Vincenzo Vergiani

Reflecting on the limit of the sentence: Some linguistic insights of Bhartṛhari’s in the second book of the Vākyapadīya

  • Time: Wed 7 December 2016, 17:00-19:00
  • Venue: Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia, seminar room OREA, 5th floor
  • Organisation: Marco Ferrante


It is well known that Pāṇini fails to provide a formal definition of the sentence (vākya). In an attempt to remedy this perceived flaw in the system, Kātyāyana proposes various definitions culminating in ekatiṅ, “that which has one single finite verb” as its core. The issue is not merely one of grammatical theory, but it is also relevant to semantics and epistemology. To put it in simple terms, does one sentence correspond to a single cognition? And, if one accepts Kātyāyana’s definition, how should one construe composite sentences containing more than one verb? Answering such questions, Bhartṛhari, who famously upholds the unitary nature of the sentence and the sentence meaning, comes up with some brilliant linguistic insights into the nature of composite sentences and verbal communication, while at the same time engaging critically with the views of padavādins such as the Mīmāṃsakas, who maintain that a sentence is made up of words.


Vincenzo Vergiani is Senior Lecturer in Sanskrit at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge. His main areas of research are the Sanskrit grammatical traditions and the history of linguistic ideas in ancient South Asia. In 2011-2014 he launched and directed the project “The intellectual and religious traditions of South Asia as seen through the Sanskrit manuscript collections of the University Library, Cambridge” ( He has co-edited Studies in the Kāśikāvṛtti: The section on pratyāhāras. Critical edition, translation and other contributions (2009), and Bilingual Discourse and Cross-Cultural Fertilisation: Sanskrit and Tamil in Medieval India (2013). At present he is working on the translation and study of the Sādhanasamuddeśa, the chapter on the factors of action in the third book of Bhartṛhari’s Vākyapadīya.