LITERARY HERMENEUTICS IN
DRAVIDIAN LINGUISTIC TRADITION
Dr. K. LOGANATHAN Universiti Sains Malaysia
Hermeneutic Science appears to be the central methodology that has fashioned the significant achievements in linguistics, philosophy, psychology and such other disciplines that constitute the higher culture of the Dravidians, particularly the Tamils. An attempt is made in this paper to study the literary hermenuetics as is available in Marapiyal, an ancient text appended to Tolkappiyam, trace its origins to the Sumerian times and discuss the important way in which it is similar or dissimilar to the hermeneutic tradition in the West.
This historical and comparative study has furnished important new insights into the meaning of utti, a key technical term in Dravidian Hermeneutics on the basis of which the interpretations of the great commentators Illampuranar and Peraciriyar are criticized.
1.0 Hermeneutics in Dravidian History
It is becoming increasingly more evident that the philosophical foundations of the Cankam Tamils who produced Tolkappiyam along with the rest of Cankam classics can be termed Hermeneutics (which they themselves called nuulneri), an approach to philosophical, psychological and literary inquiry that is an extension of those exemplified in proper interpretive understanding of texts. Such Hermeneutic categories were called in Marapiyal, otta katci utti and the burden of this essay is to explicate the meaning of this term and the hermeneutics it exemplifies by juxtaposing it with similar developments in the West and also tracing its origins to Sumerian times. There is a primordial meaning of utti which suffered a change when it was equated with the Tantra Ukti of the Sanskrit texts. The commentators Ilampuranar and Peraciriyar, failing to note the distinctive meaning of utti as it occurs in Marapiyal in the above phrase, have not, it appears to me, given the true meaning of it. The juxtaposition with similar Western developments and locating its beginnings in the Sumerian literary sources allow us to recapture that primordial meaning and thereby also understand in a proper way the later historical developments contained in the notions of cirRappupayiram (special introduction) and potuppayiram (general introduction) and so forth. This task has an importance that goes well beyond the narrow confines of linguistics or history and highly relevant for understanding Dravidian Philosophy as well as the metaphysical foundations of religious culture in general.
The Hermeneutics contained in the notion of thirty-two utties, that are listed in the last sutra of Marapiyal became in fact the central methodological principle that founded the distinctive Dravidian philosophical, cultural, literary, psychological and other sciences. It also generated the foundation principles of Tantrism or Agamism , thereby reducing even religion to a field scientific inquiry, an accomplishment that does not seem to exist elsewhere in the world. Religion in the Agamic Culture, is a hermeneutic science.
2.0 The Hermeneutics of Droysen and Tolkappiyar
One of the Western philosophers whose thoughts are useful to understand Tolkappiyam is Droysen (1808-1884), who subsequent to Humboldt and still belonging to the same orientation towards hermeneutics, stands as the most important figure. He articulated concerns similar to Humboldt and was equally preoccupied with the tasks of historians and those in the humanistic disciplines. Understanding is conceived as the most perfect knowledge that is attainable for us humans. Historical understanding where the text study is not replicable has to be necessarily interpretive, and hence hermeneutical. In view of the finitude of human life, the past will always remain inaccessible to us. The historian cannot be objective in the sense of the physical sciences, for he cannot recreate the past as it actually happened. However this does not mean that the historical investigation is devoid of a method. The method of historical research is understanding by means of investigations. When we inquire into the actual procedures, we can identify the types: speculative, and the historical. All these are paths to knowledge and their essence is to find out, explain and understand. It is the past within the present that poses various kinds of problems that is the subject matter of investigations by the historians. But why are investigations into historical truth necessary? Droysen offers a particularly good example to illustrate and illuminate the need for investigations and hence for certain kinds of practices. In conversational interactions we can gain comprehensive understanding, by taking into account the words used, tones and accents employed, and the accompanying paralinguistic features. The excitement and mood that accompanies stating something and which we note through the above features allow us to comprehend a person's 'innermost being '. But in the reports or written documents these rich linguistic and paralinguistic features are lost through a process of flattening. A report may not correctly report the conversation. All sorts of impurities and imperfections the original did not have, now accrues to the report
The historical documents are records of this type and investigations will be necessary to regain the original situation with criticism doing away with the imperfections they have suffered. "That which lies before us as historical material is the expression and imprint of the acts of volition and we must try to understand them in these manifestation" (e.g. Mueller Vollmer, p. 127).
