Vakyapadiya (study of the concept of Sentence)

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

This page relates ‘Six Views 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).

Bhartṛhari tries to converge different ideas on the concept of sentencemeaning in the second canto of Vākyapadīya. The definitions of sentence, discussed by Bhartṛhari, naturally points to the nature of sentence-meaning. Puṇyarāja, enumerates six views on the meaning of a sentence held by the followers of these definitions.

They are (Cf. Vākyapadīya, 2.1-2):

  1. Pratibhā,
  2. Samsarga [samsargaḥ],
  3. Samsargavaśāt nirākāṅkṣo viśeṣāvasthitaḥ padārthaḥ,
  4. Samsṛṣṭa evārthaḥ,
  5. Kriyā and
  6. Prayojana [prayojanam].

In the Akhaṇḍa School, which perceives the sentence as indivisible into parts, the sentence-meaning is accepted as Pratibhā. The followers of the remaining five definitions come under the Sakhaṇḍa School, admit that the sentence-meaning is the result of the aggregation of individual word-meanings. These views are to be discussed elaborately.

1. Kriyā Vākyārthaḥ

For those who view sentence as the verb, meaning is in the nature of action or Kriyā.

Bhartṛhari explains this in the verse

kriyā kriyāntarādbhinnā niyatādhārasādhanā
prakrāntā pratipattṛṇām bhedāḥ sambodhahetavaḥ
  —(Vākyapadīya, 2.414)

In most cases, a complete sentence contains at least a subject, predicate and verb. There are sentences which have no parts other than a verb. In anyway, the verb or the idea of an action is an inevitable part of a sentence. Bhartṛhari says that each action is different from one another as it is with specific accessories as its substrata (niyatādhārasādhanā). Puṇyarāja also describes the kriyā or action as ' viśiṣṭā', that which is particular or qualified. Thus kriyā is the key factor in a sentence which differentiates it from all the other sentences. It is again mentioned in this verse that when a sentence is heard, the listener first grasps the sense of action. But it cannot be argued that the other parts in a sentence except the verb are insignificant, as they are for the vivid understanding of the listener.

Puṇyarāja quotes another verse also in his commentary, the source of which is yet to be found.

pratibhā yat prabhūtārthā yāmanuṣṭhānamāśritam
phalam prasūyeta yataḥ sā kriyā vākyagocaraḥ

  —(Vākyapadīya, 2.1,2).

Here it is stated that the kriyā in general is not to be treated as sentencemeaning. But the kriyā, when characterized by some qualifiers, gives the meaning of the sentence. The verb should be qualified with its accessories like Kartā (subject), Karma (predicate) etc and should give rise to indivisible sentence-meaning Pratibhā. This qualified verb can only stimulate action. An action cannot be taken place unless there is a subject and predicate. If one says "close", pointing towards the door, we may understand that the door is to be closed. Here the verb is impregnated with the subject and the predicate. Thus the kriyā, qualified with these characteristics represents the sentence-meaning. This view is a sort of word-atomism, put forth by the Anvitābhidhāna School, which says that each word in a sentence represents a connected meaning.

2. Saṃsargaḥ Vākyārthaḥ

Among the definitions of sentence, those who believe sentence as the collection of words (Saṅghāta) and as the sequence of words (Krama), accept samsarga or the interconnection as the sentence-meaning. According to this view, sentence-meaning is the interconnection of the meanings of the individual words. This view belongs to the Abhihitānvaya School, accepted by the Bhāṭṭa School of Mīmāṃsā.

This is well stated in the verse:—

saṃbandhe sati yattvanyadādhikyam upajāyate
vākyārthameva taṃ prāhuranekapadasaṃśrayam

  —(Vākyapadīya, 2.42)

When a word is connected with another in a sentence, which is mutually expected (sākāṅkṣam) with the first word, an extra meaning over and above the individual meanings of the words is derived. This extra meaning cannot be treated as the meanings the words, but it is the sentencemeaning. In the expression ' vīraḥ puruṣaḥ', there are two distinct words vīraḥ, which denotes 'courage' and puruṣaḥ, which signifies 'a man'. When these words are uttered in a way they are mutually expected (sākāṅkṣam), it signifies 'a courageous man'. This extra meaning of adjectivalsubstantive relation, evolved as a result of the interconnection between the word-meanings, is the sentence-meaning.

This view is pointed out in the Mahābhāṣya, where Patañjali states that the adjectival-substantive relation is different from the individual word-meanings, but it is the sentence-meaning:

"yadatrādhikyam, vākyārthaḥ saḥ",
  —(under Pāṇini, 2.3.46).

Bhartṛhari says that this view of sentence-meaning can be perceived in two different ways. The first view is of the universal or Jāti, which is supposed to exist in full in each individual of the species. Similarly, if sentence is said to be the collection of words and sentence-meaning rests on many words, then the sentence-meaning exists in full in each word. The second perspective is of number, which exists in the totality of the group. In this view, the sentence-meaning rests on the totality of words (Vākyapadīya, 2.43).

