Between Sanskrit and its modern derivatives lie a group of languages known as the Prakrits or Middle Indo-Aryan languages, which were the vernacular dialects of ancient times. As these languages are derived from and closely related to Sanskrit, they are usually studied together with it. Several of these Middle Indo-Aryan languages became important literary vehicles, the best known being Pali, which still serves as the canonical language of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Other Prakrit languages such as Sauraseni, Maharastri, Magadhi, and Gandhari embody various facets of the literatures of both the Brahmanical/Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
The Department of Asian Languages and Literature offers a complete range of courses in Sanskrit language and literature, including a basic three year sequence and advanced courses and seminars with different contents each year. Courses in Pali and the Prakrits are also offered on a rotating basis.