I asked How to break Pali compound words? in which I tried to also ask the question I am asking here, but the answers focused mostly on how to break down Pali words (which I also find important).

But for this question, I am wondering how ancient people perhaps conceptualized, read, spoke, or otherwise dealt with these large words? Were they said as a single utterance with a single linguistic stress syllable? Or were they considered like english "multi-word terms", and we just write them as a single word for some reason in modern romanization of Pali?

Basically how were these large words or terms dealt with in the original context? I personally find the long words unwieldy and hard to pronounce because there is just so much, so wondering how the ancients did it, or how they thought of them.

  • If you asked this question about even the English language I couldn't answer it -- how do people speak and understand English?
    – ChrisW
    Oct 14, 2023 at 7:27
  • I know it's a hard question to answer even in English, but having been studying a wide variety of languages (such as agglutinative like Turkish vs. fusional vs. analytic like Chinese), each native speaker doesn't know how it works from their perspective, but people outside the language generally have a say.
    – Lance
    Oct 14, 2023 at 7:36
  • I still don't know how people in languages with sentence-words (Turkish, some Native American languages, etc.), feel the meaning of long sentence words vs. sentences. So a similar question.
    – Lance
    Oct 14, 2023 at 7:37
  • But for this question, did they pronounce it the way it is written in the romanized version (long words with one central emphasis syllable)? Or did they think of them like English multi-word terms, and we just romanized it differently for some reason?
    – Lance
    Oct 14, 2023 at 7:38
  • I heard that written Chinese combines ideograms, so instead of distinct words like car, cart, bicycle, taxi, bus, truck, they have combinations like motor vehicle, horse vehicle, pedal vehicle, hire vehicle, public vehicle, cargo vehicle. I guess the answer to your question might be not either/or, but both (a "multi-word" and a "single word").
    – ChrisW
    Oct 14, 2023 at 11:37

1 Answer 1


Your question has nothing to do with the Truths Buddha elucidated. How a language evolves is a subject of linguistics. But I will try to answer your question.Pali is a highly evolved language just like Sanskrit. Hebrew ,Classical Arabic , Sanskrit and Pali are the languages in which ancient religious texts were written and memorised. The primary criteria of choosing a language to express the Truth or Dhamma was that the language should be able to express the Dhammas in a poetic language , so that it was easy to memorise. Another requirement was that the language should remain pure and no diversions from the meanings of words should take place because religious knowledge was considered sacred knowledge or pure knowledge. The text written in those languages not only made the Dhammas memorisable but easy to recite as well. Because it had limited dictionary and many words were formed by combination of words , there was lesser need to refer to some kind of dictionary.

Emergence of Pali , Sanskrit , Hebrew or classical Arabic language as a spoken language of the masses meant that people of that era were special and they came together to express their Dhammas.

You will find long words difficult to speak because you lack the environment. If you had been taught Pali from birth then it would appear intuitive to you.

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