Language, Grammar and Linguistics in Indian Tradition

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Item Code: NAG557
Author: D.P. Chattopadhyaya
Publisher: Project For Indian Cultural Studies Publication VI
Language: English
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 8187586435
Pages: 453
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.5 inch X 8.5 inch
Weight 1.40 kg
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About the Book


The volumes of the PROJECT ON THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE, PHILOSOSPHY AND CULTURE IN INDIAN CIVILIZATION aim at discovering the main aspects of India's heritage and present them in an interrelated way. In spite of their unitary look, these volumes recognize the difference between the areas of material civilization and those of ideational culture. The project is not being executed by a single group of thinkers and writers who are methodologically uniform or ideologically identical in their commitments. The Project is marked by what may be called 'methodological pluralism'. Inspite of its primarily historical character, this project, both in its conceptualization and execution, has been shaped by scholars drawn from different disciplines. It is for the first time that an endeavour of such a unique and comprehensive character has been undertaken to study critically a major world civilization.


This Volume contains thoughts about Language, Grammar and Linguistics in Indian Tradition. It is the product of research work conducted on a variety of aspects on language right from the Vedic era up to medieval period. Eminent scholars have contributed to the Volume on a variety of themes such as Concept of Language, Philosophy of Language, Formal aspect of Language, Phonetics and Phonology, Semantic aspect of Language, Lexicography, Science of Grammar, Science of Sentence-Interpretation, Theory of Communication through the natural language and through the language of Art and Artificial language for precise communication. These themes are presented in a structured form, keeping Panini, the fifth Century Sanskrit Grammarian and the first descriptive linguist known to the world, at the centre. One will find a broad picture of concept of language, grammar and linguistics before Panini, in Panini and after Panini in this volume.


For the first time, one will find in this Volume, a detailed account of contributions of non-Paninian Sanskrit Grammarians. One will also find ancient Indian philosophers, particularly, of Bhartrhari and Indian Logicians' views on language. The contributions of the Purvamimamsa philosophy to the idea of Discourse Analysis and Indian Hermeneutics have also been highlighted. A chapter on Artificial Language developed by Neo-logicians has also been added for the first time in this volume.


The Volume aims at developing perspectives for studying ancient Indian linguistic data from various angles in contemporary grammatical, linguistic and philosophical idiom in order to encourage future research in these areas. The book is addressed to the educated laity and not just to students or specialists on the subject.


About the Author


D.P. Chattopadhyaya, M.A., L.L.B., Ph.D. (Calcutta and London School of Economics), D. Litt. (Honoris Causa), studied, researched on Law, philosophy and history and taught at various Universities in India, Asia, Europe and USA from 1954 to 1994. Founder-Chairman of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (19811990) and President-cum-Chairman of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (1984-1991), Chattopadhyaya is currently the Project Director of the multidisciplinary 96-volume PHISPC and Chairman of the CSC. Among his 37 publications, authored 19 and edited or co-edited 18, are Individuals and Societies (1967); Individuals and Worlds (1976); Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx (1988); Anthropology and Historiography of Science (1990); Induction, Probability and Skepticism (1991); Sociology, Ideology and Utopia (1997); Societies, Cultures and Ideologies (2000); Interdisciplinary Studies in Science, Society, Value and Civilizational Dialogue (2002); Philosophy of Science, Phenomenology and Other Essays (2003); Philosophical Consciousness and Scientific Knowledge: Conceptual Linkages and Civilizational Background (2004); Religion, Philosophy and Science (2006); Aesthetic Theories and Forms in Indian Tradition (2008) and Love, Life and Death (2010). He has also held high public offices, namely, of Union cabinet minister and state governor. He is a Life Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a Member of the International Institute of Philosophy, Paris. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1998 and Padmavibhushan in 2009 by the Government of India.



V.N. Jha, kavya-vyakarana-veda-tirtha (Madhusudan Chatuspathi, Raiganj), M.A. in Sanskrit (Vedic Group) (Banaras Hindu University), M.A. in Comparative Philology (Calcutta University), Ph.D. (Pune University), retired as Professor and Director of the Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit, University of Pune in 2006. He joined the Centre in 1977. Earlier, he worked as Sub-Editor, Sanskrit Dictionary Project from 1970-1977. He is also the Founder Chairman of the special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is a Visiting Professor at Humboldt University, Berlin (Germany) Nagoya University (Japan); Lausanne University (Switzerland); and Mahatma Gandhi Institute (Mauritius). His publications include 46 books and 150 research articles published in various journals. Academic Honours received by him include Sanskrita Mahamahopadhyaya (Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, Allahabad), Vachaspati (Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Tirupati) and Naiyayika Sarvabhauma (Moris Stella College, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh). He is a Life Member of the Asiatic Society, Kolkata; Linguistic Society of India and Lexicographical Society of India and Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune. His areas of special interests are Veda, Vyakarana, Nyaya, Mimamsa, Linguistics and Indian Intellectual Culture.




