A little longer than the first one (discussed in the last post), is the second part of NM 5, which is dedicated to the sentence-meaning. Various discussants oppose each other maintaining different theses about it. Interestingly enough, most of them agree that the meaning conveyed by a sentence consists in an action. Furthermore, some specify it as a bhāvanā (or arthabhāvanā), a verbal noun derived from the causative of the root bhū-, "to be", i.e., a "[force] causing to be" a certain result. The bhāvanā-theory is central in the Mīmāṃsā tradition since Śabara (5th century or before). It represents a view on the process of linguistic signification, and is notably distinct from that of the Vyākaraṇa (Grammar) tradition (Mīmāṃsā and Vyākaraṇa being the two most ancient and influential traditions as for language investigation in India). A bhāvanā is an action and it is so called insofar as it "causes to be" the planned result. Kumārila — whose views are accurately reproduced in NM 5 — innovates the theory through his introduction of an additional, linguistic bhāvanā (called śabdabhāvanā) which constitutes the efficient force inherent in the language itself. To explain, a sentence such as "He brings the cow" has as its core meaning a bhāvanā, namely, the fact of causing to be the bringing of the cow. On the other hand, "Bring the cow!" has as its meanings both the above-mentioned bhāvanā and a linguistic one. The latter is meant to explain the fact that one is led to undertake an action (a bhāvanā) by hearing a prescriptive sentence (or, as Austin would put it, an illocutionary speech act).
Hence, maintains Kumārila, prescriptive sentences include in themselves a force causing to be a specific result (the undertaking of the action). Such linguistic bhāvanā is located, according to Kumārila, in the prescriptive component of a finite verbal form.
The topic of bhāvanā, in sum, is a stimulating one insofar as it focuses on the peculiarity of prescriptive sentences, which are not considered as an exception among normal, descriptive ones. Unfortunately, it has still not been sufficiently studied and even the exact meaning of the two terms "arthabhāvanā" and "śabdabhāvanā" is not yet settled. Along with the paucity of insightful studies on bhāvanā within Indian philosophy, also any appraisal of their possible significance for Western linguistics and philosophy of language lacks altogether.
The above sketch will possibly demonstrate how a direct translation of these theories within a Western terminology is not easy. The Indian debate on language does not reproduce the subject-partition we are used to and a Western reader may feel uneasy while reading of the epistemological value of language as a means for communicating knowledge side by side with discussions on the semantic value of optative endings (which are used, in Sanskrit, to convey an illocutionary speech act). However, I believe that theories which are alien to the Western mainstream may prove efficacious in providing further stimuli, especially insofar as they propose new questions and new fields of investigations.
One of such fields might be the primacy of the illocution within linguistic communication, another the connection between linguistics and epistemology, coalescing in the analysis of language.
"the Lord is my shepherd," Trump style...
4 hours ago