Vakyapadiya (study of the concept of Sentence)

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

This page relates ‘Mimamsakas' View on Sentence-Meaning’ 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).

4.1. Mīmāṃsakas' View on Sentence-Meaning

Most of the Indian Schools of thought admit that a sentence is composed of words. They also accept that words have potentiality of expressing definite meanings. When they are connected together, a single cognition is awakened and is the sentence meaning. The preceptors of various branches of learning have been enquired this relation among the words in a sentence and their meanings, through which they are semantically connected to give a unified sense. This resulted in various theories regarding the cognition of the meaning of a sentence and is generally called theories of śābdabodha (verbal cognition).

If these theories of verbal cognition advocated by various philosophers are analysed, two distinct perspectives on the concept of śābdabodha can be found. They are Khaṇḍaśābdabodha (import by parts) and Akhaṇḍaśābdabodha (unitary import). In the first perspective, the import is produced by parts. Here, each word in the sentence is analysed on the basis of its attributives like kartṛtva, karmatva etc. The Akhaṇḍa school of śābdabodha implies the verbal import of the sentence as opposed to that by parts. Here, the entire meaning of the sentence is conveyed and thus in most of the śāstra works, the term śābdabodha refers only to the unitary import (Veluri Subba Rao,1969, p. 4).

Mīmāṃsakas generally maintain that sentence-meaning is the word-meaning related to another word-meaning. Śabara states that sentence-meaning is the aggregate of the meanings of its parts. He emphasizes that sentence-meaning is neither without any basis, nor is based upon the significative relation (Under Jaimini, 1.1.7). Again he stresses upon the point that sentence-meaning is not the significance of words. Thus, a word-meaning, which is not related to another wordmeaning do not constitute the sentence-meaning (Under Jaimini, 3.2.1.1). According to him, a word conveys the universal (sāmānya) while a sentence conveys a particular (viśeṣa) (Under Jaimini, 1.1.24). This statement is explained in Bṛhatī as: a sentence conveys a particular, because of the interconnection of word-meanings. The state of words which are not connected to each other is universal (Under Jaimini, 1.1.24). When isolated, a word signifies its meaning, which is universal in nature. For example when one says 'śuklām gām ānaya', the word ' śuklām' in isolation signifies the white colour, which is universal. Similarly the word ' gām' in isolation denotes any cow, which is not characterised by its colour. When these words come together to form a sentence they lose their universal significance and denote a connected sense, which is particular.

Śabara repeats the same view in several contexts in his commentary:

"viśiṣṭārthasaṃpratyayaśca vākyārthaḥ",
  —(Under Jaimini, 1.1.25);

"padārthaiḥ saṃskṛtaḥ piṇḍitaḥ arthaḥ vākyārthaḥ",
  —(1.1.8.32).

The conclusive view of Śabara on sentence-meaning is that, the meanings of words, which are universal in nature, when connected together, gives the sentence meaning, which is particular. Thus the meaning of a sentence is none other than saṃsarga (interconnection) of its constituent words.

In Tantravārtika, it is stated that:

"ākṛtipadārthapakṣe śuklathvagotvayoḥ swarūpeṇa abhihitayoḥ sannidhānāt itaretarānurañjanam arthasidhabhedam vākyārthaḥ"
  —(2.1.14.46).

Here, the word ' itaretarānurañjanam' refers to saṃsarga (interconnection of words). Śālikanātha describes the nature of sentence-meaning from the point of view of Prabhākara. He states that a sentence is the collection of words and the word meanings together constitute the sentence-meaning. But it is to be noted that, one word-meaning is primary and when it is associated with the meanings of the other words in a sentence, which are secondary, gives the sentence-meaning (Tatacharya, Introduction, 2005, p.25).

After hearing the words in a sentence, the listener manifests a unitary sense, by the mutual association of word-meanings. Here, it may be doubted that, whether this unitary sense is manifested directly from the collection of the words, or indirectly through the recollection of the meanings of the individual words that comprises it. These two views give rise to two theories of explaining the comprehension of the meaning of a sentence namely Anvitābhidhāna and Abhihitānvaya theories. The Prābhākara School of Mīmāṃsā and its followers take the former view, while the Bhāṭṭa School of Mīmāṃsā and some of the Naiyāyikas accept the Abhihitānvaya theory of verbal comprehension.

If every word has its own definite meaning, how is it possible for a sentence, which is only a collection of words, to have a unified meaning? The same problem arises in the case of compound words also (Raja, 1963, p.191). At this point, various philosophers hold different theses. Bhartṛhari presents his views on these theories by presenting the VākyavādinPadavādin controversy discussed in the second canto of Vākyapadīya. Among them, Abhihitānvayavāda and Anvitābhidhānavāda are the most important theories.

These two views explain how a sentence is imported to cognize the meaning of it.

[1. Abhihitānvayavāda theory]

[2. Anvitābhidhānavāda theory]

These two theories of verbal cognition propounded by the Sakhaṇḍa School differ in many perspectives. The followers of these theories raise objection against each other. But modern scholars have tried to reconcile the two theories. Mukulabhaṭṭa says that, both these theories contain partial truth. When the comprehension of a sentence is analysed from the point of view of the words, the Abhihitānvaya theory seems to be preferable. But when it is viewed from the point of view of the sentence, the Anvitābhidhāna theory must be given the preference (Raja, 1963, p.212). Bhartṛhari analyses these two theories when he discusses the definitions of sentence. He concludes that both the theories reveal only partial truth and thus sentence is indivisible sphoṭa and sentence meaning is Pratibhā, the undivided semantic unit flashes in the mind.

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