Vakyapadiya (study of the concept of Sentence)

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

This page relates ‘(a): Abhihitanvaya theory of 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 (a): Abhihitānvaya theory of Sentence-Meaning

[Full title: 4.1. Mīmāṃsakas' View on Sentence-Meaning, (a): Abhihitānvaya theory]

According to this theory, each word in a sentence expresses a complete meaning, which can be comprehended separately. When a sentence is heard, the listener first understands the separate meanings of the words one after the other. The isolated word-meanings, expressed successively by the words are put together by the collective memory of the listener which is termed as samūhālaṃbanasmṛti. The individual word meanings are remembered separately until all the words are heard. Then the simultaneous cognition of the sentence-meaning takes place by putting together these word-meanings according to the three factors namely ākāṅkṣā, yogyatā and sannidhi. The listeners can cognize the meaning of the sentence by this process. Thus the followers of this theory advocate that the meaning of a sentence is a concatenation of the individual meanings expressed by its parts (Raja, 1963, p.203).

Kunjunni Raja suggests that this theory is deep-rooted in the views of the great grammarian Vājapyāyana and thus it is one of the earliest theories about the nature of sentence-meaning. Vājapyāyana advocates that the meaning of the sentence is saṃsarga or the mutual association of the individual word-meanings (Raja, 1963, p.205). Abhihitānvayavādins argue that Śabara seems to refer to this theory when he says: " padāni hi svaṃ svam artham abhidāya nivṛttavyāpārāṇi, athedānīṃ padārthāvagataḥ santo vākyārthaṃ gamayanti" (Under Jaimini, 1.1.25). In a sentence, words cease to function after expressing their own meanings. Then the meanings of the words, thus known, give rise to the sentence meaning. Kumārilabhaṭṭa, the founder of the Bhāṭṭa School propagated this theory by giving it an important role in his philosophy. He affirms that the meaning of the sentence is always conveyed by the meanings of the words expressed by the individual words (" padārthaiḥ padavijñātaiḥ vākyārthaḥ pratipādyate", 1983, p.445). According to him, a sentence cannot signify a meaning, independent of its parts. Words in a sentence first express their meaning independently and then the connection among these wordmeanings is established. This leads to the cognition of sentence-meaning and the three requisites ākāṅkṣā, yogyatā and sannidhi constitute the grounds of relationship among word-meanings (1983, p.455).

Many preceptors rightly observed that the sentence-meaning is something more than the sum of the individual word-meanings. Patañjali is in favour of this view, when he states " yadatrādhikyam vākyārthaḥ saḥ" (Mahābhāṣya, 1991, p.462).

Bhartṛhari also explains the nature of sentence-meaning in the similar manner.

saṃbandhe sati yattvanyadādhikyam upajāyate vākyārthameva taṃ prāhuranekapadasaṃśrayam.
  —(Vākyapadīya, 2.42)

Mammaṭabhaṭṭa describes this view vividly in his Kāvyaprakāśa.

He says that when the meanings of the different words in a sentence are related with one another on the basis of mutual expectancy etc. some additional signification is known, which is distinct from the totality of the separate word-meanings:

ākāṅkṣāyogyatāsannidhivaśāt padārthānāṃ samanvaye tātparyārtho viśeṣavapurapadārtho' pi vākyārthaḥ samullasatīti abhihitānvayavādināṃ matam.
  —(Kāvyaprakāśa 2.6)

This additional meaning is called in various names such as vākyārtha, saṃsarga and tātparyārtha.

How is this saṃsarga conveyed? Where does this additional meaning come from? These vexed questions need to be explained to understand the Abhihitānvaya theory better. The individual words are not capable to convey the special signification, for they cease to function after expressing their individual meanings. Between the words and sentencemeaning, there lie the word-meanings and thus, word-meanings convey the sentence-meaning in the form of saṃsarga. This view of Abhihitānvayavādins is well explained in Mānameyodaya (93).

The followers of Bhāṭṭa School claim that sentence-meaning is conveyed by the secondary power of words:

"vākyārtho lakṣyamāṇo hi sarvatraiveti naḥ sthitiḥ",
  —(Kumārilabhaṭṭa, quoted in Tattvabindu, 1936, p.153).

Naiyāyikas also admit the theory of Abhihitānvaya, with slight differences. But according to them, the sentence-meaning is only the mutual relation of word-meanings. Navya Naiyāyikas like Udayana and Gaṅgeśa reject the Anvitābhidhāna point of view and advocates the Abhihitānvaya theory of verbal cognition. But this view differs slightly from that of Kumārila. According to them, the word-meanings do not constitute the cause of verbal cognition, but the words alone constitute such a cause. The words give rise to the recollection of their meanings, which, owing to ākāṅkṣā, get themselves related to one another and the relation is the sentence-meaning (Nyāyakusumāñjali, 1980, p.216; Tattvacintāmaṇi, 1990, p.548-549).

Jayanta examines both the views of verbal comprehension in his Nyāyamañjarī and records two views, viz. anvīyamānābhidhāna and abhidhīyamānānvaya. Rejecting these two views, he sets forth his own view as: the words in a sentence convey their meanings and the words have the power of conveying the meaning of the sentence also, which is known as tātparya (6.2). It is to be noted here that the cognition of specific relation of one word-meaning to another (tātparya) cannot be treated as verbal. Advaitavedānta also admit the theory of Abhihitānvaya. Śaṅkara in his Bhāṣya on Brahmasūtra, expresses his preference to this theory (Under Brahmasūtra, 1.1.4). It is clear from the discussions that almost all systems thought, except the Prābhākara School of Mīmāṃsā and Vaiyākaraṇas, accept this view of comprehending sentence-meaning.

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