Monday, February 20, 2017


Last week I was at the Rasa Theory Workshop at Manipal University, which I hope to blog about at some point later. Now I'm in Mysore doing some reading for a few days. I came across this storefront while at the Jaganmohan Palace, and thought it was worth sharing:

The shopkeepers are probably not employing śleṣa (intentional double-meaning or ambiguity) on the Sanskrit term ākāṅkṣā, but then again, who knows? In Sanskrit philosophy of language, the term means "expectation" or maybe, "anticipation." I like the latter just so I can illustrate the idea with this clip from the (classic) Rocky Horror Picture Show:

In this clip, Dr. Frank Furter utters the classic line, "I see you shiver with anticip.....ation"* Because we know there is no English word "anticip", we expect something more. Now, this isn't exactly what ākāṅkṣā is--it's described as the expectation of one word for another. It, along with yogyatā (suitability, semantic fittingness) and sannidhi (contiguity), are the necessary conditions for sentence meaning, according to most Indian philosophers. (Here I set aside the Buddhists who, as usual, have some different views.)

Of course, just what this ākāṅkṣā amounts to is the subject of dispute. I have been reading Śālikanātha's Prakaraṇapañcikā with Andrew Ollett over the past few days, and Śālikanātha (a Prābhākara Mīmāṃsaka) says this about ākāṅkṣā in the Vākyârthamātṛkā section of the text:
का पुनरियमाकाङ्क्षा । प्रतिपत्तुर्जिज्ञासा । 
Now, what is ākāṅkṣā? It is the desire to know on the part of the one who understands (the sentence).
In what follows, he takes up and rejects the (probably) Nyāya view that this desire to know is based in invariable concomitance between a verb and its object, or other grammatical categories. It's not the case that every single verb has an expectancy for an object, or vice versa, as this would result in an infinite regress. Consider the sentence "Devadatta goes." We might think there is ākāṅkṣā for a manner of going, so: "Devadatta goes by bus." However, our desire to know is not completed if each word invariably carries an expectancy for another. For instance, the instrumental "by bus" might require a location: "Devadatta goes by bus to Mysore." Then again, "to Mysore" will invariably carry an expectancy--perhaps a purpose: "Devadatta goes by bus to Mysore to read." And so on.

In what follows, Śālikanātha not only argues that the Nyāya invariable concomitance story is incorrect, but he puts forward his own view about how expectancy works in tandem with the hearer's desire to know, in order to generate a complete sentence. The discussion is quite difficult, and while we have a gloss by K.T. Pandurangi (which is selective though helpful for getting the general sense) and a very literal English translation by R.N. Sarma (which is helpful for following the Sanskrit structure), this section remains untranslated in a manner that makes the details of Śālikanātha's arguments perspicuous. I suppose this means we have an ākāṅkṣā for a new translation which remains to be satisfied!

*Some of you will, no doubt, know the, er, commentary on this sentence which inserts "Say it! Say it!"