But this is not the whole of historical understanding, the task is more demanding and hence something more than understanding speech in conversations.
A full account of historical understanding is possible only through four different but interrelated types of interpretations.
(a) The pragmatic interpretation takes up critically the records and documents i.e., the remnants of the historical activities and tries to organize them critically so that a sketch of the factual context is possible. It examines the causal nature of the course of events in order to reconstruct it.
(b) The factual sketch of the remnants provides an understanding of the original event, allows questions pertaining to the conditions - the local, religious, economics, the technical and so forth. The historical documents leave traces of the effects of these conditions and they must also be articulated. These conditions make the situation possible and therefore their effects will be present in the documents.
(c) When through noting the documents, facts and the conditions under which the situations that produced those documents emerged, we are in a position to understand 'the acts of will' or the psychological or motivational dynamics that elicited the event. "This method concerns itself with the person who willed the act, the forcefulness of that person's will, his intellect, and the extent to which all these things had an effect on the event" (Ibid. p.130). In this the social leaders who do not just guide and determine the masses but also represent them, have to be understood in terms of their perceptions, opinions, inclinations, behaviours, purposes and so forth. Such an understanding that reaches the psychological make-up of the individuals constitute the psychological interpretation.
(d) The above three types of interpretations do no constitute the complete understanding of an historical event. Though Droysen does not use the term 'unconscious' but rather 'moral forces', it is clear that by introducing the fourth type of interpretation i.e. 'interpretation of ideas' he means something like archetypical production and regulation of historical events. They burst forth suddenly and with tremendous energy and become the individual's interests and preoccupation. Man derives his expression, his unity and strength from these which are alive in the feelings and conscience of every person.
When we compare Porulatikaram of Tolkappiyar, we can see that the linguistic turn to existential investigations that Tolkappiyar give to Hermeneutics or originated the Nul neRi approach to historical understanding is somewhat similar to Droysen. Here we shall content ourselves pointing out a particularly intriguing similarity that exists between the two. A historical epoch gets its unity in the IDEA that takes hold of them, and by being actively in their thinking and feeling determines their volitions. And these are essentially moral forces. This same view or almost similar view emerges in the concept of Deity dominating a TiNai considered as psychological ecology. A deity takes over a TiNai, determines the interest structure of the person who gets into it, and thereby determines his overall behaviours including the verbal. When a man is taken hold of e.g. by Murukan, the Deity of Kurinci t TiNai, his volitional activities are dominated by the need for sexual gratifications. What is also interesting to note is that these Deities are understood as moral forces too. For the behaviour devoid of such archetypal regulations such as morbid cravings and abnormal sexuality, are said to be unethical and hence not to be approved. (K.Loganathan Mutharayan, 1990).
The kind of hermeneutics that underlies PoruLatikaram, the book on Meaning in the most general sense but particularly similar to what are called utterance meanings as opposed to sentence meanings by the modern speech-act theorists (e.g. Searle, 1983), can be called Symbolic Hermeneutics. For unlike the Western thinkers Tolkappiyar seized upon the metaphorical or figurative (uLLurai uvamam) expressions both verbal and non-verbal and through that gained a depth in the psychological understanding of human behaviour particularly the verbal. The various categories for classifying behaviour such as akattiNai, purattiNai and so forth emerged from such interpretive activities which incidentally must have involved semiotics - getting at the meaning of the symbolic is unavoidable.
3.0 The Literary Hermeneutics
of Maripiyal and its Sumerian
Now as distinct from this Symbolic Hermeneutics of Tolkappiyam proper, we have, what can be called Literary Hermeneutics, in the last sutra of Marapiyal where it is discussed in terms of techniques for undersrtanding (and composing) a text so that it is scientifcally faultless.
The date of Marapiyal has been fixed to be around 4th cent. B.C. (K.Loganathan Mutharayan, 1986) and hence the hermeneutics summarized in the last sutra of this text probably antedates this text itself reaching deep into the prehistoric past. The ancient Dravidians, who are ethnically and culturally linked to the people who established great civilizations in Sumer, Elam and Harappa, were already literate even as early as the 3rd. millennium B.C. They developed their own script, committed to writing what remained purely oral and composed literature of various kinds including technical and scientific. Below we mention some of these historical truths that are of hermeneutic interest.
