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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bhāvanā and Speech Acts

Several Mīmāṃsā texts focus on the definition of what is exactly the specific force (bhāvanā) characteristic of exhortative verbal endings. Some discussants (noticeably Maṇḍana Miśra) propose that exhortation is just a meaning expressed by exhortative expressions, more in detail, the meaning is that the action to be undertaken is the means to something desired. According to this account, exhortative expressions would not differ from affirmative ones in so far as all would just express an (external) meaning. Kumārila talks of a "linguistic force" (śabdabhāvanā) in regard to the exhortative verbal endings, but he does not specify the link between this force and the endings connected to it (in TV ad 2.1.1 he claims that they "say" [āhuḥ] it). Other Bhāṭṭas maintain that the linguistic force is a function (vyāpāra) of exhortative verbal endings. Their account of this function is not fully clear, but it seems to imply that exhortative expressions are identified through the function they perform. Finally, Pārthasārathi Miśra proposes a synthesis by saying that exhortative verbal endings express an incitement, which is further defined, in the case of Vedic sentences, as the cognition that the action to be undertaken is a means to something desired. Is this a sort of perlocutionary speech act?

4 comments:

Alessandro said...

To what extent, when you use the word "force" to render the concept of bhāvanā, are you influenced by the mīmāṃsakā category of śakti? How much does the apauruṣeyatva influences the necessity of postulating such a force, which indeed seems a substitute for other common-sense agencies?

Alessandro said...

Paul Grice, in a seminal 1957 article, puts forward the idea of understanding communication in terms of intention. He writes of non-natural meaning (meaning\tiny{nn}) as opposed to the class of natural meaning, in which meaning is simply a correlation or signalling (such as "those clouds mean rain", in which the clouds are there for everyone to be seen). Grice is concerned with actions in which the speaker means something by what he does and what is meant may be either false or true.

Austin notices that the speech act implied by Grice is a perlocutionary act, while there are also locutionary and illocutionary acts. When a bartender says "the bar will close in five minutes", he performs the locutionary act of saying that the bar [he is tending] will be closed in five minutes [from the time of the statement]; he performs the illocutionary act of meaning to inform the clients that they may hurry in drinking or order quickly a new one [making the hearer understands what he means]; he performs the perlocutionary act of producing an extra effect [making the hearer drinking quickly or buying another drink].

The problem in apauruṣeya vidhi, is that there is no intention behind it, so it is difficult to call it "perlocutionary" in an Austin sense.

elisa freschi said...

I am not influenced by the concept of sakti, which I usely translate as "power" or "potency". Anyway, "force" is only a provisional translation and all criticism is most welcome. I am still trying to find a viable translation for bhavana. "Realisation" does not stress enough its performative character and "efficient force" makes translations of sabdabhavana and arthabhavana too complicated.

elisa freschi said...

As for apauruseyatva in general, you are right, it makes every comparison to Western linguistic models odd. On the other hand, the Mimamsa appraisal of the signification power intrinsical to language independent of its author is -I believe- an interesting contribution to hermeneutics and linguistics. In our speaker-centered linguistics, it may prove thouhgt-provoking.
Surely the theory of bhavana is an instance of a linguistic theory which tries tro get rid of the speaker. This implies, no doubt, many problems, insofar as one runs the risk to overload the role of words and morphemes. But this is not the purpose of the original theory as I understand it, since this aimed at dispensing with an agency rather than substituting the speaker with the morphemes he utters.

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