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Course Detail

Course Name Indian Philosophy of Language
Course Code 21PHL505
Program M.A. in Philosophy
Semester One
Credits 4


Unit I

The Problem of Meaning, Abhidhā: The primary meaning- Methods of understanding meaning, Nature of Human word, Vedic word segmentation (pāṭhā tradition) Classes of words, import of words, View of Śabda according to Mīmāmsā, Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika,  Meaning according to Yāska, Pāṇini and Post-Paṇinian grammarians

Unit II

Vyakti-Jāti-Ākṛti vāda, Diṅnāga’s theory of semantics, Āpoha-vāda, Language and Pratyabhijñā-darśana

Unit III

SphoṭaVāda: Sphoṭasiddhānta of Patañjali, Sphoṭasiddhānta of Bhartṛhari, Arguments in favour of Sphoṭavāda, Refutation of Sphoṭavāda

Unit IV

Conditions for Knowing Sentence- Meaning: Ākaṅkṣā, Yogyatā, Sannidhi, Tātparyajñāna, Comprehension of Sentence-Meaning – Anvitābhidhānavāda and Abhihitānvayavāda,
Lakṣaṇā: Nature and Classifications, Akhaṇḍārthavāda in Advaita-vedānta, Vyañjanā – Rasa as sentence meaning, Theory of Dhvani

Unit V

Śālikānātha’s Philosophy: Fundamentals of Sentence Meaning, Language Acquisition; Deontic language in Mīmāmsa and Vedānta


The course intends to provide a brief account of the diverse developments in ancient, classical and medieval with regard to language. This discusses various aspects of language in the evolving religious and philosophical traditions in India, traditions which shared some common conceptions, but thrived in full-blooded disagreements on major issues. Such disagreements relate to the ontological nature of language, its communicative role, the nature of meaning, and more specifically the nature of word-meaning and sentence-meaning.

Course objective

1. Discussion on the theory of meaning and various stand points in this regard in various systems of India.
2. Origin and development of sound and various debates on the theory
3. Different aspects that help in knowing sentence and word meaning
4. Metaphysical basis of language

Course Outcomes

CO1: Students will (a) understand some major positions among Indian thinkers about word and sentence meaning and (b) understand the debate over dhvani in Alaṅkāra.
CO2: Students will attain beginning competence in reading Sanskrit philosophical texts in translation and integrating it responsibly with secondary literature.
CO3: Students will attain beginning competence in writing philosophical papers which (a) present a thesis original to the student, (b) argue for the thesis using careful and charitable reading of primary and select secondary material, and (c) engage with compelling objections to the position and/or develop further implications of the view.  
CO4: Students will be able to critique philosophical positions about language (a) by drawing upon appropriate resources in Indian philosophical literature and (b) by employing their own reasoning skills.
CO5: Students will become aware of their own position as a language-user and become more reflective about the way language functions.




  1. Kunjunni Raja. Indian Theories of Meaning. Adyar: Adyar Library and Research Centre, 1963.
  2. The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Indian Philosophy of Language by Alessandro Graheli. Great Britain: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.

Further Reading

  1. Siderits, Mark. Indian philosophy of language: Studies in selected issues. Vol. 46. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.
  2. Ferrante, Marco. Indian Perspectives on Consciousness, Language and Self: The School of Recognition on Linguistics and Philosophy of Mind. Routledge, 2020.
  3. Indian Philosophy A Collection of Readings By Roy W. Perrett. New York: Routledge, 2001.
  4. Matilal, Bimal Krishna. Logic, language, and reality: Indian philosophy and contemporary issues. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1990.
  5. Chatterjee, N. Word and its Meaning – A New Perspective. Varanasi: Chaukhambha, 1980.
  6. Shastri, Gaurinath Bhattacharya. The Philosophy of Word and Meaning. Calcutta: Sanskrit College, 1983.
  7. Iyer, Subramaniya A. Bhartrhari. Poona: Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, 1969.
  8. Patnaik, Tandra, Sabda: A Study of Bhartrhari’s Philosophy of Language. Delhi: D. K. Print world, 1994.
  9. Mazumdar, PK. The Philosophy of Language: An Indian Approach. Calcutta: Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, 1977.

CO – PO Affinity Map



CO1 3 1 3
CO2 3 3 3
CO3 1 2 2 3 1
CO4 2 1 2 1
CO5 2 3 2

3- Strong, 2- Moderate, 1- Weak

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