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est. 7th century
Known forIndian philosopher

Prabhākara (active c. 7th century) was an Indian philosopher-grammarian in the Mīmāṃsā tradition. His views and his debate with Kumārila Bhaṭṭa led to the Prābhākara school within Mīmāṃsā. The Prābhākara school is considered to be nastik (atheistic) or Lokayata school.

Kumārila said: For in practice the Mimamsa has been for the most part converted into a Lokayata system; But I have made this effort to bring it into a theistic path.[1]

Śālikanātha wrote commentaries on Prabhākara in the 8th century.[2]

Sentence vs Word meaning

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 prābhākarakas were opposed by the bhāṭṭakas, 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


  1. ^ Debiprasad., Chattopadhyaya, (1992). Lokāyata, a study in ancient Indian materialism (7th ed.). New Delhi: People's. ISBN 8170070066. OCLC 47093882.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  2. ^ Paolo Visigalli 2014, p. 47.