SASC Colloquium Series: The Context Principle in Indian Philosophy of Language, Andrew Ollett

Event time: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Henry R. Luce Hall (LUCE ), 202 See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

The Context Principle, widely discussed and variously interpreted, states that words only express their meanings in context. The modern discussion of this principle starts from Gottlob Frege (1848–1925). In this talk, I’ll present a completely different version of the Context Principle, proposed by the philosopher Śālikanātha (9th c. CE) in the context of a larger debate about “sentence meaning.” Śālikanātha developed the idea of “the expression of related meanings,” found in the work of his teacher Prabhākara, into a general theory of meaning. Śālikanātha’s ideas have been underappreciated by specialists, partly because of their incompetent handling by later philosophers, so I will try to clarify precisely what his interventions were, and make a case for the theoretical sophistication and practical usefulness of Śālikanātha’s contextualism.
Andrew Ollett bio:
I study the literary and intellectual traditions of South Asia, including works composed in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Apabhramsha, and Kannada, mostly falling within the first millennium of the common era. My research has focused on the “question of language”: the availability and choice of certain languages for certain purposes, and the role of language in cultural production and change.
Currently, I am working with Sarah Pierce Taylor on an edition and translation The Way of the Poet-King (Kavirājamārgaṁ), a manual for composing literature in Kannada, one of the regional languages of South India. It was written in the 870s and hence is the oldest Kannada text to survive, apart from inscriptions. This project has been supported by an NEH “Scholarly Editions and Translations” grant. I am preparing an edition and translation of another work of poetics, this one in Prakrit, called the Mirror of Ornaments (Alaṅkāradappaṇaṁ). My edition and translation of Līlāvaī, a romance in Prakrit verse composed around 800, will appear in the Murty Classical Library of India. I am working on a monograph on the principle of context-sensitivity in Indian theories of language, which will situate the work of premodern thinkers such as Kumārila Bhaṭṭa and Śālikanātha Miśra in contemporary debates within linguistics, especially semantics and pragmatics. Another longer-term project addresses the impact of manuscript technology on the ideas and practices of different communities in early historic South Asia.