Vakyapadiya (study of the concept of Sentence)

by Sarath P. Nath | 2018 | 36,088 words

This page relates ‘Sentence According to the Mimamsa School’ of the study on Vakyapadiya by Bhartrhari and his treatment of the Concept of Sentence in Language. Bhartrhari was a great grammarian and philosopher who explored the depth and breadth of Sanskrit grammar. These pages analyse the concepts and discussions on sentence and sentence-meaning presented in the Vakyapadiya, against the different systems of knowledge prevalent in ancient India (such as Mimamsa, Nyaya and Vyakarana).

3.1. Sentence According to the Mīmāṃsā School

It is observed here that Indian philosophies have given śabda a prime position in their metaphysic and epistemology. Technically speaking, philosophies like Mīmāṃsā and Nyāya as well as the School of Vyākaraṇa have contributed much to the analysis of the concept of śabda. They have analysed words, sentences and their meaning in a scientific way. In addition to this, they have also discussed various philosophical as well as linguistic problems regarding words, sentences and their meaning.

Since these schools of thought accept śabda in the form of sentence as one among the pramāṇas, they have tried to define sentence in their own perspectives. Ancient texts of Indian philosophy have discussed about the concepts of Vāk, śabda etc, but none of them specifically define a sentence. A reference can be seen in Bṛhaddevatā that a sentence is the saṅghāta or collection of words (" padasaṅghātajam vākyam", 2.117). Amarasiṃha gives two definitions of sentence; as a group of verbs and nouns and as a verb, which is connected with kārakas (" suptiṅantacayo vākyaṃ kriyā vā kārakānvitā", 1.6.2). Later, many scholars in different branches of knowledge have tried to define sentence in manifold ways according to their perspectives. This chapter tries to converge various views on the concept of sentence and sentence-meaning in Indian systems of knowledge.

Mīmāṃsā is the oldest system among the Indian Schools of thought, that tries to define a sentence. As stated, an early simple definition is seen in Bṛhaddevatā, one of the ancient works in Mīmāṃsā (2.117). It is in the Mīmāṃsāsūtras of Jaimini that we first come across the real definition of a sentence. He states that " arthaikatvād ekaṃ vākyaṃ sākāṅkṣaṃ cedvibhāge syāt" (2.1.46), which can be explained as, a group of words serving a single purpose forms a sentence, if on analysis, the separate words are found to have ākāṅkṣā or mutual expectancy. Kunjunni Raja opines that Mīmāṃsakas enunciate this principle so as to deal with the passages of Yajurveda (1963, p.152). Śabara also explains this aphorism as referring to the Vedic mantras only, and the term ' arthaikatva' is interpreted in the sense of 'serving a single purpose' (" yāvanti padāni ekaṃ prayojanam abhinirvartayanti tāvanti padāni ekaṃ vākyam", under Jaimini, 2.2.26).

Though Jaimini coined this definition for explaining the Vedic sentences, it is capable of much more extended application.

Bhartṛhari reiterates this as one of the well-known definitions of sentence.

sākāṅkṣāvayavam bhede parānākāṅkṣaśabdakam
karmapradhānam guṇavadekārtham vākyamiṣyate
  —(Vākyapadīya, 2.4)

Kumārila also sets forth the same view that sentence is a group of words. He says: "it must be concluded that those words on hearing which we are clearly cognizant of a single idea, must be regarded as one sentence, either ordinary or of the mantra and brāhmaṇa" (Tantravārtika, 1984, p.586). He explains the word ' arthaikatva' in the aphorism in the sense of 'single idea'. Among his followers, Pārthasārathimiśra favours the view of Śabara and explains the word ' artha' in the sense of 'purpose' (Ganganatha Jha, 1942, p.190). Someśvarabhaṭṭa in his Nyāyasudhā commentary, takes the term in the sense of 'meaning' to admit a wider scope of the definition (1984, p.681). Śālikanātha refers to Prabhākara's view in his Prakaraṇapañcikā. Here, it states that a sentence is a group of words (" padānyeva vākyam. padārthā eva vākyārtha iti gurumatasthitiḥ", 1961, p.377). Ganganatha Jha argues that according to Prabhākara, the word ' artha' in the definition of Jaimini stands for 'meaning' as well as 'purpose', for both are interrelated. He says that the words of a sentence must be related to the purpose, which is the most important factor in a sentence (1942, p.190). If we analyse these definitions, it may be noted that, like the Naiyāyikas, Mīmāṃsakas also accept the group of words as a sentence. But they lay stress on the necessity of ākāṅkṣā or syntactic expectancy among the words, in order to bring about the unity of idea or of purpose. Kunjunni Raja refers to some of the definitions of sentence found in Śrautasūtras, and he states that those definitions are based on the Mīmāṃsā views (1963, p.154).

Mīmāmsakas do not admit a sentence as distinct from words and words as distinct from letters. Śabara refers to Upavarṣa, who says that the word ' gau' is constituted by the letters g, au and visarjnīya. Thus, syllables are comprehended by the sense of hearing and not anything different from it (Quoted by Tatacharya Introduction, 2005, p.15). Śabara then explains how the letters attain the status of a word. The last syllable associated with the latent impressions born out of the cognitions of each preceding syllable which gives rise to the cognition of the word meaning. In the same way the last word associated with the latent impressions of each word gives rise to sentence meaning.

Mīmāṃsākas refute the sphoṭa theory and the concept of indivisibility of the sentence, formulated by the grammarians. But they maintain that the articulate phonemes are eternal. Tatacharya summarises the view of Mīmāṃsākas as, śabda is none other than the articulated syllables and they are eternal.

They are associated together to form words and sentences.

śrotragrāhyā varṇā eva śabdaḥ. teṣāmeva vācakatvam-arthapratyāyakatvam. te kaṇṭhatālvādyabhighātavyaṅgyāḥ nityā vibhavaśca. ta eva varṇāḥ samuditāḥ padavākyavyapadeśabhājo'rthapratyāyakā ityāhuḥ.
  —(Tatacharya, 2005, p.115).

Thus, the Mīmāṃsākas admit the articulate phonemes are eternal, while the grammarians accept the eternity of sound in the form of sentence.

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: