Module 4: Theories of translation
  Lecture 13: Indian Aesthetic Theories and Translation


Bhartrhari and Sphota

To illustrate this, Devy goes back to an ancient text of language and grammar called Vakyapadiya written by Bhartrhari, which is renowned for the sphota theory. The sphota concept goes back to another grammarian called Patanjali who used it to describe the various stages in the articulation of a word. According to this, sphota is the final stage in the articulation when the word is uttered aloud. Bhartrhari expanded this concept to the realm of philosophy, maintaining that the world is brought into existence by the articulation of the word. Language is not the medium for us to express ourselves, but is the medium that expresses us. Devy points out that this combines “a material view and a transcendental view of language” (147). According to Bhartrhari, language by it self does not have a sequence although it is expressed in a sequentially graded body. The relation between the uttered word and meaning or nada and sphota is like the relation between an object and its reflection in flowing water Like the reflection, the uttered word reflects the meaning as well as the nature of the giver of that meaning. So meaning is not a fixed entity, but is entirely contextual. As we have seen with Derrida's concept of language, this would free the translator from the concern of attaining the meaning of the original.