Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Squeaky birds and secondary meaning

[Image: The Indian ducks and their allies, Published by the Bombay Natural History Society, 1908]

There is much interconnection between Indian philosophical texts and poetry, although it's not necessarily obvious without reading in both genres. For instance, in his discussion of kinds of secondary meaning, which is often cited by later Ālaṅkārikas, Kumārila says that there are three kinds of indication: those that are well-established and so seem like the primary meaning, those that are novel, and those which don't have any capacity at all.

His discussion of these three categories (which occurs at MS 3.1.12) is interesting in itself, but I just want to note the example he uses for the second category, novel, or newly created (kriyante sāṃpratam). He says this is like the word rathâṅganāman, a compound made of three terms, ratha, aṅga, nāman. It means "that which is named for the chariot's wheel'" (aṅga = part, metonymically, the wheel; ratha = chariot; nāman = name) and refers to the cakravāka bird. The compound cakra-vāka is itself indicative of a simile: the bird's call is taken to sound (vāka) like the noise of a wheel (cakra).[1]