abhihitānvaya-vāda

(‘theory of words in relation’)

The darśanas or Indian philosophical systems were very particular in working out their own theories about the meanings of words and sentences, because, upon these depended the development of their arguments to establish their schools vis-a-vis other schools.

A word may have a direct meaning as also an implied meaning. When such words are put together to form a sentence, the total effect may be something more than the meanings indicated by the individual words. Different schools differ as regards the details.

The above theory is propounded by the Nyāya school and accepted by Kumārila Bhaṭṭa (7th cent. A. D.) of the Mīmāṁsā school. According to this, the words forming a sentence, can have independent meanings also in addition to contributing to the total sense of the sentence. For instance, in the sentence ‘gām ānaya,’ ‘Bring the cow’, the word ‘gām’ is a noun in the accusative case and refers to a cow, an animal of the bovine class. The word ‘ānaya’ is a verb in the imperative mood denoting the action of bringing. When related in a sentence thus, they give the total meaning that the person to whom they are addressed, is expected to bring the animal cow. However they do not lose their individual significance. The words when used independently continue to denote the animal cow and the act of bringing.

This theory is not acceptable to Prabhākara Bhaṭṭa (a disciple of Kumā-rila), another teacher of Mīmāṁsā, forming a parallel school. According to him, words have no independent denotation and can denote something only when used in injunctive sentences (‘vidhi’) in relation to other words. His theory is known as ‘anvitābhidhāna-vāda.’