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Vernacular Elements in Early Buddhist Texts: An Attempt to Define the Optimal Source Materials [32]

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Chapter Summary

This chapter deals with a method to be applied in order to define, within the huge mass of early medieval Chinese Buddhist texts, those materials from which one may expect to reap the richest harvest of early vernacularisms. The school example is, of course, furnished by the various scriptures of the Prajñāpāramitā-, or "Perfection of Wisdom"-class with their almost interminable litany of negation. The next distorting factor consists of the effect of versification. The last disturbing factor is found in a very great number of Buddhist scriptures: it is the general tendency to break up sentences into prosodic modules according to a consistent four-syllable pattern. The origin of this prosodic feature is not quite clear. Of course, the author finds it quite regularly in regular mainstream wenyan where it often is combined with syntactic and lexical parallelism.

Keywords: Chinese Buddhist texts; early vernacularisms; four-syllable pattern; lexical parallelism; Prajñāpāramitā; prosodic modules; versification; wenyan



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