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Theories of Language (Oriental and Occidental)

Theories of Language (Oriental and Occidental)


Item Code: IDK808

by Korada Subrahmanyam

Hardcover (Edition: 2008)

D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd. (New Delhi)
ISBN 812460455X

Size: 8.9" X 5.7"
Pages: 184
Price: $27.50   Shipping Free
Viewed times since 12th Mar, 2009


From the Jacket

The volume presents a panorama of the theories of language, covering both ancient and modern theories. It deals with the origin and development of ancient theories of language with their clear and unambiguous definitions, rules and norms that offer impeccable solutions levels. With systematic and logical explanations of language theories, the work examines ancient grammar including connection of vyakaranam with philosophy and sphota. It also takes up the origin and development of Western linguistic theories emphasizing on the inability of modern linguistic science to agree on basic definitions, as of the meaning of a word, and concepts of discourse, text, macro sentence, with there being an attempt Indian and other linguists pertaining to discourse, particularly the importance of inference in the Nyaya system of Indian philosophy and the Nyaya logical discourse.

The volume will provide students and scholars of philosophy a fundamental work on linguistic theories.

Prof. Korada Subrahmanyam had been at the Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies University of Hyderabad, since 1988. Right from an early age, the teacher was imparted education in Gurukula system and he is a blend of Oriental and Occidental types of Education. Paniniyan Grammar, Philosophy of Language, Translation, Linguistics, Indian Literary Theories, Veda, Vedangas, Darsanas, and Machine Translation – are some of his subjects of interest. Prof. Subrahmanyam was a UGC Visiting Fellow at MS University of Baroda during 2000-01. The Indian Council for Foreign Affairs, drafted him for Visiting Professorship abroad in 2005. The teacher was honoured with 12 Panditasammanas at different places across India.

His other works are – Mahavakyavicarah Vakyapadiyam (Brahmakanda, English Trans.); Four Vrttis in Panini, pramanas in Indian Philosophy (in process).


It had been my dream to make available the theories of language of both Oriental origin in a nutshell for the benefit of the students of language science in general. As is obvious, no such work is available although we come across a number of books dealing with the theories separately; the reason being that neither the Oriental scholars nor the Western linguists are thorough in both the streams. However, it is difficult to find a scholar who digested all the systems of Indian philosophy whereas most of the Western scholars try to understand Panini only. As was suggested by Bhartrhari in Vakyapadiyam, one should get acquainted with different Sastras and Darsanas in order to make one's intellect flavoured with wisdom; and also one cannot decide by simply following his own logic (prajna vivekam labhate bhinnairagamadarsanaih, kiyadva sakyamunnetum svatarkamanudhavata? 2-484). It is also my long-cherished desire that the treasure of knowledge that is there in different schools and systems of Indian philosophy be made available to the people of the West in general and serious students of linguistics in particular.

Having been born in an orthodox brahmana family on the banks of the holy river Godavari (in the area called Konasima), through regular recitation of (Krsna) Yajurveda and study and teaching of different systems I still strive to keep the Oriental thinking green in my mind. I committed Amarakosa to my heart at the age of five and underwent training in different gurukulas beside the one I had under my father (Late Subrahmanyam), who was a ghanapathi and scholar in Panini. My forefathers had tried best to keep the traditions and customs of Aryas intact through uninterrupted guru-sisya parampara (the chain of teacher and desciple). I too had shouldered the responsibility of maintaining the same tradition, of course, in a different manner.

Language had been subjected to micro-analysis and macro-analysis, both at syntactic and semantic levels, right from varna (phoneme) through mahavakya (discourse) by Indian intelligentsia, thousands of years ago. Almost all the systems and schools of Indian philosophy, including Vyakarana, had discussed the concept of sabda. The term sabda (vak) is untranslatable. It is used to denote many things, i.e. varna (phoneme), prakrti /pratyaya (sub-sentence), mahavakya (discourse), the sabda-pramana, para, pasyanti, madhyama, vaikhari and the ordinary sound. Rk, Yajus, Sama, etc. are synonyms of vakya.

Among various systems of Indian philosophy, Vyakarana, Purva-Mimamsa and Nyaya are considered to be essential for the complete understanding of the concept of sabda and its different forms. They are called Padasastra, Vakyasastra and Pramanasastra, respectively. A scholar who has got the knowledge of all these Sastras is called pada-vakya-pramanajna.

It may be noted that all these systems discussed, in detail, the concept of sabda at all the levels. Rather, they are styled so depending on the factor they discussed chiefly. The other systems like Samkhya, Yoga and Uttara-Mimamsa had also expounded the theories of language. but more or less, those are the ones propounded in the said three, i.e. Pada-vakya-pramana-Sastras.

An attempt is here being made to give a panorama of the theories of language, both ancient and modern. Such an attempt has been necessitated after my observation of two decades of the deplorable scene of the study of language and its theories by scholars across the globe in general and the Indian subcontinent in particular.

On the one side, as it is in the case of other social sciences, most of the linguists in Indian have been taking up the theories that were postulated in the West (often in Western hemisphere) and working on them. As is obvious, many theories were propounded by the scholars in the West and later they were refuted by the founders themselves. As a result, slowly Indian (and some Western) scholars have realized that one can no longer depend on the modern linguists for a viable and standard theory. Gradually they started tilting towards ancient Indian theories of language. Meanwhile, during the last several years or so, application of electronics has gained momentum and linguists and computer scientists have started trying various language in computers for machine translation. Most of them have started a serious study of ancient Indian theories of language as they felt that Sanskrit, a natural language supported by Paninian framework only fits the computers.

