New Books Network

Andrew Ollett, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, argues in his book, Language of the...

Andrew Ollett, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, argues in his book, Language of the Snakes (University of California Press, 2017), that Prakrit is “the most important Indian language you’ve never heard of.” In this book, subtitled “Prakrit, Sanskrit, and the Language Order of Premodern India,” Ollett writes a biography of Prakrit from the perspective of cultural history, arguing that it is a language which challenges modern theorizing about language as a natural human development grounded in speech. Rather, he claims, Prakrit was “invented” and theorized as a self-consciously literary language, opposed to Sanskrit, but yet still part of the Sanskrit cosmopolis and not a vernacular. His book draws on unpublished manuscripts, royal inscriptions, poetry, as well as literary and grammatical texts.


Malcolm Keating is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Yale-NUS College. His research focuses on Sanskrit philosophy of language and epistemology. He is the author of Language, Meaning, and Use in Indian Philosophy (Bloomsbury Press, 2019).