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Relationship Between Word Meaning And Sentence Meaning – Abhihitanvayavada

Abhihitanvayavada is a theory of relationship between word meaning and sentence meaning. There are two views in Purvamimamsa regarding the meaning of a sentence. The Prabhakara School (of Prabhakara Mishra, 7th-8th century CE) holds that the sentence is a unit of language and each word in it adds to the meaning. The meaning of the sentence is understood when there is action. For example, a child first learns the meaning of the word ‘cow’ not by looking at the object when the word is uttered, but by watching the usage and activity of elders, or by associating the word with action, as in ‘bringing the cow’ or ‘milking the cow’. In ordinary speech, the meaning of the words is first learnt when associated with verbs enjoining action. The doctrine of Prabhakara is called Anvitabhidhanavada which states that a sentence consists of words meaningfully connected with a verb.

The followers of Kumarila Bhatta (7th century CE) say that a word conveys only its own meaning and the mutual relation is conveyed by word meanings, and not by words. They further say that the word is not the cause for the cognition of a sentence. This view is called Abhihitanvayavada. Kumarila and Vedantins say that when an elder person points to the object cow and tells the child ‘this is a cow’, the child learns the meaning of the word. The doctrine of Kumarila is known as Abhihitanvayavada which means that a sentence is a meaningful connection of uttered words with independently obtained meanings. The difference, according to Prabhakara, is that the noun must have already been connected with a verb before it is uttered in order to form a meaningful sentence and thus the relation is included in the meaning of the word; according to Kumarila, the noun and the verb are uttered with separate meanings and then the meaning are connected to convey the sentence meaning.