Vakyapadiya (study of the concept of Sentence)

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

This page relates ‘Sakhanda and Akhanda Schools of Sentence’ 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. Sakhaṇḍa and Akhaṇḍa Schools of Sentence

Indian scholars have tried to expound the real nature of sentence and sentence-meaning by analysis, synthesis and abstraction (a method introduced by Bhartṛhari called apoddhāra). Whether sentence can be analysed or not, remained a debated issue from ancient times. Bhartṛhari notes that there are two schools regarding the notion of the sentence and sentence-meaning viz. Akhaṇḍapakṣa and Sakhaṇḍapakṣa.[1] The controversy between these two schools is mainly regarding the primary units of meaning; whether it is sentence or word.

An earlier reference can be found in Ṛgvedaprātiśākhya, in which it is stated as:

"saṃhitā padaprakṛtiḥ" (2.1).

This statement is explained in two different ways by the followers of Akhaṇḍa and Sakhaṇḍa Schools of sentence to authenticate their theses. The term ' saṃhitā', in this statement, denotes 'sentence' and the word ' prakṛti' refers to 'origin'. If the compound word ' padaprakṛtiḥ' is analysed as Tatpuruṣa compound, the derivation would be like 'padānāṃ prakṛtiḥ'. Then, it signifies that the sentence or saṃhitā is the origin of words. Here, sentence is the unit of language and words are differentiated later, from this unit. If the statement is taken as Bahuvrīhi compound, it can be described as ' padāni prakṛtiḥ yasyāḥ sā, padaprakṛtiḥ'. This gives an idea that words are the units of meaning and sentence is nothing more than the collection of words.

Among the definitions of sentence explained above, some definitions come under the view that sentence is the aggregation of its parts (Sakhaṇḍapakṣa). Saṅghāta (the collection of words), Krama (the sequence of words), Ākhyataśabda (the verb), Padamādyam (the first word) and Pṛthak sarvaṃ padaṃ sākāṅkṣam (each word requiring others)–these five definitions come under this view. Almost all the the philosophers except grammarians follow the Sakhaṇḍa School of sentence. The Mīmāṃsakas are of the view that sentence and sentencemeaning are produced by joining the words and the word-meanings together. There are two schools of Mīmāṃsakas viz. Bhāṭṭa School, propounded by Kumārilabhaṭṭa and Prābhākara School, founded by Prabhākara. The two schools have different views on the concept of sentence and sentence-meaning. Abhihitānvayavāda and Anvitābhidhānavāda are the two theories of verbal import (śābdabodha), held by these schools respectively[2]. Puṇyarāja, The famous commentator of Vākyapadīya mentions that two among the five definitions which come within the sakhaṇḍa view viz., the collection of words (Saṅghāta) and the sequence of words (Krama), are held by the abhihitānvayavādins, while the other three definitions are accepted by anvitābhidhānavādins (Vākyapadīya, 2.1-2). Thus, the first two definitions under sakhaṇḍa view can be ascribed, later on, to the Bhāṭṭa School of Mīmāṃsā. The essence of the abhihitānvaya theory can be stated as follows:-' abhihitānām padārthānām anvayaḥ'. The words in a sentence first designate their meanings and then the word-meanings are brought together to give the sentence-meaning.

Though Puṇyarāja ascribes the saṅghāta view, to the Abhihitānvayavāda, Kumārilabhaṭṭa, the founder of this School refutes the saṅghātavāda in his Ślokavārtika.

evam ādyantaṃ sarveṣāṃ pṛthak saṅghātakalpane
anyonyānugrahābhāvāt padānāṃ nāsti vākyatā
  —(Vākyādhikaraṇa, 4)

He refutes saṅghātavāda saying that, the ability of words to favor each other, cannot be established in a group. Bhartṛhari criticized this view saying that just as the individual letters in a word are treated as meaningless, the individual words in a sentence also have no individual meaning.

The other three definitions under the sakhaṇḍa view—Ākhyātaśabda (the verb), Padamādyam (the first word) and Pṛthak sarvaṃ padaṃ sākāṅkṣam (each word requiring others), are supportive of a sort of contextualism, where the word's contextual meaning is considered, to understand the sentence-meaning. This is ascribed later on to the Prābhākara school of Mīmāṃsā and also named Anvitābhidhānavāda. The idea is that a word's meaning cannot be known in isolation. When a sentence is heard, the word's contextual meaning or its meaning in connection with the meanings of other words in the sentence is understood by the hearer. In this way, each word in the sentence gives a connected sense and hence each word can convey the whole meaning of the sentence. The followers of the theory of Abhihitānvaya believes that the sentence meaning is the inter connection of the meanings conveyed by the individual words, while those who accept the Anvitābhidhāna theory, hold the view that sentence meaning is not derived from the interconnection of individual words, but each word connotes a meaning that is already connected with the meanings of the others. In addition to these definitions, Bhartṛhari also discusses the definitions of sentence by Jaimini, the founder of the Mīmāṃsā School and Kātyāyana, the author of Vārtikas in the School of Vyākaraṇa.

Among the definitions of sentence, Jātiḥ saṅghātavartinī (the universal inhering in the collection of words), Eko'navayavaḥ śabdaḥ (the one individual word) and Budhyanusamhṛtiḥ (the unification in mind)–these definitions come under the view that sentence is indivisible (Akhaṇḍapakṣa). The followers of this school consider sentence as a single unit, which has no divisions such as words or syllables. Ancient grammarians like Vyāḍi, Patañjali etc. are in favour of this view. They accept sentence-sphoṭa as the minutest level of language. According to these three definitions, sentence is considered as a single unit, which cannot be taken as the group of words as in Sakhaṇḍapakṣa.

All the notions of the Sakhaṇḍa School on sentence and sentencemeaning are refuted by Bhartṛhari, as they cannot explain the philosophy of sentence wholly. These definitions manifest the concept of sentence from corners only; none of them depicts a complete idea about the philosophy of sentence. Bhartṛhari sets forth instead a holistic framework and argues that a sentence might be understood as an indivisible sphoṭa, which is either external or internal.

On a shrewd analysis of the Vākyakāṇḍa of Vākyapadīya, it can be concluded that Bhartṛhari never accepted the Sakhaṇḍapakṣa, as he advocates syllables and words in a sentence are not real, but only imaginary.

pade na varṇā vidyante varṇeṣvavayavā na ca
vākyat padānāmatyantaṃ praviveko na kaścana
  —(Vākyapadīya, 1.68)

Footnotes and references:


Matilal describes the former school as 'sentence-holism' and the latter as 'atomism' (1992, p.106).


These theories on verbal import are expounded under in this thesis.

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