The following lines taken from the epic Enmerkar and Aratta (Kramer, 1962, Cohen 1973) disclose that even as early as 2500 B.C., the time of the earliest written records of this epic (the oral version probably going into the 3rd mil. B.C.), the Sumerians were aware of the multiplicity of tongues and that they had a distinct term for language, 'eme' which also means 'tongue' with Dravidian cognates imir, iyam, imil and so forth.
141. U-ba kur-Subur -ha-ma-zi
(At that time, the mountain-lands (of) Shubar-Hamazi)
eme-ha-mum ke-en-gi kur-gal-me-nam-nun-na-ka
(And the different-tongued Sumer, the great "mountain", of the me of magnificence
(Uri, "mountain" possessing all that is befitting)
144. Ku-mar-du u-sal-la na-a
(Mountain-land (of) Mardu, resting in security)
145. an-ki-nigin-na ur-sag-si-ga
(The whole universe, the people who are taken care of [by the God])
146. En-lil-la eme-as-am he-en-na-da-ab-du
(Addressed Enlil in one tongue)
The crucial phrases here are 'eme-ha-mun' (Ta. Iyam amar?) and 'eme-as-am' (Ta.Iyam ekam?). These lines of the poet that sound like linguistic history, a harking back into a deep past before language divided into different families, clearly discloses an acute awareness of language as such, the differences and similarities that exist among them.
The same epic contains also lines that mention the beginnings of the written tradition.
(500) du-ga-ni[mah]-am sa-bi su-su-a-am
(His speech was (now) [great], its contents expanded)
(501) kin-gi-a ka-ni dugud su nu-mu-un
(The emissary, his mouth (being) heavy, was not able to repeat [it])
(502) bar-kin-gi-a ka-ni dugud su
(Because the emissary, his mouth (being heavy, was not able to repeat ([it])
(503) en-kul-aba-a-ke im-e su-bi-in-ra
(The lord of Kulaba patted clay and wrote the message like (on a present day) tablet).
(504) U-bi-ta inim im-ma gub-bu
formerly, the writing of messages on clay was on established-)
(505) I-ne-se utu u-de-a ur
(now, with utu's bringing forth the day, verily, this was so)
(506) En-kul-aba-a-ke inim dub-gin bi-in-gub
(The Lord of Kulaba inscribed the message like (on a present-day) tablet, this, verily, was so)
In addition to furnishing important information on the origins of the art of writing as such, the lines 504 & 505 also furnish information on how this unknown poet understood the origin of knowledge and skills as such. We can render the above two line into an archaic Tamil as follows:
504. uzibittu enam iyam-ma kuppu na
505. innaikke utu utte-a uru innanamma aam
The utu here is sun and has Dravidian cognates such as utayam, uti, (sun-rise) and so forth. The Su.u (Ta.u,uu) means light, radiance, illumination i.e. Ta.oL, oLi , oN and so forth which here is translated inappropriately as 'day'. The term 'u' also occurs with the meaning of 'light', the u-karam in the mantra sastras, one of the mantric syllables into which the praNavam is divided into i.e. a-u-m.
The hermeneutic concerns are quite clear here. Nowadays (innaike < I-ne-se) there exists (uru-am) > uRu-aam), such arts (innaanamma < innanamma) as writing because Utu, the su (in the interior of the person?) discloses, brings forth (Ta.aa: become) illuminations (Su. U, Ta. U, oL, oN etc) i.e. knowledge or understanding. The understanding that results in arts and crafts, in technologies of various kinds is a disclosure, a gift of Utu, the sun or the sun principle that prevades the world. We may note here that Utu is akin to the paal of Tolkappiyar sutra 2:2, onrRi uyarnta paal-atu aaNaiyin…), the Murukan of Nakkirar (Ta. Muruku : radiance, brilliance) and the sunyata of the Buddhist saint Nagarjuna (Ta. cur, cuun, cun: heat, desert; Su. sun: wilderness, sunya-ta : that which is brilliant, radiant). In later times the Vedantic tradition appropriates or equates this with Brahman that has also the same meaning.