3. Samsṛṣṭa evārthaḥ Vākyārthaḥ

It is already discussed the view that the sentence-meaning is samsarga or the interconnection of the meanings of the individual words. Bhartṛhari explains this view in another perspective also. In the former view, it was stated that a word in a sentence denotes its individual meaning only and when the meanings of the words are connected together, a qualified meaning emerges, which is the meaning of the sentence. Here, in this perspective, it is stated that the individual word conveys a general meaning which is potentially capable of being connected with the meanings of other words. When it is actually connected with the other words, it really conveys a meaning connected with the particular meanings of other words. This view differs from the former in the manner that, the word meaning here, is so general and at the same time it is adaptable to all the particulars. The general meaning and the particular meaning are those of the individual word and not of the sentence and is not conveyed by ākāṅkṣā, yogyatā and sannidhi. (Vākyapadīya, 2.44-46). What is peculiar to this view is that, the saṅghāta view is explained here, from the point of view of the School of Anvitābhidhāna.

4. Viśeṣarūpāpannaḥ Padārthaḥ Eva Vākyārthaḥ

Those who define the sentence as 'the first word' (Padamādyam) and 'each word requiring the others' (Pṛthak Sarvam Padam Sākāṅkṣam), accept sentence-meaning as the connected meaning. According to them, the whole of the sentence meaning is concentrated in each word (Vākyapadīya, 2.18). But here, we may doubt if the other words in the sentence are of no use. Bhartṛhari solves this problem, saying that, the other words are not useless, but they make listeners understand the meaning better. If in the very beginning, a connected meaning involving an action and all its accessories are understood, why the accessories are restated in the sentence is also explained by Bhartṛhari. It is for specifying the substrata of the powers of the accessories (Vākyapadīya, 2.411-412, trans. K A S Iyer).

5. Prayojanaṃ Vākyārthaḥ

Puṇyarāja states that for some, the sentence meaning is prayojanam or is in the nature of purpose. This is supposed to be common to all the views on the nature of sentence-meaning. According to this view, the sentence-meaning is neither derived from the interconnection of the meanings of individual words as in the school of Abhihitānvya, nor is the connected meaning of each word as in the school of Anvitābhidhāna. Here, the word-meaning is the expressed sense and the sentence denotes purpose. What is understood on hearing a sentence is nothing but abhidheya or the expressed sense.

The sentence-meaning is the purpose, which fulfills the speaker's intention:

abhidheyaḥ padasyārtho vākyasyārthaḥ prayojanam
yasya tasya na sambandho vākyānāmupapadyate
  —(Vākyapadīya, 2.113)

The definition of sentence, propounded by Jaimini, who authored the sūtras of Mīmāṃsā, also supports this view.

He defines sentence in the aphorism:

"arthaikatvādekam vākyam sākāṅkṣam ced vibhāge syāt"
  —(Mīmāṃsāsūtra 2.1.46).

In this aphorism, the term 'arthaikatva' is explained by Śabara in the sense of 'serving a single purpose':

  —(Śabara’s commentary on the Mīmāṃsāsūtra 2.1.46).

Later Mīmāṃsakas like Kumārilabhaṭṭa, Pārthasārathimiśra etc are also in favour of this view.

Bhartṛhari refutes this view, pointing out its defects. He says that if the sentence has no abhideya (expressed meaning), there would be no connection between sentences. Such connection is established only through the expressed meaning. He also mentions that this defect can be removed or solved according to the concept of Anvitābhidhāna (Vākyapadīya, 2.113)

6. Pratibhā Vākyārthaḥ

Bhartṛhari emphasizes on the Akhaṇḍa School of sentence, which holds the indivisibility of the sentence and the sentence-meaning. Bhartṛhari termed this all-inclusive and indivisible sentence-meaning as Pratibhā. In the Akhaṇḍapakṣa, sentence-meaning is not derived from the meanings of words in it.

Bhartṛhari introduces the concept of Pratibhā in the following verse.

vicchedagrahaṇe'rthānāṃ pratibhānyaiva jāyate
vākyārtha iti tāmāhuḥ padārthairupapāditām

  —(Vākyapadīya, 2.143)

When the meanings of the individual words in a sentence have been understood separately, a flash of understanding takes place. This is the meaning of the sentence, brought about by the meanings of the individual words. In the School of Sentence-Indivisibility, though individual words and their meanings are considered unreal, they serve the purpose of bringing the sentence-meaning to the mind. In other words, they manifest the sentence-meaning. The listener receives the uttered sounds in a sequential manner and hence the meanings of the parts of a sentence may be perceived in the listener's mind. But as soon as a sentence, the complete linguistic unit, is perceived, a sudden flash of understanding takes place. This flash of understanding is termed as ' Pratibhā'. The whole semantic exposition of Bhartṛhari has been developed on this unique as well as original concept.

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