It is also conspicuous that each and every unit in ancient linguistic science is defined clearly and unambiguously. No definition / rule / norm is revised. There are impeccable solutions to all the problems, both at syntactic and semantic levels.

On the other hand, the scholars of modern linguistic science are still searching for a definition of "word." Scholars are divided on the concept of discourse / text / macro sentence. The theories that are proposed were revised time and again. Meanwhile, the libraries are dumped with books / these /articles, written taking the theories that were later stamped as untenable. The situation still continues. It is against such a background that a good number of modern linguists started learning the ancient theories. Some of them did a complete volte-face in this regard.


Oriental Theories of Language

Sabdas in Sanskrit language can be put under two headings Vaidika and Laukika. There are four Vedas – Rgveda (21 branches), Samaveda (1000), Yajurveda (100), and Atharvaveda (9). The Vedic literature is too vast and only much less number of branches of each Veda are available today. On the other hand, there are six Vedangas (usually to understand the Vedic literature), viz. Siksa (Phonetics), Vyakaranam (Grammar), Chandas (Prosody), Niruktam (Etymology and Lexicon), Jyotisam (Astrology) and Kalpah (Ritualistic data). There are six Darsanas too, which are useful for salvation, viz. Nyaya, Vaisesika, Purva-Mimamsa, Uttara-Mimamsa, Samkhya and Yoga. Apart from this, there are Upavedas, Puranas, Upapuranas, Kavyas/Natakas and other works. Besides, there is the Sanskrit that was being spoken. All the works related to the above-mentioned fields were in laukika-Samskrtam.

Earlier to Panini, there were grammars separately for Vedic sabdas called Pratisakhya and for classical sabdas called Vyakarana. It was Panini, considered the famous work, viz. Astadhyayi (consisting of eight chapters), that is useful for both Vedic and classical sabdas. The main difference between both the sabdas is the svara (accent), i.e. udatta, anudatta, svarita, etc. which is very much important in Vedic sabdas. Meaning would change if the specified svara is not employed. In laukika-sabdas, there will be ekasruti svara (where no difference of accents like udatta is felt). There is also difference in the form (not meaning) of certain words of Vedic and classical literature.

One must have a through knowledge of such a vast literature to know the form of sabda. In Paspasahnika (Introduction) of Mahabhasya, Patanjali narrates a story that Brhaspati started teaching the right sabdas to Indra. He could not finish the job even after one thousand divine years. This is about samskrta-sabdas. This story indirectly suggests (arthavadah) how genius Panini was.

In Indian literary theatre there is no separate branch by name "Linguistics," rather Vyakarana itself is referred to as "Linguistics."

In truth, it is not only Panini who deals with language and related matters. Other systems /schools like Mimamsa (both), Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga, Nirukta, Siksa and works like Susruta-Samhita, Caraka-Samhita, Arthasastra of Kautilya and Parasaropapurana also discuss different linguistic aspects. Of course, the origin lies in Vedas. But, since Vyakaranam speaks of the entire gamut of things related to linguistic analysis, there too, as Paniniya is an exhaustive treatise in this regard, Paniniyavyakaranam is quoted / referred to in each case.

Flavouring the language with philosophy is a conspicuous phenomenon in Indian linguistics. Sages of the subcontinent firmly believe that there is a strong anthropological / philosophical connection between the elements of language and that of spiritual sciences. The concept has got twofold-benefit - attaining dharma through employing perfect sabdas (rather than imperfect ones which would cause adharma to accumulate) and in the long run one can have a standardized language. Secondly, helping towards attaining the main goal, i.e. moksa (salvation) through dharma (dharma, artha, karma, and moksa, the so-called purusarthas should be the goal of every human being according to Indian philosophy). On the other hand, since "language changes," there would be many forms / structures of words and sentences in every language and the question of standardization draws a blank. This would have long-range influence on translation in general and machine translation in particular. Therefore, the form of sabda, its meaning and the relation between the two must follow a standard.

Katyayana and Patanjali vociferously express this view at the outset of Mahabhasya – siddhe sabdarthasambandhe lokato 'rthaprayukte sabdaprayoge sastrena dharmaniyamah – Vyakarana (grammar) can be written when the sabda, artha and their relation follow a standard, and the task of Sastra is to notify / prescribe that certain form of a sabda, which is already used in a particular artha by people, if employed, would render dharma (implying that the opposite would give adharma).


Key to Transliterationxii
1.Origin and Development of Ancient Theories of Language5
Types of Discourse13
Discourse in Vedic Literature14
Metalinguistic Discourse (Discourse in Technical Jargon)14
Discourse in Classical Sanskrit15
Uttara-Mimamsa (Vedanta)28
Vyakaranam I 30
Vyakaranam II35
Nyaya and Vaisesika38
Vakyam (Sentence)46
The Karaka Theory53
Padam (Word)57
Varnah (Phoneme)61
Medicine, Surgery and Linguistics65
2.The connection of Vyakaranam with Philosophy and Sphota73
Vagvyaparah (Speech-Process)84
3.The Origin and Development of Western Linguistics87
Structural Linguistics95
Discovery of Sanskrit and the Revolution in the Western World100
Deictic Elements105
Machine Translation108
X-bar Theory112
Government Binding Theory113
Systemic Linguistics116
Tagmemic Theory117
4.Oriental vs. Occidental119
Padam and Word123
Vakyam and Sentence125
Vak and language127
Artha and Meaning127
Vyakaranam and Grammar130
Language Acquisition133
Pratibha (Competence) and Vyavahara (Performance)134
5.Discourse Analysis – East and West137
6.Inference, Syllogism and the Logical Discourse147
7.Aryas and Purism of Language151
Relation of Sabda and Artha153
Categorization of Sabdas153
Bibliography (Oriental & Occidental)159
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