“Wor(l)d Spaces: The Definition of ‘Word’”

Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

দেবপ্রসাদ বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়

 Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata          *

WOR(L)D SPACES: THE DEFINITION OF WORD, Encyclopedia of Science of Language, Polimetrica Onlus, 2007

It is dialogic paper on the epistemological status of “word”, where proposer, a word-atomist, introduces three definitions of “word” per se and the opponent, a discourse-holist, nullifies those three claims of the proposer. The three definitions of the proposer follow the arguments given by the word-atomists and are as follows: (a)Word (W) is subordinate to sentence (S) and thus W S; (b) Word is a minimal free form; (c) Word as a signifier denotes matter or the order of world. According the opponent’ strategic definition, word is something (visual black/any other colored figure) in between two (white or any other colors) spaces (grounds) and the boundaries of word depend on the particular literate community’s way of manipulating blank (“other” spaces or “silenceme”) spaces in their printing/writing. Thus, “word” is a culture-specific concept, which has only visual representation. A literate speaking subject, in her printing culture, has only a visual sensation of word. The blank/other spaces may be perceived/recognized as a category called absence. 

Opponent’s first argument was against the vyaiakaranika definition of “word” as one of the levels of hierarchical linguistic analysis. At that moment of speaking, from the subject’s position, it is not (word-) stress, but it is rather a harmonic intonation of a discourse (that follows logarithmic pattern), which the speaking subject is expressing as a continuum without being ontologically conscious about the grammarians’ order of things. According to the opponent’s opinion, the memory of these blank spaces may also influence the way of speaking of a literate speaker. The isolated words are citation forms as it is legitimatized in the dictionary produced by the print capitalism. Thus, the typological differences of languages on the basis of word-morpheme ratio hold no water at all if one does not consider the literate culture-specificity of “word”. The opponent also opposes the definition-2 by questioning the ethico-epistemological meaning of “freedom” of word as a minimal free form. When anyone was asking me, “What’re you doing?” I said, “Nothing.” This supposed single word, ”nothing” , a supposed minimal “free” form in this so-called single word-sentence, is not free at all — “nothing’s” freedom was pervaded by “other” non-signs. The act of speaking is constrained, appropriated, approximated by the unspeakable/unspoken spaces — so-called blank spaces are controlling the revealed speech. These blank spaces are emitting different surplus meanings in different space-times. Silenceme is a subjective spatio-temporal “perception” of absence of speaking. In case of definition-3, that puts word as a signifier, which is signifying something (signified), the opponent proposes (a) word as signifying representation represents other representative signifiers, but not the object, thanks to the anthropocentric perceptive limit as supposed object is always unknown and unknowable and all wor(l)ds are not subservient to intensive definition; (b) the order of supposed signified is always subservient to the spatio-temporal de-sign-ation and therefore, bears different representations in different space -time and thus equating pada (word as deployed in sentences) with padartha (matter) or wor(l)d-logic that pursues minimal substantive representation as the static meaning of the wor(l)d cuts a sorry figure. After refuting word-atomist views, the opponent proposes her discourse-holism (not the sentence-holism as proposed by Bhartrhari) hypothesis by introducing the hypothesis of intimate attachment of sound-continuum in a given discourse that also bears the marks of scattered, fragmented blank loci of silencemes.


Number of Pages in PDF File: 5

Keywords: anvitabhidanavada, abhihitanayavada, Bhartrihari

Accepted Paper Series


About Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

Debaprasad Bandyopdhyay (b. 1965), through his 25 years journey in the realm of institutionalized academics did 27 different types of works, which are someway different from the earlier paradigms or, one might say that those works are not only mere reproductions of his inherited institutionalized cultural capital or a mimicry of a colonially imposed model that leads to intellectual anorexia or rather a type falsification of earlier paradigms. However, that might be not only a lofty claim but it also hid the fact that all our information and knowledge are socially accumulated knowledge that was, it is matter of regret, posed as private property through the sign © and the wisdom is rarely available. Bandyopadhyay’s works and projects are the products of his social milieu. Bandyopadhyay is a local sub-altern public sphere academician, who avoids the technical intelligentsia (followers of Sahib’s models and they are not committed to the persons who are accommodating surplus work-time to them by performing surplus labour) or inorganic intellectuals and thus fails to be a part of academic tribe and its subsequent socialization process. Of course, that socialization process does not lead to legendary Socratic dialogue. He is also a political activist though he has not affiliated to any political parties as he was always talking about the corporatization of political parties within the money-sign-based democratic system. He is a regular participant in TV and radio talk-shows and documentary films, street-corners’ talks and International seminars on socio-political, psychological, linguistic, environmental and economic issues. He also writes editorial columns in newspapers. He is also a part of parallel academics as it is found in West Bengal’s Little Magazine Movement, though that was not counted as the part his academic pursuit by his parent institute. His parent institute justifiably does not believe in the domain of parallel academics as this unorganized sector does not directly contribute in the transactions of formal/organized print capitalist eco-enemy paper-publication. Though the dissemination of knowledge is also observed in this space of these parallel academics as all these writings in public sphere simultaneously influence the classroom-discourse and some of them are translated into English, French and Italian. Not only that, Bandyopadhyay also sought engagement with the people, who, by supplying their surplus labour, are sustaining his livelihood. Bandyopadhyay, a linguist by training and a Ph.D.-holder (1996), a junior lecturer (1999-2011) in an autonomous central government institute in India, tries his best for those from he has received and is receiving the manifestation of surplus labour by executing some self-funded projects on economic issues in West Bengal, India. Recently he has got a consolation promotion to the post of Assistant Professor. He has done following 27 research works: 1. Crippled Creativity: An inquiry into language, psyche, society: 2. VALENCY OF BANGLA VERB AND PROBLEM OF COMPOUND VERBS: 3. Archaeology of Bangla Grammar : 4. CAN COMPUTER SPEAK? 5. FUZZY LOGICAL EXPRESSION IN BANGLA : 6. FOLKLORE AND FOLK-LANGUAGE: MYTH OR REALITY? 7. HISTORICISM IN THE DISCOURSE OF BANGLA LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 8. ABHABA, ECP, DELETION AND TRACE 9. SVATVA OR MY-NESS AND ECONOMIC ENTITLEMEMT 10. TRANSLATION STUDIES 11. MASCULINITY STUDIES 12. YAYATI & BABAR COMPLEX 13. SOCIO-ECONOMIC SURVEYS IN AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY IN WEST BENGAL 14. CONCEPT OF BODY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY AND ARCHITECTURE 15. THE CONCEPT OF ERROR (KHYATI) IN MAD-(WO)MEN’S LANGUAGE 16. THE CONCEPT OF PERCEPTUAL TIME AND GRAMMATICAL TIME IN BANGLA 17. BANGLA CALLIGRAPHY, LANGUAGE ART AND LINGUISTIC PEDAGOGY 18. WO(L)D SPACES: NON-EXISTENCE OF WORDS 19. ANEKANTA METHODS 20. SILENCEME: SILENT OTHER IN LINGUISTICS 21. IMAGINED BOUDARIES AND PRE-COLONIAL INDIAN IMAGI-NATION 22. MAKING OF THE INDIAN PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE 23. SEGMENTING THE SUPRASEGMENTALS : MUSICKING IN SPEAKING 24. INTERPRETING GENETIC STRUCTURE BY DEPLOYING LINGUISTIC STRUCTURE 25. GLOTTOPOLITICS OF LINGUISTIC SUBALTERNITY OR AN AGENDA FOR PLANNING FROM BELOW 26. SEMIOTICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY 27. SOCIOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY ACADEMICS
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