Metonymy and Metaphor as Verbal Postulation: The Epistemic Status of Non-Literal Speech in Indian Philosophy

Malcolm Keating


In this paper, I examine Kumārila Bhaṭṭa's account of figurative language in Tantravārttika 1.4.11-17, arguing that, for him, both metonymy (lakaā) and metaphor (gauṇa-vṛtti) crucially involve verbal postulation (śrutârthāpatti), a knowledge-conducive cognitive process which draws connections between concepts without appeal to speaker intention, but through compositional and contextual elements. It is with the help of this cognitive process that we can come to have knowledge of what is meant by a sentence in context. In addition, the paper explores the relationship between metonymy and metaphor, the extent to which putatively literal language involves metonymy, and the objective constraints for metaphorical interpretation.


: Indian philosophy; Mīmāṃsā; philosophy of language; metaphor; epistemology; interpretation

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