A Śabda Reader

Language in Classical Indian Thought

Translated and edited by Johannes Bronkhorst

Columbia University Press

A Śabda Reader

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Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231189408

376 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $80.00£62.00

Pub Date: March 2019

ISBN: 9780231548311

376 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $79.99£62.00

A Śabda Reader

Language in Classical Indian Thought

Translated and edited by Johannes Bronkhorst

Columbia University Press

Language (śabda) occupied a central yet often unacknowledged place in classical Indian philosophical thought. Foundational thinkers considered topics such as the nature of language, its relationship to reality, the nature and existence of linguistic units and their capacity to convey meaning, and the role of language in the interpretation of sacred writings. The first reader on language in—and the language of—classical Indian philosophy, A Śabda Reader offers a comprehensive and pedagogically valuable treatment of this topic and its importance to Indian philosophical thought.

A Śabda Reader brings together newly translated passages by authors from a variety of traditions—Brahmin, Buddhist, Jaina—representing a number of schools of thought. It illuminates issues such as how Brahmanical thinkers understood the Veda and conceived of Sanskrit; how Buddhist thinkers came to assign importance to language’s link to phenomenal reality; how Jains saw language as strictly material; the possibility of self-contradictory sentences; and how words affect thought. Throughout, the volume shows that linguistic presuppositions and implicit notions about language often play as significant a role as explicit ideas and formal theories. Including an introduction that places the texts and ideas in their historical and cultural context, A Śabda Reader sheds light on a crucial aspect of classical Indian thought and in so doing deepens our understanding of the philosophy of language.
Johannes Bronkhorst is a master of the field of Indian theories of language, and he brings his lifelong expertise in this field to provide a comprehensive coverage and lucid access to scientific thinking about language from Sanskrit classics including traditions of Sanskrit grammarians, Buddhist and Jain philosophers, Yoga, Vedānta, Mīmāṃsā, Hindu logicians, and Sanskrit poetics. His A Śabda Reader is going to become essential reading for anyone interested in Indian theories of language. Madhav M. Deshpande, author of The Meaning of Nouns: Semantic Theory in Classical and Medieval India
A Śabda Reader provides a comprehensive survey of what arguably was the world’s richest speculation on language and its nature. It was a direct exposure to this tradition in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that prompted the emergence of modern linguistics. Part I presents an overview of a wide spectrum of topics, whereas Part II lets the Indian mind speak for itself: it offers a comprehensive selection of passages translated from their originals. The lucid nature of the exposition makes the contents easily accessible to nonspecialists and highly informative to specialists trained in South Asian languages. Piotr Balcerowicz, author of Early Asceticism in India: Ājīvikism and Jainism
Never before has Indian philosophy of language been made accessible in such comprehensive, penetrating and masterly fashion, on the basis of an original selection and careful translation of passages from around fifty different texts in Sanskrit, Vedic and Pali, dating from between the fifth century BCE and the seventeenth century CE. The Śabda Reader of Johannes Bronkhorst is an indispensable guide and sourcebook for students and scholars of India’s long, rich and dynamic intellectual history. Jan Houben
Preface
Part I. Introduction
General Observations About Philosophy in India
1. The Brahmanical Background
2. Buddhist Thought: Source of Inspiration
3. The Grammarian Patanjali
4. The Special Place of Sanskrit and the Veda
5. Self-Contradictory Sentences
6. Do Words Affect Cognition?
7. Words and Sentences
8. Other Denotative Functions of the Word
Part II. Reader
1. The Brahmanical Background
2. Buddhist Thought: Source of Inspiration
3. The Grammarian Patanjali
4. The Special Place of Sanskrit and the Veda
5. Self-Contradictory Sentences
6. Do Words Affect Cognition?
7. Words and Sentences
8. Other Denotative Functions of the Word
Index of Translated Passages
The Texts and Their Dates
Chronological Table of Authors and Works
Editions Used
Technical Terms and Their Equivalents in English
Abbreviations
Notes
References
Index

About the Author

Johannes Bronkhorst is professor emeritus of Sanskrit and Indian studies at the University of Lausanne. He is the author of a number of books, including Buddhist Teaching in India (2009) and How the Brahmins Won: From Alexander to the Guptas (2016).