Bhoḥ as a Linguistic Marker of Brahmanical Identity

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David Brick



This article examines significant, yet apparently unnoticed sociolinguistic aspects of the common Sanskrit particle bhoḥ and its Prakrit equivalent bho, which are frequently used in respectful addresses in our literary sources. Its specific aim is to demonstrate the important connection between bhoḥ and members of the twice- born social classes, especially Brahmins, that pertained during a large period of early South Asian history (c. 500 B.C.E.–500 C.E.). The major conclusion it draws is that, at least according to the normative Brahmanical view of this time, both addressing others with the particle bhoḥ and being addressed by others with it marked a person as a member of an elite fraternity that was comprised exclusively of either twice-born men or speakers of Sanskrit.

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