Among the twenty or so Sumerian royal hymns, pertaining to king Sulgi of Ur (sul-gi>sul-I>cuzi?, cuzian : the chola?) which are dated around 2100 B.C., some contain detailed information on the literary and pedagogic activities of those times. Some of these are mentioned here to substantiate further our claim. In Sulgi hymn B, we have the following interesting lines.
3. Sul-gi lugal Uri-ma-ke
(sulgi's the ling of Ur)
4. a-na za-ma-bi-im kalag-ga-na sir-bi-im
(This is the song of his power,, this is the hymn of his valour)
5. gal-an-zu nig sag-bi-se e-a-na
(Of the wise, in all things foremost, this is the lasting record)
(Castellino, C.R. (1972) p.30)
What is relevant here are the immensely interesting descriptive phrases: za-mi-bi-im (Ta. caamipiyam), sir-bi-im (Ta. ciirpiyam) and mu-da-ri-bi-im (Ta. mutariipiyam). The Su. za-mi which means praise survives in Col. Tamil as caami (>swami), a term of address for brahmans and gods. The bi-im is to be noted in such terms as Tolkaa-p-piyam (Tol:ancient; ka : language grammar? Note Su. ka : mouth). The terms 'sir' is obviously the archaic form of "ciir" meaning glory, song, etc. This term has given us ciirtti and from that kirtti which is still in use as mey-kirtti and so forth. The sir-bi-im is obviously quite analogous to mey-kirtti of the Chola period and kirtti tiru akaval of Manikka-vacakar (9th cent. A.D.). The term mu-da-ri-bi-im, the everlasting record can be analysed into mutu-ari-piyam a text that destroys, kills (ari) growing old or decay (mutu), a meaning similar to pokkaru panuval of Panamparanar, in the introduction to Tolkappiyam. The poetry of great merit stands undying, undecaying - it kills death or death-like processes that would throw in into oblivion. Such descriptive terms pertain not only to the contents of the poetry but also their role in relation to history. A text can survive historically only by the excellence of understanding it unfolds in an idiom that is itself beautiful, captivating and so forth.
There are many institutions of learning, libraries and so further mentioned. The most fascinating however is the school, called e-dub-ba. Children attended these schools and learned there among other things he scrible art, the art of writing and reading.
13. tur-ra-mu-de e-dub-ba-a-am
(Since my very) youth I belonged in the edubba)
14. dub-ki-en-gi-ki-uri-ka nam-dub-sara-ra
([And] on the tablest of Sumer and Akkad, I learnt the art of the scribe)
15. nam-tur-ra ga-e gin-nam im nu-mu-sar
(of the young non could write tablets like me)
16. nam-dub-sar-ra-ki nam-ku-zuba lu-im-mi-Du-Du
(People frequented the place of learning (to acquire) the scribal art)
17. zi-zi-I ga-ga sid-nig-sid-de/zag
(And striving and toiling went through their course in all the science of numbers)
18. dingir-Nidaba sig-ga Nidaba-ke
([As for me]) goddess Nidaba, fair faced Nidaba)
19. gestu-gizzal-la su dagal-la
(with a generous hand, provided with the intelligence and wisdom)
20. dub-sar-ig-tag-a nig-e nu-dab-be-me-en
(Whatever the teacher brought forward, I let nothing go By!)
We shall Tamilize the above lines in order to elucidate better the hermeneutic considerations buried here.
