Pali is a Middle-Indo Aryan language which serves as the language in which the canonical texts of Theravada Buddhism are maintained. It is also the language used for chanting in the Theravada tradition.
A knowledge of source languages is vitally necessary to any serious student of religion. Without a working knowledge of these languages, the student will remain reading about a religion, even if (s)he is reading a translation of a primary source, rather than reading the bases of the religion directly without an intermediary to fill the head with doctrines and expectations about a religion's nature. The primary language of Buddhism is Sanskrit, but Pali is also used by all Theravadin Buddhists, and the Pali Canon is the core textual body of all Buddhist schools. Therefore, an understanding of Pali is very important to a person seeking a graduate-level understanding of the religion.
The student is expected to understand the following:
- The origins of the language
- The origins of the Pali Canon
- Ability to recite from memory the Pali alphabet
- A full knowledge of pronunciation
- The relationship between Pali and other Prakrits, particularly the mutual influence between it and Sanskrit
- A working vocabulary
- Culminating in an ability to read and comprehend Buddhist scriptures in the original Pali without a translation as aid