As the title of the Volume suggests, this volume attempts to capture thoughts on language, grammar and linguistics in Indian tradition. Since ancient records are in Sanskrit language right from the Vedic times, Sanskrit literatures of different genres and of different periods have been used for the study.


For convenience of study and for getting a holistic picture, the entire period is divided into three segments: Pre-Paninian, Paninian and Post-Paninian period keeping Panini, the first descriptive grammarian known so far in any language of the world, at the centre.


The Pre-Paninian period made significant contribution particularly, to the development of the science of phonetics and philosophy of languages. Panini came out with a comprehensive and elaborate theory of description of Sanskrit language in his Astadhyayi. He provided a model of language description in over 4000 rules sutras). His A Astadhyayi is not merely a grammar of Sanskrit language but the fist work on generative grammar. His algebraic ordering of rules, developing meta-language to interpret the language of rules, and principles of economy of description left permanent impact on Indian minds and became the source of development of intellectual and scientific traditions in India. As Galileo to the Western science, so Panini became instrumental to Indian scientific heritage. That is why, his contributions are appreciated not only in India but also world over. Today, not only linguists but even computer scientists are engaged in deriving in sights from his Astadhyayi.


Obviously, Panini became a model for Post-Paninian grammarians and many works on Sanskrit grammar came into existence out of various needs. As Sanskrit was influencing vernaculars, the vernaculars too kept on influencing Sanskrit and those non-Paninian usages were to be given sanction by writing fresh grammars of Sanskrit language. Thus, the tradition of reviewing Panini' s grammar by Katyayana continued as it were, giving rise to a non-Paninian tradition of grammar and linguistics. Sometimes, Vaisnava scholars too added to this literature by writing Sanskrit grammar with a view to introducing the students to the Sanskrit language, on one hand and doctrines of Vaisnava schools on the other, simultaneously. Srijiva Gosvamin of caitanya mahdprabhu-sampradaya wrote Harinamamrta-vyakaranam with this goal in mind. It is a grammar of Sanskrit language but all illustrations are from Vaisnava philosophy. This is how Post-Paninian tradition turned out to be non-Paninian Traditions too.


Another important aspect of this Volume is the highlights of the treatment of language by Indian philosophers, particularly the Nyaya-Vaisesika philosophers and the philosophers of the Purvamimamsa school. Not only the contributions of the language philosopher Bhartrhari have been summarized, the thoughts on language and reality, language and the world and the functions of human language have also been presented in contemporary idiom in this Volume wherever it has been possible to do so.


Similarly, the volume also records the awareness of ancient and medieval Indian scholars regarding various functional forms of language. They knew, for instance, that the language of science or language of fact and language of Art are not the same although both exhibit similar underlying linguistic structures.


Since the basic need of language is to share and communicate, those philosophers also developed two models of communications: (i) one for ordinary communication with the ordinary world and (ii) the other for aesthetic communication.


While developing these models of communication and analyzing the philosophical dialogues they realized that a communication through ordinary language is not always successful because an ordinary language creates a scope for ambiguity. In order to meet this challenge, the Nyaya-Vaisesika school of Indian Philosophy developed an artificial language for philosophical communication known as Navya-Nyaya language. This language was proved to be so useful that almost all systems of thought in medieval India adopted this very Navya-Nyaya language as the medium of their works. This fact has also been recorded in this Volume.


This Volume does not claim that it has exhausted recording all aspects of language studies in Indian tradition but it does claim that it will help in developing perspectives of studying language as per contemporary need and thereby a deeper interest in studying the huge traditional data on language may develop and if this happens we will consider our attempts more than rewarded.


I am thankful to Prof. D. P. Chattopadhyaya, the General Editor of PHIS PC for assigning this Volume to me and for giving me the complete freedom in conceptualizing the content of this Volume, the way I have presented it here. It is his loving and encouraging support which could help me in completing this work in spite of my very heavy academic engagements.

I also thank from the bottom of my heart all the contributors other than myself, of this Volume for their brilliant contributions, co-operation and academic support.

I am thankful to Prof. Bhuvan Chandel for her constant encouragement and necessary administrative support.


I shall be failing in my duty if I don not put on record the support and co-operation I received from Shri Ashoka Sengupta, the in-house editor of this volume. His suggestions have added to the quality of this Volume.