13. turmutee il tuppaiya aa aam
14. tuppu kiiz enki kiiz urai-aka tuppu caaRRunam cuucuuminee
15. Turranam ngaayee annam iiyam na moo caaRRu
16. TuppucaaRRunam kiiz nanku cu (cu) ba aaLu Du-Du yimmee
17. vizi-vizi-I kaar-kaar cittu nika cittee naag tiir tiiryimme
18. tingal nidaba, cokka Nidabakkee
19. kattu kiiccalla cuur akalla tuukkumanin
20. tuppucarru akki-takkua nikare na tappiman
The word Ta. tuppu which corresponds to the Su. dub: tablets, has at present the meaning clue, sign symbol that requires deciphering, interpreting and so forth as in tuppu tulankal. The term caaRRu (Su.sar) means to tell, relate, narrate and so forth. Hence the phrase tuppu-caaRRu (Su-dubsar) actually means, interpreting and narrating what is there as signs in the tablets I.e. reading as such. In view of the tuppucaaRRu-nam (Su. nam -dub-sar-ra) can only mean the art or skill of reading. Sulgi claims in line (14) that he knows how to read all the tablets in the cities of en-gi and uri. In (15) he claims that in his childhood days, there were no other youngsters (turanam; Ta. tur: small), who could read (sar. Ta. caaRRu) the clay tablets (im. Ta. iiyam : clay) like him. In (16) he mentions the interest people in general had to acquire this ability. The tuppu-caaRRunam kiiz (Ta.kiiz : place , land) is probably another term for the school which is more descriptive - the place where the art of reading (and writing) can be acquired. People crowded this place in order to learn well - nanku cu-(cu)-ba- this art. The curriculum is termed cittu-nikacittu; (sid-nig-sid-de) which means 'knowledge-all-knowledge'. (Ta. cittu, cintanai : thought; possibly sid>vid>Sk. vidya, Ta. vittai)
The line (2) is most important for our purposes. The Su. Ig means 'doors' and 'igi', 'ibi', eyes. Su. tag (Ta. taakku) means to attack, assail. Hence 'ig' possibly means the senses in general or derivatively understanding as such. The Ta. kaN means both 'eyes' as well as 'knowledge', 'understanding'. Hence akki-takku-a probably means what reaches understanding, through reading a text i.e. dub-sar. Sulgi claims in this line that everything(nig) that reaches his understanding (ig-tag-a) from reading a text (dub-sar), did not certainly escape from him (Ta. na tappu man; Ta. Tappu : to escape) i.e. he retained them all without ever forgetting.
This concern with reading text, understanding what it says, retaining whatever thus understood and so forth are certainly the beginnings of hermeneutics as such. The Tamil character of the whole of Sumerian (K.L. Mutharayan, 1989 b.) should also be obvious from the above linguistic considerations. We can dig up more such information on the beginnings of hermeneutics from the vast range of literary texts produced in the 3rd. millennium B.C. itself that have now been brought to light by the tireless efforts of the Sumeriologists. But we shall reserve that for the yet to emerge Sumero-Dravidiologists and satisfy ourselves with these few points, which we believe are sufficient to indicate the Sumerian beginning of Dravidian hermeneutics. It should serve to check the prevalent tendency to trace everything significant in Dravidian to Sanskritic sources, to Indo Aryan and Vedic parentage, a tendency unfortunately too deeply embedded among numerous Indoligists. We should also note the dingir Nidaba, the beautiful (Ta. Cokka) Nidaba is obviously the Dravidian goddes of learning - kalaimakaL or Saraswathy. She sings (Su. dug, Ta. tuukku : to sing , to speak) in a voice loud (Su. gestu, Ta. kattu : to speak loud) and melodious (Su. giz-zal, Ta. kiiccal,kiiccu : the birds chirping, shrill voice). What is probably meant here is that the learning in the school which possibly consisted mainly recitations and singing was a gift of the goddess of learning, a notion prevalent among the Tamils even today.
3.1 The Meaning of 'otta kAtchi utti'
The nul utti portion in Marapiyal probably had its origins in this pedagogical situation which goes back into the 3rd millennium B.C. itself. Several millenniums of reflection on understanding a text and instructing pupils on it so that the instructions is not only effective but true to the meaning of the text probably had led to the formulation of the thirty -two different types of what are called uttis. It is appropriate that we begin the history of Dravidian Hermeneutics with the consideration of these nuul-utties though they appear in the end part of the text. For purposes of historical considerations, we shall reverse the order of topics in Marapiyal, as it makes a better historical sense.
