Bhartṛhari and Wittgenstein on Grammar: A Few Observations

Rohana Seneviratne


Irrespective of spatiotemporal limitations of the world's intellectual history, discussions on the language have attracted considerable attention of philosophers, linguists, and even the public. The topics of such discussions have also included the meaning, nature or function/s, and necessity of grammar while diverse arguments have been raised both in support and against even its ontic presence. Among the philosophers from all ages who attempted to analyze the foundation of those arguments, i.e. the common notion that grammar is prescriptive and fruit of pedagogical instructions, Bhartṛhari(c. 450 - 510 C.E.) stands significant because of the richness and legitimacy of his arguments at such an early age of history. More than a millennium later, Ludwig Wittgenstein as a highly influential philosopher from the last century shows some relationship with Bhartrhari in (re)confirming that our common construal of grammar cannot be valid because of its non-prescriptive nature. While attempting to examine the ways in which Bhartṛhari and Wittgenstein have interpreted grammar, this paper succinctly investigates each philosopher approaches towards the language in use.


Bhartṛhari, Wittgenstein, grammar, Vākyapadīya, philosophy of language, meaning

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