Further Reflections

8. Certainly the Vedic concern with language is evidenced by the deification of speech as Vac (cognate to “voice”). Is the distinction between language and speech important in this regard? It would seem to be almost self-evidently the case that for the tantric tradition the central issue is speech, while in contrast the Grammarians, such as Pāṇini, were concerned with language.

9. Speech is efficacious in ways that language is not—and to be efficacious does not require being grammatically correct. Consider, for example, how frequently ordinary conversation comprises sentence fragments.

10. Different approaches to language focus on different units, and the determination of the unit effects the structure of the discourse from that point forward. One example is the shift from propositional logic to predicate logic. Similarly, it makes a difference if one considers the word as the elemental focus of attention, or the sentence. Bhartṛhari, for example, claims that sentences are the main unit of analysis—the carrier of meaning—on the grounds that the meaning of words changes in different sentential contexts.

11. For much of the tantric interest in langauge, the unit of study is the syllable. This makes sense (perhaps) of the strings of otherwise “meaningless” syllables found in many dhāraṇī.

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