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A Practical Grammar of the Pāli Language
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
For free distribution, as a gift of Dhamma.

A Practical Grammar of the Paali Language

by Charles Duroiselle

Third Edition 1997

Preface to the Third Edition

Most introductory Paali grammar books consist of lessons that teach the elements of the language in stages, but because of that they are also very difficult to use as a reference when you need to look up a noun's declension, or a verb's conjugation. This book because of its practical and comprehensive coverage of the elements of the Paali language in complete chapters is a very useful reference. This book was also not written for linguistics experts, but for students with little experience studying Paali grammar. For these reasons I have found it extremely useful and I recommend it to people who have already completed one of the many books that have graduated exercises intended to introduce the basics of Paali grammar. After you have completed one of those preliminary books and move on to really read Paali texts you will find this book to be a really good friend.

Unfortunately, this book having been out of print for many years few people know of its existence and the copies that people who know about it are using are mainly photocopied versions like mine. So I thought that entering the text into a computer would be useful for both myself and also for other people interested in studying the Paali language.

In producing this edition I have made some corrections and changes to the original. I have kept most of the archaic English spelling and usage. This is because it has a certain charm to it and is itself a lesson in language. Paali has not changed in the last 80 years, but the reader will soon see how much English has changed. The corrections I made were mainly to errors in layout editing and punctuation that existed in the original book. Still, I have probably left a few and made some new ones for the editors of the fourth edition to correct when they update the English used.

I would like to thank Sayadaw U. Jotika who originally showed me the book and Miss Goh Poay Hoon who made a photocopy of it for me. Also Sean Doyle who generously let me use his scanner and optical character recognition software to scan the original in and then create a rough text to be edited; Gary Dellora who initially did the first editing of the scanned text; and Aniek Ley who donated the computer on which this text was edited.

May any merit made by all concerned be a condition for our attainment of Nibbaana.

U. Dhamminda 1997.

Preface to the Second Edition

This grammar was written at a time when it was urgently needed for schools and colleges, and as a consequence was conceived, written and seen through the press within the short space of a little over three months. Not-withstanding a few errors which had crept in - and which have now been corrected - the favour with which this work was received and reviewed in Europe, exceeded the author's expectations, if indeed he had any. Such favourable criticism it did not find in India: its great defect in the opinion of some Indian gentlemen being twofold; it does not enough adhere to the very ancient Hindu system of grammatical exposition; this venerable system was, it is readily recognized by every scholar, the most suitable - in fact the only suitable system for the method of imparting knowledge current in the times in which the earliest Sanskrit grammars and, modeled on them, the first Paali grammars were composed. But, other times, other methods; and I am not alone in thinking that the old Hindu system, whatever its undeniable merits, could not be with success adapted to the clearer, more rapid and rational western methods of teaching. But the more unpardonable departure from the beaten track is, that the author has not thought it necessary constantly to refer to the Sanskrit forms and with them compare and from them deduce the Paali ones. It must be remembered that this comparative method, however excellent and useful to persons already acquainted with Sanskrit who desire to take up the study of Paali, does not answer in a practical manner to the needs of the class of students for whom this book has been written; that is, young students totally ignorant of the first principles of Sanskrit, and who do not, for the most part, in the least intend taking up such study. Moreover, to those who may later on, take up such a course, the close relation between the two languages will become easily apparent.

In section (603), mention is made of a so called "Nominative Absolute"; it is explained in a Paali work called the Niruttidiipanii, printed in Rangoon. M. Monier Williams also mentions it in the preface to his Sanskrit Grammar.

Much official and literary work in connection with duties did not allow me to see this second edition through the press. Professor Maung Tin, of the Rangoon College, has most graciously undertaken this onerous work, and he has read and corrected every single proof. Persons who have had experience in proof-reading, above all of a book of such a character as the present one, will readily understand the magnitude of the service done me by my old pupil, and for which I beg here to thank him most sincerely.

Chas. Duroiselle. 1915.


This grammar was written for my pupils in the Rangoon College, to facilitate their work and make the study of the Paali language easier for them. There is, to my knowledge no Paali grammar suited to the requirements of students who do not know even the elements of Sanskrit, and to place into their hands grammars such as that of Muller of Frankfurter and of Minayef, which are intended for Sanskrit dilettanti, would serve rather to puzzle, than to help them; moreover, these grammars are not quite complete, consisting merely of the inflections of nouns and verbs. Mr James Gray's grammar, which was written with the same purpose as the one now presented to the public has long been out of stock; it had two drawbacks; the Paali was all in Burmese characters, and it was too elementary to help the student in acquiring a thorough mastery of the language.

It is, I think, the first time, that Derivation has been treated systematically and fully in a European work; the chapter on Syntax, too, though not quite exhaustive (to make it so would require a special volume) is a novel feature, considering that Syntax has never as yet been treated of, except in one single instance (Paali Grammar by H. H. Tilby, Rangoon Baptist College, 1899.), and very briefly and with no examples whatever given in illustration of the rules.

One of the greatest difficulties experienced has been to explain some forms (principally in Assimilation and Verbs), without the help of Sanskrit; scholars well understand how Paali forms, thus explained, seem arbitrary, not to say incomprehensible in some cases; so that, although my avowed object was to write for students who do not know the first elements of Sanskrit grammar, I have thought it advisable to scatter here and there in the body of the work, a few explanations bearing on Sanskrit grammar, to make some forms better understood. But the student is perfectly free to skip them over and to assume the Paali forms just as they are given; I would, however recommend him to peruse them at a second reading.

Each rule, throughout, is profusely illustrated with examples taken from the jaatakas and from other books, and indigenous Paali grammars. The paragraphs have been numbered and, to facilitate reference in looking up the rules, they are quoted whenever necessary, to render more easy the study of that part of the grammar which the student is actually reading.

Grammatical discoveries are not to be expected, but scholars will find in the work now issued, a few things which have never before appeared in European grammars of Paali.

The following indigenous Paali grammars have been consulted: saddaniiti, mahaaruupasiddhi, mahaaruupasiddhi .tikaa, akhyaatapadamaalaa, moggallaana, kacchaayana, ga.lon pyan.

I have availed myself of all the grammars published in Europe to which I could have access.

Chas. Duroiselle.
Rangoon: 20th December 1906.