Vedic Studies: Language, Texts, Culture, and Philosophy.

Author:De Joseph, Kristen
Position:Book review

Vedic Studies: Language, Texts, Culture, and Philosophy. Proceedings of the 15th World Sanskrit Conference, vol. 1. Edited by HANS HENRICH HOCK. New Delhi: RASHTRIYA SANSKRIT SANSTHAN, 2014. Pp. viii + 244.

The present volume contains the partial proceedings of the Veda Section of the 15th World Sanskrit Conference, held from January 5 to 10, 2012 at the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi; it features fourteen of the thirty contributions accepted to the Veda Section, two of which were absent from the conference itself, and all of which conspire to paint a broad picture of the current state of Vedic Studies. Due to limitations of space, I am able to treat just a selection of articles, culled from Part 1, "Language and Linguistics," and Part 2, "Textual Criticism and Text Edition"; Part 3, "Culture, Philosophy, Mythology," is even broader in scope, with contributions that follow the heirlooms of Vedic India into ever later periods.

The first contribution, that of volume editor Hans Henrich Hock, sets out to resolve the apparent paradox of predicate-initial word order in Vedic prose: how does this word order come to predominate in the corpus, rather than the subject-initial word order that is elsewhere the default? Hock marshals evidence for the hypothesis that predicate-initial order is instead the marked choice, and finds that several trends are in fact more consistent with topicalization than with predicates that are "base-generated in pre-subject position." The pervasiveness of predicate-initial order in Vedic prose reflects its didactic nature: the initial predicate allows "all the major participants, objects, and circumstances [to be] briefly encapsulated, as a headline" (p. 13). Most crucially, in Hock's view, it also places the "supramundane" in initial position, as the ritual instructions equate the mundane yajnayudhani "instruments of the sacrifice" with their supramundane correlates and disclose how an earthbound sacrificial act can "establish and preserve the entire physical--and metaphysical--world" (p. 14). Hock is thus able to find a solution to the stated paradox that draws from considerations of syntax, style, genre, and culture.

Jared Klein adds to his oeuvre on stylistic repetition with an innovative study on interstanzaic repetition in the Rg-Veda (RV). He divides the phenomenon into two types: local repetitions that appear in consecutive stanzas and that, compositionally, bear close resemblance to intrastanzaic...

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