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Language of the Snakes

Prakrit, Sanskrit, and the Language Order of Premodern India

Andrew Ollett (Author)

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Paperback, 290 pages
ISBN: 9780520296220
October 2017
$39.95, £32.95
Other Formats Available:
At publication date, a free ebook version of this title will be available through Luminos, University of California Press’s Open Access publishing program. Visit to learn more.

Language of the Snakes traces the history of the Prakrit language as a literary phenomenon, starting from its cultivation in courts of the Deccan in the first few centuries of the common era. Although little studied today, Prakrit was an important vector of the “kavya movement,” and once joined Sanskrit at the apex of classical Indian literary culture. The opposition—as well as underlying identity—between Prakrit and Sanskrit was at the center of an enduring “language order” in India, a set of ways of thinking about, naming, classifying, representing, and ultimately using languages. As a language of classical literature that nevertheless retained its associations with more demotic language practices, Prakrit both embodies major cultural tensions—between high and low, transregional and regional, cosmopolitan and vernacular—and provides a unique perspective onto the history of literature and culture in South Asia.
Andrew Ollett works on the literary and intellectual traditions of premodern India.

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