The Pali Companion

The uninflected form of a Pali word, without an ending, is called a stem.

The Scripts

1. According to Sri Lanka tradition, the first written Pali Tipitaka was completed in the first century BCE near Matale in Sri Lanka. These texts were probably written in the Brahmi script.

2. The earliest Buddhist texts discovered to-date were Gandhari text written in the Kharosthi script, and found in the Gandhara region of modern day Afghanistan.

3. The Edicts of Asoka, a collection of inscriptions from the Indian emperor Asoka, were written in various languages and scripts, including Magadhi in the Brahmi script, a form of Sanskrit in the Kharosthi script, and even in Greek and Aramaic.

4. Today, the main scripts used for presenting the Pali Tipitaka include Roman, Sinhala, Thai, Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Tai (in Yunnan, China) and more recently Devanagari.

England 1 Scripts China 1
Prehistoric Britain 1050 BCE - Phoenician alphabet Indus 2 script or Aramaic script ??? 1050 BCE - Oracle Bone script 甲骨文; also Bronze script 金文
9th century BCE - Greek alphabet 8th century BCE - Aramaic alphabet
8th century BCE - Cumae alphabet 8th century BCE - Seal script 篆书
7th century BCE - Latin/Roman alphabet
4th century BCE - Kharo.s.thii script 6th century BCE (?) - Braahmii script
North 3 South 3 3rd century BCE - Clerical script 隶书 Traditional Chinese 繁体字 5
Roman Britain   400 CE - Gupta script   Pallava script ?? Mon script   200 CE - Regular script 楷书
5th century CE - Futhorc (Runic) alphabet [Old English] 750 CE - Naagarii script 600 CE - Siddha.m script 700 CE - Sinhala script 6th century CE - Grantha script
7th century CE - English alphabet [Modern English] 650 CE - Tibetan script 600 CE - Khmer script 4
1200 CE - Devanaagarii script 1283 CE - Thai script 4 1050 CE - Burmese script
1350 CE - Lao script 4 1300 CE - Lanna script
    1900s - Simplified Chinese 简体字 5
1. Writing systems in England and China used for illustration.
2. See Wikipedia article on the Indus Script for comprehensive discussion.
3. Indicative, see Wikipedia article on Brahmi Script for details.
4. The Khmer, Thai and Lao scripts are currently used in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos respectively.
5. Both Traditional and Simplified forms of written Chinese are in widespread use today.
6. Scripts mentioned in the main text are highlighted with a light color shade.

Table 1: Historical Development of Writing Scripts

To learn more about scripts, please refer to Wikipedia article on Writing Systems and Ancient Scripts website.
10 May 2009