aware of the fact that the pronunciation in some cases is simplified to make it more comfortable for speakers of languages which don't have corresponding sounds, Thai Pali chanting for example.

I'm not asking for pronunciation instructions, I'm just generally curious about how Pali is handled as a whole in the Buddhist community, if at all. I realize this isn't -that- relevant to Dhamma, but I take an interest in linguistics and would find it interesting to know. I'm sort of assuming they just don't care since it really doesn't make a difference to their practice, but I don't want to make that assumption.

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Pali as taught to monks, ect

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Dec 30, 2009 9:48 pm

Good question. It seems to be the differences in the way different cultures and languages pronounce different letters and sounds; for example the way the Sinhalese pronounce v & w the same:

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=1224

Kenshou
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Re: Pali as taught to monks, ect

Postby Kenshou » Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:48 pm

Well, as a poster in that thread points out it is in fact a labio-dental consonant, something inbetween a "v" and "w'' as we know it in English which is a common sound in many Indian languages. And yeah, I do understand the fact that sounds in foreign words are often modified to be made more comfortable for those who are learning/using it, as I said in my original post. Word borrowing the world over works in that way.

I may have been a little vague, but what I'm primarily interested in is how it is that education in Pali is handled among monks. Do they actually learn to understand Pali, and if so to what extent? Or do they only learn preset chants and key Dhamma-relevant vocabulary words? Or is this sort of education primarily self-directed? This is the sort of thing I'm interested in.

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mikenz66
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Re: Pali as taught to monks, ect

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 10:07 pm

Hi Kenshou,
Kenshou wrote:I may have been a little vague, but what I'm primarily interested in is how it is that education in Pali is handled among monks. Do they actually learn to understand Pali, and if so to what extent? Or do they only learn preset chants and key Dhamma-relevant vocabulary words? Or is this sort of education primarily self-directed? This is the sort of thing I'm interested in.

As far as I can tell, it depends. One of my teachers was originally from Bangladesh, via Sri Lanka, then Thailand. Since his mother tongue (Bengali) is quite related to Pali he had no problem understanding Pali fluently. He studied Pali and Sanskrit in detail in Sri Lanka. One of the Thai monks I discussed such things with a few days ago studied Pali since he was a Samanera, and while I don't think he is "fluent in Pali" in the way I think my Banglasdeshi teacher probably could, he can certainly understand what he is chanting. I suspect that's the case for most of the monks at my Wat.

Regarding the pronunciation I hear regional variations. The Sri Lankan monks I know have a very different accent from the Thai monks. The Thai are, to my ear, pronouncing it as it is written in Thai. As far as I can see, one learns the accent by chanting with others (at least that's how it works for me) so one tends to conform after a while. Actually, my Abbot sometimes joked to me that I might pick up the accent of my Bangladeshi teacher...

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