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Nāmarūpa; a Linguistic Perspective

Olalde, Liudmila

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Nāmarūpa (literally “name and form”) is widely known as a Buddhist concept, relevant in the context of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda), and the skandhas. Yet, the compound is also found in the early Upaniṣads and a closer look at the Vedic corpus reveals that nāman and rūpa also appear closely related to each other in earlier texts. Generally, textual scholars explain nāmarūpa—both in Buddhist and non-Buddhist texts—as a designation of “individuality” or “empirical reality,” whereby nāman and rūpa tend to be regarded as counterparts. In this paper I consider the “non-Buddhist” use of the term from a linguistic perspective. Inspired on a 1987 article by Edward S. Small, I intend to explore to what extent modern theories on the linguistic sign—such as Saussure’s bipartite model of signifier and signified, and the triangle of reference of Ogden and Richards (1923)—may shed light on the relationship between nāman and rūpa and help us establish finer nuances in the meaning of the compound. The purpose of this analysis is to challenge tacit assumptions about language in recent interpretations of nāmarūpa and thus contribute to a better understanding of its usage in Buddhist texts prior to the systematization of the Abhidharma.

Item Type: Conference Item
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2017 07:50
Date: 8 November 2017
Number of Pages: 22
Event Dates: 28. 06.-02.07. 2015
Event Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Event Title: 16 th World Sanskrit Conference
Faculties / Institutes: Service facilities > Universitätsbibliothek (UB)
Service facilities > Exzellenzcluster Asia and Europe in a Global Context
Subjects: 200 Religion
400 Linguistics
Uncontrolled Keywords: nāmarūpa, linguistic sign, Vedic texts, early Buddhism
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