LINGUIST List 7.1051

Fri Jul 19 1996

Misc: Indic scripts, Multilinguality

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Peter Daniels, Re: 7.1013, Disc: Indic scripts
  2. Lars Martin Fosse, Re: 7.1037, Disc: Multilinguality

Message 1: Re: 7.1013, Disc: Indic scripts

Date: Thu, 11 Jul 1996 22:57:26 CDT
From: Peter Daniels <>
Subject: Re: 7.1013, Disc: Indic scripts
I thank Dr. Fosse for the characterization of "Pali." The term,
however, does not appear in the index of Masica's *Indo-Aryan
Languages*, which makes me think it is not a part of current
(linguistic) scholarship; the opening paragraph of the Nauka **The
Paali Language* (by T. Y. Elizarenkova and V. N. Toporov, 1965;
English, 1976) reads as follows:

The Paali language is one of the early representatives of the
Indo-Aryan linguistic group. It belongs to the wide range of Middle
Indian dialects which were generally used in India in an oral form as
early as the middle of the first millennium B.C.; later they came into
use also in a written form. Even before the Christian era Paali spread
to Ceylon, and on the threshold of the second millen- nium A.D. it
reached India's eastern neighbors. In some of these countries and
above all in Ceylon, Paali exists as the language of Buddhism (and in
some in- stances as the language of a cultural tradition) even in our
own time.

This description cannot, it seems to me, to refer to any sort of
*linguistic* unity, i.e. there cannot have been a single language used
over 1500 (or 2500!) years throughout South and Southeast Asia. I
haven't taken the time to discover whether this book describes the
language of a restricted group of texts, or whether it includes
numerous statements regarding variation (as would be neces- sary in a
general grammar of "Aramaic", with which I am much more familiar, and
which has been used over a comparable stretch of time and space).
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Message 2: Re: 7.1037, Disc: Multilinguality

Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 13:38:49 +0200
From: Lars Martin Fosse <>
Subject: Re: 7.1037, Disc: Multilinguality
[Editor's note: Questions similar to this one have been asked
recently under the discussion topic "Linguality" in volumes 7-928 and
7-952, but weren't fully addressed on the list]

Re cardinal Mezzofanti and other linguistic prodigies:

May I ask what exactly is meant when you say that these persons could
learn a language in 48 hours (or at least a very short time)? Do you
mean basic grammar and vocabulary (e.g. 500 words)? Or are the
speakers of 50 - 100 languages capable of conducting all sorts of
conversations (on literature, politics or grocery goods) in all the
languages they know about as well as they handle such themes in their
own mother tongues?

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Dr. art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudveien 76, Leil. 114,
N-0674 OSLO Norway

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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