New Vistas to study Bhartṛhari: Cognitive NLP

Abstract

A sentence is an important notion in the Indian grammatical tradition. The collection of the definitions of a sentence can be found in the text ‘Vākyapadīya’ written by Bhartṛhari in fifth century C.E. The grammarian-philosopher Bhartṛhari and his authoritative work ‘Vākyapadīya’ have been a matter of study for modern scholars, at least for more than 50 years, since Ashok Aklujkar submitted his Ph.D. dissertation at Harvard University. The notions of a sentence and a word as a meaningful linguistic unit in the language have been a subject matter for the discussion in many works that followed later on. While some scholars have applied philological techniques to critically establish the text of the works of Bhartṛhari, some others have devoted themselves to exploring philosophical insights from them. Some others have studied his works from the point of view of modern linguistics, and psychology. Few others have tried to justify the views by logical discussions. In this paper, we present a fresh view to study Bhartṛhari, and his works, especially the ‘Vākyapadīya’. This view is from the field of Natural Language Processing (NLP), more specifically, what is called as Cognitive NLP. We have studied the definitions of a sentence given by Bhartṛhari at the beginning of the second chapter of ‘Vākyapadīya’. We have researched one of these definitions by conducting an experiment and following the methodology of silent-reading of Sanskrit paragraphs. We collect the Gaze-behavior data of participants and analyze it to understand the underlying comprehension procedure in the human mind and present our results. We evaluate the statistical significance of our results using T-test, and discuss the caveats of our work. We also present some general remarks on this experiment and usefulness of this method for gaining more insights in the work of Bhartṛhari.

Publication
World Sanskrit Conference (WSC 2018)