The corpus of Pyu inscriptions is the last virtually untouched corpus of Southeast Asian inscriptions. Besides rare inscriptions in Sanskrit (in a North Indian form of Brāhmī script), and Pali (in South Indian Brāhmī), the major part of the corpus is formed by inscriptions in a language belonging to the Tibeto-Burman family written in its own characteristic form of Indic script whose closest Indian model seems to be the corpus of inscriptions of Nagarjunakonda (Andhra Pradesh), dating to the 3rd and 4th centuries. This suggests that Pyu might be among the oldest attested Tibeto-Burman languages. The script shows several innovative features whose interpretation has not yet been settled. So far, the language has been approached almost exclusively on the basis of one quadrilingual (Burmese-Mon-Pali-Pyu) inscription, while dozens of others, including a bilingual text (Sanskrit with Pyu glosses), remain unstudied. My research on the Pyu corpus, launched in 2012 and undertaken since 2014 in collaboration with linguist J.K. Wheatley, aims to establish an up-to-date inventory; to gather high-resolution images for each entry; to produce exact transliterations of all inscriptions; and on this basis to make contributions to the decipherment of the Pyu language. This lecture will offer a first report on our research.
Arlo Griffiths received his PhD in Sanskrit from Leiden University. After holding a position as lecturer in Indian Religions at the University of Groningen, and holding the chair of Sanskrit at Leiden University, he joined the French School of Asian Studies (EFEO) in 2008 as Professor of Southeast Asian history. Taking a resolutely philological approach to history-writing, his main fields of interest are Hindu and Buddhist religious/ritual literature in Sanskrit, on the one hand, and inscriptions of South and Southeast Asia in Sanskrit and vernacular languages, on the other. He was posted at the EFEO’s Jakarta Centre from 2009 through 2014, and now teaches in Paris and Lyon.
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