The finest book on Pāli syntax was written by O. H. de A. Wijesekera for his Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of London in 1936. This is an in-depth appraisal of Pāli syntax, from both the logical and psychological perspective.
Although it remained unpublished for nearly half a century it was known and appreciated by scholars in Sri Lanka during that time in copies of its type-written manuscript, and was used, for instance, by Fr. Perniola in his Pāli Grammar which was published originally in the 60s, and republished by PTS in 1997.
In 1993 the Postgraduate Institute of Pali & Buddhist Studies issued the book as the first in its series of publications, and I studied it when I was learning Pāli also, and it was long my wish to make it available on a wider scale for students of the language.
Last year when I was in Sri Lanka I made it a point to go along to the Postgraduate Institute of Pali & Buddhist Studies and meet the Director, Ven. Prof. Kotapitiye Rahula, whom I knew from my days at Peradeniya University, and to seek permission to reprint it online.
After making a formal request I received official permission last year and after some delay a scan was taken of the book and then passed through optical character recognition to extract the text.
Eventually it was passed to Ashin Sopāka, who did the very hard work of cleaning up the text, putting back in the diacritics – which had been lost through ocr – and sorting out the very complex formatting.
The work was then passed back to me for final editing and proof-reading and has just been published online at the address below in html, pdf and flipbook versions.
In the pdf and flipbook the text is very much as it was presented in the original publication. But in the html, all the examples, which are a large part of the text, have been separated out onto separate lines for extra clarity (this couldn’t be done in the pdf without making the book twice as long).
I hope this work will be of use to Pāli scholars everywhere and that students particularly will be able to benefit from Prof. Wijesekera’s careful work, which will remain unsurpassed for many a year to come.
I am very grateful to the Institute and its Director for permission to republish in digital format, and to Ashin Sopāka for his dedicated help in making this work available.
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