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454LANGUAGE, VOLUME 76, NUMBER 2 (2000) Indian epigraphy: A guide to the study of inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan languages. By Richard Salomon. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Pp. xxii, 378 Reviewed by George Cardona, University ofPennsylvania This work is intended as a supplement to earlier studies of Indian epigraphy 'to provide a general survey of all the inscriptional material in the Indo-Aryan languages' (vii). The book is divided into eight main sections, covering the scope and significance of epigraphy in Indological studies (3-6), writing and scripts in India (7-71), the languages of Indie inscriptions (72-109), a survey of inscriptions in Indo-Aryan languages (110-60), methods of epigraphic study (161-98), the history of Indian epigraphic studies (199-225), epigraphy as a source for the study of Indian culture (226-51), and a bibliographic survey, including both primary and secondary sources (252-61). An appendix (262-309) contains a selection of typical inscriptions, in which fifteen inscriptions are given in transliteration, accompanied by English translations, plates, and information concerning their sources and publication. The volume ends with a bibliography (311-27), an index of inscriptions cited (328-49), and a general index (351-78). Salomon's book includes a great deal that is of interest to linguists, and not only to specialists in Indo-Aryan languages. The second chapter, on writing and scripts in India, for example, is an informative, well documented, and balanced discussion of issues and suggested solutions. Especially interesting are the discussions concerning the antiquity of writing in India of the historical period (10-14), the origin of Brâhmï (19-30), and mixed dialects (81-86). It is worth being reminded of the difficulty in determining how early there was a literate society after the decline of the Indus Valley culture and of how many conclusions are based on insufficient or poorly understood evidence as well as on bias. Thus, as S notes (11), the direct evidence of Greek and Latin authors concerning writing in India is not conclusive, and references in the Pali Buddhist canon to writing and written documents need not reflect what prevailed in pre-Mauryan times. As S also notes (11, n. 16), one of the rare pieces of evidence indicating the use of writing before the fourth or fifth century bc is the Pacinian rule (3.2.21: divä-vibhänis ä -prabhä - bhäskaräntänantädi - bahu -nandl- kim - lipi - Ubi - bau - bhakti - kartr- citra - ksetrasankhya -janghä-bahv-ahar-yat-tad-dhanur-arussu) which gives lipi and Ubi as constituents of words that enter into composition with a derívate of kr to form the compounds lipi-kara-, libikara . If, as most scholars have done, one accepts that lipi here means 'writing, script' and lipikararefers to a scribe, then this pretty much settles the issue, but even this has been questioned, though not with cogent argumentation; S might have discussed this instead of merely giving a reference. Moreover, potsherds were recently unearthed in Sri Lanka which bear short inscriptions in Brâhmï and, on the basis of radiocarbon dating, these have been assigned to a time predating Asbka. Here again, however, S is extremely cautious, noting (12), 'Some doubts remain, however, as to the chronological significance of these inscriptions'. He goes on (13) to take into account arguments based on a priori reasoning, for example, that the level of cultural complexity reached in pre-Mauryan times is hard to imagine without writing. His conclusion (14), that the issue remains unresolved and awaits a consensus, is possibly too cautious for some but nevertheless justifiable. S's discussion concerning the possible origin of Brâhmï is equally cautious although here he reaches a more definite conclusion. He argues (22), convincingly in my opinion, against Falk's recent defense (1993:109-12, 338-39) of the view that Brâhmï was invented during Asoka's time on the model of Kharosthî and Greek. S finally (30) comes back to a fairly old position, 'that the Brâhmï script derived from a Semitic prototype, which, mainly on historical grounds, is most likely to have been Aramaic', although once more he is extraordinarily cautious...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 454-456
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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