Sunday, September 23, 2012

Science of Speech

Science of Speech

An extract from the dialogue between King Janaka, the ruler of the Videha and a woman of the name of Sulabha, belonging to the mendicant order.

Sulabha said: O king, speech ought always to be free from the nine verbal faults and the nine faults of judgment. It should also, while setting forth the meaning with perspicuity, be possessed of the eighteen well-known merits.

Ambiguity, ascertainment of the faults and merits of premises and conclusions, the conclusion, and the element of persuasiveness or otherwise that attaches to the conclusion thus arrived at- these five characteristics appertaining to the sense- constitute the authoritativeness of what is said. Listen now o the characteristics of these requirements beginning with ambiguity, one after another, as I expound them according to the combinations.

When knowledge rests on distinction in consequence of the object to be known being different from one another, and when (as regards the comprehension of the subject) the understanding rests upon many points, one after another, the combination of words (in whose case this occurs) is said to be vitiated by ambiguity. By ascertainment (of faults and merits), called Sankhya, is meant the establishment, by elimination, of faults or merits (in premises and conclusions), adopting tentative meanings. Krama or weighing the relative strength or weakness of the faults or merits (ascertained by the above process) consists in settling the propriety of the priority or subsequence of the words employed in a sentence. This is the meaning attached to the word ‘Krama’ by persons conversant with the interpretation of sentences or texts. By conclusion is meant the final determination, after this examination of what has been said on the subjects of religion, pleasure, wealth, and Emancipation, in respect of what is particularly is that has been said in the text. The sorrow born of wish or aversion increases to a great measure. The conduct, O king, that one pursues in such a matter (for dispelling the sorrow experienced) is called Prayojanam.

[Note: By ‘prayojanam’ is meant the conduct one pursues for gratifying one’s wish to acquire or avoid any object. Wish in respect of either acquisition or avoidance, if ungratified, becomes a source of pain. The section or conduct that one adopts for removing that pain is called Prayojanam. In the Gautama-sutras it is said that ‘yamarthamadhikritya pravartate, tat prayojanam.’ The two definitions are identical.]

Take it for certain, O king, at my word, that these characteristics of Ambiguity and the other (numbering five in all), when occurring together, constitute a complete and intelligible sentence.

[Note: By occurrence of these five characteristics together is meant that when these are properly attended to by a speaker or writer, only then can his sentence be said to be complete and intelligible. In Nyaya, the five requisites are Pratijna, Hetu, Udaharana, Upanaya, and Nigamana. In the Mimansa philosophy, the five requisites have been named differently. Vishaya, Samsaya, Purvapaksha, Uttara, and Nirnaya.]

The words I shall utter will be fraught with sense, free from ambiguity (in consequence of each of them not being symbols of many things), logical, free from pleonasm or tautology, smooth, certain, free from bombast, agreeable or sweet, truthful, inconsistent with the aggregate of three, (viz., Righteousness, Wealth, and Pleasure), refined (i.e., free from Prakriti), not elliptical or imperfect, destitute of harshness or difficulty of comprehension, characterized by due order, not far fetched in respect of sense, corrected with one another as cause and effect and each having a specific object.

[Note: These characteristics, though numbering sixteen, include the four and twenty mentioned by Bhojadeva in his Rhetoric called ‘Saraswati-kanthabharana.]

I shall not tell thee anything, prompted by desire or wrath or fear or cupidity or abjectness or deceit or shame or compassion or pride. (I answer thee because it is proper for me to answer what thou hast said). When the speaker, the hearer, and the words said, thoroughly agree with one another in course of a speech, then does the sense or meaning come out very clearly. When, in the matter of what is to be said, the speaker shows disregard for the understanding of the hearer by uttering words whose meaning is understood by himself, then, however good those words may be, they become incapable of being seized by the hearer.

That speaker, again, who, abandoning all regard for his own meaning uses words that are of excellent sound and sense, awakens only erroneous impressions in the mind of the hearer. Such words in such connection become certainly faulty. That speaker, however, who employs words that are, while expressing his own meaning, intelligible to the hearer, as well, truly deserves to be called a speaker. No other man deserves the name. It behoveth thee, therefore, O king, to hear with concentrated attention these words of mine, fraught with meaning and endued with wealth of vocables.

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