The term utti has been given numerous interpretations. The Sanskrit pundits have traced this to the Sk. Ukti which means joining or reasoning. However the meaning of this term has to be disclosed as it occurs in the phrase otta katci utti where utti is seen as practices or techne that brings about otta katci. Peraciriyar as well as Ilampuranar have given different interpretations, which do not bring out the original meaning. Ilam assumes the meaning of otta katci as nuurku poruntiya katci, itself very ambigous but roughly meaning an understanding or vision that is appropriate for the text. Peraciriyar interprets its meaning as consistent with the 'grammar' of good texts as has been enunciated in the earlier part. Both these interpretations are not consistent with the overall treatment and divisions of utti as such. The most appropriate meanings is disclosed when we isolate this last sutra and consider it as historically primitive, recording independent investigations into matter pertaining to literary hermeneutics. When we wrest out this sutra and consider it independently of what transpires in the remaining sections of Marapiyal and consider it only as an attempt to elucidate the procedures involved in understanding a text and the proper instructions on it, it is clear that otta katci could mean only vision or understanding that is agreeable with that available in the text being read or studied. A text unlike other objects presents a vision, an understanding of its own and in reading it, the primordial task is that of gaining an understanding of our own which is agreeable with that presented in the text. The text works on the reader - agitating his cognitive process in numerous ways, leading it hither and thither and in that process generating various kinds of understandings. The utti are such mental activities that are activated in the individual in the reading of the text but of such a sort that the understanding thus reached is agreeable with that embodied in the original text. Such an agreeable understanding is that which enables the correct instructions as the penultimate line of the sutra would indicate. The literary hermeneutics articulated here has a pedagogical purpose- that of instructing someone on the text (uNarttal veeNdum). Prior to this the text has to be comprehended faultlessly through appropriate reflective maneuvers (manattil eNNi mAcu aRat terintu koNdu) and also must be related to the domain of knowledge to which it correctly belongs (inattil cErtti). The hermeneutic activities that furnish a nondeviant comprehension of the text and thereby result in a vision or understanding that is consistent or agreeable with the initial, that embodied in the text is the utti - the techne proper or what constitutes the art of understanding. It is not that every text requires such an effort. The text that are composed by scholars of penetrative insight (nunittaku pulavar kuuRiya nuul) and hence difficult to comprehend on the initial reading itself are those which require learning and hence the utti that generates the agreeable understanding. Such texts may be incomprehensible because of their obscurity, abstract quality, distance from everyday understanding and so forth. For the same reason it may be only partially intelligible to a student. Also because of its challenging character, the student may have misunderstood the text allowing his own projections to lead him away from what the text proposes to tell. The utti comes to be operative so that incomprehensibility, partial understandings, and erroneous understandings are avoided or overcome. The otta kaatci - the agreeable understanding is also that which is nondeviant, non-erroneous and hence a true understanding of the text.
The etymology of utti also lends support to this elucidation. There are two possible etymas from Tamil itself. The first is tha which occurs in Sumerian as us meaning "bringing out, push it up, kick it forward" as in uttu, untu, ucci and so forth. The utti would then mean that which pushes to the surfaces, brings out into the open, pushes forward and upward. Otta katci utti would then mean the hermeneutic efforts that one calls up in reading a text that surfaces or brings out an understanding (hidden deep within) that is agreeable with the text. Another etyma is uR (uRRi>utti) meaning touch, gain experience and so forth. Utti as a variant of uRRi would mean that which yields, generates, actualizes an experience, a perception, an understanding. Otta katci utti would mean then the existential maneuvers that regenerate an experience that is similar to or identical with that which is embodied in the text itself. The reading of a text is essentially re-experiencing the kind of experience embodied in the text itself and utti are the sorts of hermeneutics maneuvers that underlie this re-generation, re-experiencing that Dilthey also has noted.
Further considerations show that the hermeneutics here is not identical with that of Chladenius or even that of Schleimacher. For otta katci is not exactly perfect or correct understanding but rather understanding agreeable to that in the text. There are many terms similar to otta here - okkal, oppal onral and so forth all having the root oor - to unite with, to conjugate, to be in union and so forth. Being in agreement is a dialogic or dialectic concept and as such it presupposes the possibility of disagreement. In reading a text, the reader comes to an agreeable understanding with the text and hence through that with the author. The author exists through the text: the text is a speech (Ta. kuuRRu) though in a written and highly organized form. In natural conversations and dialogues, by virtue of the unmediated and direct nature of the interaction, there is a continuous movement or progression on the basis of agreements and disagreements. Where there is a disagreement the dialogues do not shift to a different theme.
Where mutual agreement is reached, either the dialogue is terminated or a shift in the subject matter of talk is introduced. In having a text in front and reading it, we enter into a dialogue but with the difference. The author is not there in person to guide the understanding of the reader through agreeing or disagreeing and in that context provide the necessary anecdotes, examples, models and such other moves to bring about agreeable understanding. But nevertheless the text as speech has approximately the same intention - that of bringing the understanding of the reader to agreement with oneself.
