By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Abhihitanvaya-vada, AbhihitAnvaya-vAda, Abhihitaanvaya-vaada
Abhihitānvaya-vāda literally means ‘theory of words in relation’.
The darśanas precisely define words and sentences, because, the discussion and logic to establish them depended on precise definitions of the language that was used.
A word may have a direct meaning and an implied meaning. When such words are put together to form a sentence, the total effect may be something more than the meanings indicated by the individual words. Different schools differ as regards to the details.
This theory is propounded by the Nyāya school and accepted by Kumārila Bhatṭa of the Mīmāṃsā school. According to this, the words forming a sentence, can have an independent meaning also in addition to contributing to the total sense of the sentence.
For example, in the sentence ‘gām ānaya,’ which means ‘Bring the cow’, the word ‘gām’ is a noun in the accusative case and refers to a cow, an animal of the bovine class. The word ‘ānaya’ is a verb in the imperative mood denoting the action of bringing. When related in a sentence thus, they give the total meaning that the person to whom they are addressed, is expected to bring the animal cow. However they do not lose their individual significance. The words when used independently continue to denote the animal cow and the act of bringing.
This theory is not acceptable to Prabhākara Bhaṭṭa, a disciple of Kumārila, another teacher of Mīmāṃsā, forming a parallel school. According to him, words have no independent denotation and can denote something only when used in injunctive sentences (‘vidhi’) in relation to other words. His theory is known as ‘anvitābhidhāna-vāda.’
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore