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Sabda: A Study of Bhartrhari's Philosophy of Language

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Item Code: IDD233
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Tandra Patnaik
Language: English
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 9788124604083
Pages: 193
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.7"
Weight 540 gm
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Book Description

From the Jacket:

It is the first ever study of the 5th-century scholar, Bhartrhari's Vakyapadiya in an altogether modern: the post-Fregean, perspective on the Philosophy of Language. A uniquely original thinker in India's splendid grammarians' tradition, Bartrhari overreached the limits of language analysis set by his predecessors, like Panini and Patanjali, constructing, as he did, a brilliant philosophy of language that sought to spell out, among other aspects, the subtle distinctions between the 'knowable' and the 'sayable', between 'what is said' and 'what is meant', between the semantics of 'everyday speech' and 'literary discourse'. Sadly, Bhartrharihas, through the centuries, suffered neglect, largely because the Grammarian School never figured in the six major systems of traditional Indian philosophy.

For the first time, this monograph tries to reinterpret Bhartrhari's position - 'as a philosopher', emphasizing the high relevance of his Vakyapadiya to modern Western thought. A reputed scholar of grammar, philosophy and Sanskrit studies, the author presents Bhartrhari's analyses of language methodically, unbiasedly. And, significantly in contemporary philosophical idiom - with contextual focus on the views of modern Western philosophers: Frege, Wittgenstein, Grice, Austin, Davidson, Searle, Strawson and the like. Also offered here is a lucid exposition of the Sphota Theory.

Growing from Dr. Patnaik's a decade-long research on Bhartrhari's philosophy, the volume highlights not only ancient Indian contribution to the study of language, but the interconnectedness among its indigenous approaches to linguistics, philosophy, logic, and aesthetics as well.

About the Author:

Tandra Patnaik, who distinguished herself with Utkal University's top positions at the B.A. (Hons) and M.A. level examinations, combines in her the scholarship of a grammarian, a Sanskritist and a philosopher. Which have given her the essential interdisciplinary orientation to reinterpret Bhartrhari in terms of the recent developments in the Philosophy of Language. Her doctoral dissertation on "James' Concetp of Meaning" (1982) was spoken of very highly by Sri P.F. Strawson (of Oxford) who also happened to be her Ph.D. examiner.

A philosophy teacher of about 25 year long standing, and also author of three books and numerous research papers, Dr. Patnaik is currently with the P.G. Department of Philosophy, Utkal University, Bhubaneshwar, India.



THE intellectual climate for interdisciplinary research is almost non- existent in India. Under these circumstances a book on Bhartrhari - which requires competence in philosophy, grammar as well as Sanskritic studies - is not a mean achievement. Dr Tandra Patnaik deserves special encomium for filling up a major gap in knowledge.

Present-day philosophy gives considerable attention to the distinction between the knowable and the sayable, to what is said and what is meant and to the distinction between the semantics of ordinary day-to-day discourse and the literary discourse. Dr Patnaik has assessed herself to all these questions besides giving a lucid exposition of the sphota theory.

In the developmental history of philosophical thought in the West, it was only in the post-Fregean period that philosophy of language was recognized as the starting point of the study of philosophy. As Matilal points out, "The philosophy of language was a part of Indian philosophical activity from the beginning of its history." (Matilal, Bimal Krishna: The Word and the World, p. 4.) Vyakarana (grammar) is one of the six uedangas (auxiliary or preparatory disciplines for the study of Veda). A strong and continuous grammatical tradition exists in India from the days of Panini, although Panini mentions several grammarians prior to him. In the West critical concern with grammar is a recent phenomenon. Whether it is Sir William Jones laying the historical foundation of the study of Indo-European, Bloomfield laying the foundation of American Structuralism, or Chomsky fathering Generative Linguistics, all have acknowledged the contribution of Panini. In the field of aesthetics the Western scholars are anticipated by Indian scholars centuries ago. The theory of Crowe Ransom that poetry is language was anticipated by Rudrata's statement nanu sabdartham kavyam (poetry is language) and by Kuntaka's identification of word and meaning. The Western scholars were ignorant of the rich Indian philosophical, grammatical and aesthetic traditions. The imposition of colonialism not only led them to propagate Western supremacy but also made us subservient to Western thinking.

In the chapter "The Word and the Meaning" Dr Patnaik discusses words vs. sentence cognition and language, ordinary meaning and what is shown but not said in language. In this presentation she succeeds in suggesting the interconnectedness between the ordinary grammatical meaning and the profound aesthetic meaning.

The present book is a commendable introduction to India's contribution to the study of language and the interconnectedness of approaches to linguistics, philosophy, logic and aesthetics in ancient India. It is a seminal contribution to contemporary concerns of reading ancient texts in linguistics and philosophy. To the extent it is accepted by linguists and philosophers, it would have proved its merit.