Finally, I express my thankfulness to Shri. Nandkishor Khujekar and his wife Shrimati Vidya Khurjekar, the proprietors of the publishing House. Mac Script of Pune, for type-setting the entire Volume as per the instructions of Shri Ashoke Sengupta




It is understandable that man, shaped by Nature, would like to know Nature. The human ways of knowing Nature are evidently diverse, theoretical and practical, scientific and technological, artistic and spiritual. This diversity has, on scrutiny, been found to be neither exhaustive nor exclusive. The complexity, of physical nature, life world and, particularly, human mind is so enormous that it is futile to follow a single method for comprehending all the aspects of the world in which we are situated.


One need not feel bewildered by the variety and complexity of the worldly phenomena. After all, both from traditional wisdom and our daily experience, we know that our own nature is not quite alien to the structure of the world. Positively speaking, the elements and forces that are out there in the world are also present in our body-mind complex, enabling us to adjust ourselves to our environment. Not only the natural conditions but also the social conditions of life have instructive similarities between them. This is not to underrate in any way the difference between the human ways of life all over the world. It is partly due to the variation in climatic conditions and partly due to the distinctness of production-related tradition, history and culture.


Three broad approaches are discernible in the works on historiography of civilization, comprising science and technology, art and architecture, social sciences and institutions. Firstly, some writers are primarily interested in discovering the general laws which govern all civilizations spread over different continents. They tend "to underplay what they call the noisy local events of the external world and peculiarities of different languages, literatures and histories. Their accent is on the unity of Nature, the unity of science and the unity of mankind. The second group of writers, unlike the generalist or transcendentalist ones, attach primary importance to the distinctiveness of every culture. To these writers human freedom and creativity are extremely important and basic in character. Social institutions and the cultural articulations of human consciousness, they argue, are bound to be expressive of the concerned people's consciousness. By implication they tend to reject concepts like archetypal consciousness, universal mind and providential history. There is a third group of writers who offer a composite picture of civilizations, drawing elements both from their local and common characteristics. Every culture has its local roots and peculiarities. At the same time, it is pointed out that due to demographic migration and immigration over the centuries an element of compositeness emerges almost in every culture. When, due to a natural calamity or political exigencies people move from one part of the world to another, they carry with them, among other things, their language, cultural inheritance and their ways of living.


In the light of the above facts, it is not at all surprising that comparative anthropologists and philologists are intrigued by the striking similarity between different language families and the rites, rituals and myths of different peoples. Speculative philosophers of history, heavily relying on the findings of epigraphy, ethnography, archaeology and theology, try to show in very general terms that the particulars and universals of culture are 'essentially' or 'secretly' interrelated. The spiritual aspects of culture like dance and music, beliefs pertaining to life, death and duties, on analysis, are found to be mediated by the material forms of life like weather forecasting, food production, urbanization and invention of script. The transition from the oral culture to the written one was made possible because of the mastery of symbols and rules of measurement. Speech precedes grammar, poetry prosody. All these show how the 'matters' and 'forms' of life are so subtly interwoven.



The PHIS PC publications on History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, in spite of their unitary look, do recognize the differences between the areas of material civilization and those of ideational culture. It is not a work of a single author. Nor is it being executed by a group of thinkers and writers who are methodologically uniform or ideologically identical in their commitments. In conceiving the Project we have interacted with, and been influenced by, the writings and views of many Indian and non-Indian thinkers.


The attempted unity of this Project lies in its aim and inspiration. We have in India many scholarly works written by Indians on different aspects of our civilization and culture. Right from the pre-Christian era to our own time, India has drawn the attention of various countries of Asia, Europe and Africa. Some of these writings are objective and informative and many others are based on insufficient information and hearsay, and therefore not quite reliable, but they have their own value. Quality and view-points keep on changing not only because of the adequacy and inadequacy of evidence but also, and perhaps more so, because of the bias and prejudice, religious and political conviction, of the writers.


Besides, it is to be remembered that history, like Nature, is not an open book to be read alike by all. The past is mainly enclosed and only partially disclosed. History is, therefore, partly objective or 'real' and largely a matter of construction. This is one of the reasons why some historians themselves think that it is a form of literature or art. However, it does not mean that historical construction is 'anarchic' and arbitrary. Certainly, imagination plays an important role in it.


