|Era||Perhaps from 5th century BCE; most texts 3rd–10th c. CE|
Paisaci (Sanskrit: Paiśācī), is a largely unattested literary language of classical India, mentioned in Prakrit and Sanskrit grammars of antiquity. It is found grouped with the Prakrit languages with whom it shares some linguistic familiarities, but is not considered a spoken Prakrit by the grammarians because of it being purely a literary and not spoken language, but also due to it being archaic
The etymology of the name suggests that it is spoken by Piśācas i.e. ghouls. In works of Sanskrit poetics such as Daṇḍin's Kavyadarsha, it is also known by the name of Bhūtabhāṣa, an epithet which can be interpreted either as a 'dead language' (i.e. with no surviving speakers), or as 'a language spoken by the dead' (i.e. ghouls/ghosts), the former interpretation being more realistic and the latter being the more fanciful. Evidence which lends support to the former interpretation is that literature in paiśācī is fragmentary and extremely rare but may have been once common. There is no known complete work in this language, however certain scholars specializing in Indology like Sten Konow, Felix Lacôte & Alfred Master have attempted to explain that Paiśācī was the ancient name for Pāli, the language of the Theravada Buddhist canon.
The most widely known work, although lost, attributed to be in Paisaci is the Brihat-katha (literally "Big Story"), a large collection of stories in verse, attributed to Gunadhya. It is known of through its adaptations in Sanskrit as the Katha-Saritsagara in the 11th century by Somadeva, and also from the Brihatkatha Manjari by Kshemendra. Both Somadeva and Kshemendra were from Kashmir where Brihatkatha was said to be popular. One of the famous series of stories in this work is the Vikram and Vetaal series. Talking of its existence, Pollock writes::92
Linguists have identified this as everything from an eastern Middle-Indic dialect close to Pali to a Munda language of inhabitants of the Vindhya Mountains […] In fact there is little reason to bother to choose […] Paishachi is the joker in the deck of South Asian discourses on language, having an exclusively legendary status, since it is associated with a single lost text, the Bṛhatkathā (The Great Tale), which seems to have existed less as an actual text than as a conceptual category signifying the Volksgeist, the Great Repository of Folk Narratives […] In any event, aside from this legendary work (which "survives" only in one Jain Maharashtri and several Sanskrit embodiments), Paishachi is irrelevant to the actual literary history of South Asia.
Influence on Modern languages
The influence of Paisachi over Konkani can be proved from the findings of Dr. Taraporewala who, in his book Elements of Science of Languages, Calcutta University,he ascertains that Konkani shows many Dardic features which are found in present day Kashmiri and Punjabi. Also Historian Vishwanath Kashinath Rajwade claims that some of the old works like Krista Purana, Krishnadas Shama's Mahabharat composed in Konkani reveal that modern Konkani might be a successor of Paishachi.
- Paisaci Prakrit at MultiTree on the Linguist List
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Paisaci Prakrit". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Yao, Zhihua. The Buddhist Theory of Self-Cognition. 2012. p. 9
- Pollock, Sheldon I. (2006), The language of the gods in the world of men: Sanskrit, culture, and power in premodern India, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-24500-6
- Menezes, Armando (1970). Essays on Konkani language and literature: Professor Armando Menezes felicitation volume. Konkani Sahitya Prakashan. pp. 118 pages(see page:2).
- Saradesai, Manohararai (2000). A history of Konkani literature: from 1500 to 1992. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-81-7201-664-7.
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