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Innovation in seventeenth century grammatical philosophy: appearance or reality?

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  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy


A139 JB-JIP 05(3) 1 July 18, 2010 Johannes Bronkhorst Section de langues et civilisations orientales Université de Lausanne Anthropole 4118 CH-1015 Lausanne Tel. ++41.21.6922911 Fax: ++41.21.6923045 [email protected] Innovation in seventeenth century grammatical philosophy: appearance or reality?* (published in: Journal of Indian Philosophy 36(5-6), 2008, 543-550) In an earlier publication (Bronkhorst 2005) I have argued that Bha††oji D¥k∑ita was innovative in the philosophy of grammar. What I have tried to show there is that Bha††oji introduced a notion of spho†a which was essentially different from the spho†a that had been used by all his predecessors. Before Bha††oji the spho†a had been an ontological entity: a word (the pada-spho†a, [544] i.e., the spho†a which is the word), to take an example, is an existent thing, different from the sounds of which, we might naively think, it is constituted. With Bha††oji this changes: the spho†a is for him a semantic entity, and therefore primarily a meaning-bearer. An individual sound can therefore be a spho†a in the pre-Bha††oji sense (it is an existing entity that is different from the vibrations that seem to constitute it), but not in Bha††oji's sense (individual sounds have no meaning); when Bha††oji speaks of varˆa- spho†as, he is as a result referring not to sounds, but to (meaningful) morphemes. The point of departure of this paper is the conclusion of the earlier one: Bha††oji did indeed innovate in the field of the philosophy of grammar. The questions to be addressed at present are: (i) why did he innovate? and (ii) did he know that he innovated? With regard to the second question we observe that Bha††oji went out of his way to show, unsuccessfully, that he had really nothing new to say.1 This by itself does not of course prove that he did not know that he was innovating, but if he did he kept it to himself.

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