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Born bihar
est. 7th AD
Philosophy Mimansa

Prabhākara (active c. 7th century AD) was an Indian philosopher grammarian in the Mimamsa tradition. His views and his debate with Kumārila Bhaṭṭa led to the Prābhākara school within Mimamsa.

Commentaries on Prabhakara have been written by Shalikanatha in the 8th century.[citation needed]

Sentence vs Word meaning[edit]

One of the views of the prābhākaras is that words do not directly designate meaning; any meaning that arises is because it is connected with other words (anvitābhidhāna, anvita = connected; abhidhā = denotation). We know or learn the meaning of a word only by considering the sentential context which it appears; we learn such word meanings together with their possible semantic connections with other words. Sentence meanings are grasped directly, from perceptual and contextual cues, skipping the stage of grasping singly the individual word meanings (Matilal 1990:108).

This is very similar to the modern view of linguistic underspecification, and relates to the Dynamic Turn in Semantics, which opposes the purely compositional view of arriving at sentence meaning.

The prābhākaras were opposed by the Bhāṭṭas, who argued for a compositional view of semantics (called abhihitānvaya). In this view, the meaning of a sentence was understood only after understanding first the meanings of individual words. Words were independent, complete objects, a view that is close to the Fodorian view of language.

See also[edit]


  • Bimal Krishna Matilal (1990). The word and the world: India's contribution to the study of language. Oxford.