In A Śabda Reader: Language in Classical Indian Thought
(Columbia University Press, 2019), Johannes Bronkhorst
, emeritus professor at the University of Lausanne, makes the case through an extensive introduction and select translations of important Indian texts that language has a crucial role in Indian thought.
Not only does it form the subject of inquiry for grammarians, philosophers, and aestheticians, but it forms the background for the religious and cultural world which informs these investigations. Writing in, and deeply invested in, the Sanskrit language, brahminical thinkers considered the status of phonemes, words, sentences, and larger textual units, as well as the relationship between language and reality.
Their interlocutors, Jains and Buddhists, wrote in Pāli a
s well as Sanskrit, addressing many of the same topics. A Śabda Reader
includes excerpts of texts from all three groups, in new translations, which shows the interplay among these thinkers.
Malcolm Keating is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Yale-NUS College. His research focuses on Sanskrit philosophy of language and epistemology. He is the author of Language, Meaning, and Use in Indian Philosophy (Bloomsbury Press, 2019) and host of the podcast Sutras (and stuff).