Fourteen years back, when this book was published, I was full of apprehensions about the interest the work could generate in the readers' mind. I had some tangible reasons for such uneasiness - Why should a reader be interested in a philosophical viewpoint dating back to fifth century and more importantly, in a philosopher who himself has not been accorded the status of a philosopher by his own tradition? I clearly remember that many of my friends and well-wishers in the academic circle had dissuaded me from the misadventure of undertaking Bhartrharian study when I got seriously involved in the work some time in 1980's. But in the last decade there has been a sudden spurt of interest in the philosophy of language of Bhartrhari, especially after B.K. Matilal's The Word and the World was published. During these fourteen years, since the publication of my book, many National and International seminars have been organized on the philosophy of Bhartrhari in which philosophers and academicians have taken active interest. With this change of attitude I feel assured that the Bhartrhari has finally been ensconced more as a Darsanika than a Vaiyakaranika.

I had grounds to feel happy when my publisher Shri Susheel K. Mittal of D.K. Printworld sought my permission for bringing out a second edition of the book. I took this opportunity to revise some of the chapters. All these years, since the publication of my book, I have been studying some new materials on philosophy of language and philosophical psychology. In the course of my reading I have always wondered how Bhartrhari would have faced the issues raised by these new breed of philosophers. Keeping this in mind I have incorporated some changes as well as some additions in the fifth and sixth chapter of my original book.

In the fifth chapter entitled "Language and Communication," while discussing the views of the modern Western philosophers on the problem speaker's intention and the conditions of its communicability, I decided to add Kent Bach's very insightful theory of "conversational implicature" along with the views of Wittgenstein, Austin, Grice and Searle. The sixth chapter of the original book entitled "Language and Thought" has been totally reformulated keeping in mind the recent discussions on philosophy of mind as well as philosophical psychology. Besides, I thought it necessary to place in the appendix two more chapters that I believed to be relevant for understanding Bhartrhari's philosophy of language. I have placed them separately as my approach is slightly different here. In these two chapters I have tried to look at Bhartrhari from within the tradition to bring to light the radicalism of his approach to the issues and concepts that have played an important role in our own version of philosophy of language. Let me cite a case as illustration. In the Indian tradition of philosophy of language, the problem of communication of meaning has been investigated mostly from the hearer's angle. So the concept of sabdabodha (the hearer's understanding of language) have been given more emphasis. Bhartrhari, on the other hand, prefers to approach the problem of the communicability of meaning from the speaker's angle.

I owe a lot to Susheel K. Mittal, the young and enthusiastic man at the helm of D.K. Printworld. He never allows one to be careless and complacent. His flare for perfectionism, accuracy and awareness of various subjects is praiseworthy. I am extremely grateful to him for all that he has done for the wide circulation of the first edition of my book. I also owe my gratitude to all those readers who took interest in my work.




  Foreword by D.P. Pattanayak vii
  preface to the second Edition ix
  Preface to the First Edition xi
  Abberviations xix
  The Linguistic Turn 1
  The Indian Viewpoint 4
  Does Sabda Pramana mean Scriptural Authority? 5
  Bhartrhari: The New Way of Looking at Language 13
  Metaphysics and Language 17
  Metaphysics and Mysticism 19
  Sabda-Brahman: Its Implications 21
  Problems of Linguistic Monism 28
  (a) Word and Consciousness 28
  (b) Word and Concept 29
  (c) Word Universal and Object Universal 30
  The Notion of Change and Time 31
  Bhartrhari's Monism and Its Logical Conclusions 37
  Logical Atonism and Holism 38
  Language Analysis and Metaphysics 43
  Sphota: Its Meaning and Implications 46
  Bhartrhari on Speaker's Communication of Meaning 57
  Hearer's Understanding and Pratibha 60
  Wittgenstein on Understanding 63
  Nature of the Relationship 67
  What does the Word Mean? Some Western Theories 75
  (a) Essentialism 76
  (i) Referential Theories 77
  (ii) Ideational Theories 80
  (b) Non-Essentialism 82
  Bhartrhari on Different Layers of Meaning 85
  (a) Primary and Metaphorical Meaning 86
  (b) Literal Sense and Contextural Meaning 88
  Bhartrhari and Wittgenstein on Diversities of Meaning 91
  Formalism versus Communication-Intention Theroy 93
  Bhartrhari on Language 96
  Structural and Functional Components of Utterance 98
  Language as a Function: Wittgenstein, Grice, Austin Searle and Bach 101
  Bhartrhari on ''what is Said'' and ''what is Meant'' 105
  Nature of the Problem 113
  Bhartrhari on Thought and Language: the Communicative Perspective 114
  The Western Perspective 121
  Thought and Language:The Conceptual Perspective 133
  Semantics and Ontology 139
  The Buddhist (Dinnaga's) Viewpoint 143
  Bhartrhari and Dinnaga on Word-World Relation 146
  Linguistic Phenomenalism: An Assessment 153
  Sentence-Holism versus Word-Atomism 157
  Bhartrhari's Argument for Sentence-Holism 159
  Two Opposing Modern Views on the Problem 166
  Bhartrhari on What can be Said 173
  Some Modern Views on the Problem 178
  Bhartrhari on the Limiting Concepts of Knowability and Sayability 181
  (a) Yogyata 182
  (b) Pratibha 183
  Wittgenstein on the Limits of Sayabiligy 185
  (1)Eternality of Word -Meaning Relation vis-à-vis Contextuality 187
  (2)Vakyartha and Akankasa 201
  Glossary of Sanskrit Terms 209
  Selected Bibliography 213
  Index 219


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