But its character is basically dependent upon the questions which the historian raises and wants to understand or answer in terms of the ideas and actions of human beings in the past ages. In a way, history, somewhat like the natural sciences, is engaged in answering questions and in exploring relationships of cause and effect between events and developments across time. While in the natural sciences, the scientist poses questions about nature in the form of hypotheses, expecting to elicit authoritative answers to such questions, the historian studies the past, partly for the sake of understanding it for its own sake and partly also for the light which the past throws upon the present, and the possibilities which it opens up for moulding the future. But the difference between the two approaches must not be lost sight of. The scientist is primarily interested in discovering laws and framing theories, in terms of which different events and processes can be connected and anticipated. His interest in the conditions or circumstances attending the concerned events is secondary. Therefore, scientific laws turn out to be basically abstract and easily expressible in terms of mathematical language. In contrast, the historianas main interest centres round the specific events, human ideas and actions, not general laws. So, the historian, unlike the scientist, is obliged to pay primary attention to the circumstances of the events he wants to study. Consequently, history, like most other humanistic disciplines, is concrete and particularist. This is not to deny the obvious truth that historical events and processes consisting of human ideas and actions show some trend or other and weave some pattern or another. If these trends and patterns were not there at all in history, the study of history as a branch of knowledge would not have been profitable or instructive. But one must recognize that historical trends and patterns, unlike scientific laws and theories, are not general or purported to be universal in their scope.



The aim of this Project is to discover the main aspects of Indian culture and present them in an interrelated way. Since our culture has influenced, and has been influenced by, the neighbouring cultures of West Asia, Central Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia, attempts have been made here to trace and study these influences in their mutuality. It is wellknown that during the last three centuries, European presence in India, both political and cultural, has been very widespread. In many volumes of the Project considerable attention has been paid to Europe and through Europe to other parts of the world. For the purpose of a comprehensive cultural study of India, the existing political boundaries of the South Asia of today are more of a hindrance than help. Cultures, like languages, often transcend the bounds of changing political territories.


If the inconstant political geography is not a reliable help to the understanding of the layered structure and spread of culture, a somewhat comparable problem is encountered in the area of historical periodization. Periodization or segmenting time is a very tricky affair. When exactly one period ends and another begins is not precisely ascertainable. The periods of history designated as ancient, medieval and modem are purely conventional and merely heuristic in character. The varying scopes of history, local, national and continental or universal, somewhat like the periods of history, are unavoidably fuzzy and shifting. Amidst all these difficulties, the volume-wise details have been planned and worked out by the editors in consultation with the Project Director and the General Editor. I believe that the editors of different volumes have also profited from the reactions and suggestions of the contributors of individual chapters in planning the volumes.


Another aspect of Indian history which the volume-editors and contributors of the Project have carefully dealt with is the distinction and relation between civilization and culture. The material conditions which substantially shaped Indian civilization have been discussed in detail. From agriculture and industry to metallurgy and technology, from physics and chemical practices to the life sciences and different systems of medicinesall the branches of knowledge and skill which directly affect human life-form the heart of this Project. Since the periods covered by the PHISPC are extensive-prehistory, protohistory, early history, medieval history and modem history of India-we do not claim to have gone into all the relevant material conditions of human life. We had to be selective. Therefore, one should not be surprised if one finds that only some material aspects of Indian civilization have received our pointed attention, while the rest have been dealt with in principle or only alluded to.


One of the main aims of the Project has been to spell out the first principles of the philosophy of different schools, both pro-Vedic and anti-Vedic. The basic ideas, of Buddhism, Jainism and Islam have been given their due importance. The special position accorded to philosophy is to be understood partly in terms of its proclaimed unifying character and partly to be explained in terms of the fact that different philosophical systems represent alternative world-views, cultural perspectives, their conflict and mutual assimilation.


Most of the volume-editors and at their instance the concerned contributors have followed a middle path between the extremes of narrativism and theoreticism. The underlying idea has been this: if in the process of working out a comprehensive Project like this every contributor attempts to narrate all those interesting things that he has in the back of his mind, the enterprise is likely to prove unmanageable. If, on the other hand, particular details are consciously forced into a fixed mould or pre-supposed theoretical structure, the details lose their particularity and interesting character. Therefore, depending on the nature of the problem of discourse, most of the writers have tried to reconcile in their presentation, the specificity of narrativism and the generality of theoretical orientation. This is a conscious editorial decision. Because, in the absence of a theory, however inarticulate it may be, the factual details tend to fall apart. Spiritual network or theoretical orientation makes historical details not only meaningful but also interesting and enjoyable.


Another editorial decision which deserves spelling out is the necessity or avoidability of duplication of the same theme in different volumes or even in the same volume" Certainly, this Project is not an assortment of several volumes. Nor is any volume intended to be a miscellany. This Project has been designed with a definite end in view and has a structure of its own. The character of the structure has admittedly been influenced by the variety of the themes accommodated within it. Again it must be understood that the complexity of structure is rooted in the aimed integrality of the Project itself.





Diacritics for Transliteration



International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)












General Introduction






Concept of Language in Sanskrit Tradition



Philosophy of Language



Studdy of Language



Two aspects of Language : Form and Content



Types of Language



Linguistic Communication Models



Development of Artificial Language (Navya Navya Language)






Select Bibliography



Index of Sanskrit Terms




Sample Pages

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