The agreeable understanding of the reader of text is not perfect understanding. For the notion of 'perfection presupposes a limit, an absolute position, an ideal such that on attaining it. Nothing more is seen to be there in the text. The meaning otta katci does not seem to have this connotation for if one has such an understanding of a text, it does not preclude another understanding which is also agreeable with the initial. A text can be understood in numerous ways and all of them can be in agreement with that of the text. No understanding of a text can be perfect, there can be countless number of interpretations and among them there can be many that are in agreement with the initial text.
This meaning of otta katci is crucial for it is that which has become the central notion in the long history of Dravidian philosophy right to the present day, distinguishing it sharply from the metaphysical thinking of the Buddhist, Jain and Vedantic philosophers.
We should also note that the hermeneutics here is not simply dialogic in the sense, for example of Gadamer in more recent times or Humbolt in the 19th Cent. The texts that are composed by scholars of penetrative insight (nunittaku pulavar) resist easy and effortless understanding such as that we have in conversations, talks or even in dialogues. In natural dialogues, the language, like a perfect mirror, absents itself through calling attention to the meaning. This is the essential self-forgetfulness of language, a notion well understood in India as early as Tirumular. In natural interactions, language withdraws itself from focus, from attentive concerns through its absolute transparency except in circumstances where such an effortless understanding breaks down for linguistic or other reasons. In contexts of reading easy prose or elementary texts, something similar holds. These are texts that are easy in the sense that effortless understanding is possible. But clearly this would depend upon the maturity of understanding of the person himself. Texts in themselves are neither easy nor difficult it is so only relative to a person who attempts to understand it. A text of outstanding merit resists such an effortless understanding and hence on that account becomes something studied assiduously in order to attain that transparency of effortless understanding. The utti-es are the efforts where the opacity of the text is eliminated in the understanding of the person who reads. The success in this effort means the transformation of the text into something transparent, clear and hence something no more requiring the utti-es. The text is mastered, understood so that is now like ordinary speech, translucent -discloses the meaning directly by making the language itself translucent, an absolutely pure mediator where the medium itself is forgotten totally. This is then the genuine meaning of otta katci raising oneself up through a variety of cognitive efforts to a position where the subject matter of the text itself is understood in an effortless manner without anymore paying any heed to the language of the text that unfolds the matter, the meaning. Such a process where understanding is developed , raised up, or learnt, a certain initial ignorance id dispelled, is what we call learning, in the genuine sense. A meritorious text demands learning: reading, thinking, reflecting, pondering and such other cognitive activities then are that which concretize learning as such. In reading a text and mastering it, understanding moves in the direction of making the subject matter of the text stand out in an eminently transparent manner, the text itself losing its opacity and becoming translucent in the process. Such a movement of understanding that the text occasions is its instructive capacity, and at the point of translucency, has succeeded bringing about learning of a sort on the part of the reader. The texts that are demanding are instructive of something new, what it occasions in the mind of the reader is learning precisely that, and where the 'new' the 'novel' is no more so to the reader he had understood the text. A translucent text has nothing new to offer, it does not engage the person to whom it is no opaque in a challenging manner, it is no more of pedagogic importance to that person.
The opacity or translucency of a text - its resistive capacity or its absence in the context of reading it, is not something that belongs exclusively to the structure of a text though sometimes the style of writing may contribute towards this. It is something that emerges only in the context of an individual's effort at understanding it. Those who are cast into the mode of being a learner in relation to the text, i.e. where the text is seen instructive in essence, opacity is met with. Such individuals do not as yet have the understanding, the otta katci that would make the text shine out is subject matter like a faultless mirror. The dark patches and dust that blocks off or resists somehow this transparent vision may not be in the meritorious texts but within the individuals trying to understand it. The understanding of the person for whom the text is instructive, and who is cast into being a learner in reading the text, has within it some obscurants that resist, block off the text being seen in a transparent manner. What the learning activities do is to remove these obscurants within the understanding of the reader so that now the text shines out brilliantly in his understanding. The message, the subject matter of the text become radiantly conspicuous pushing the medium - the text itself, into an irrelevance. When a person encounters a text and perceives it as opaque, he is not describing an objective feature of the text that can be collectively agreed upon. In characterizing it as thus, what in fact he discloses in his own IGNORANCE in relation to the subject matter of the text. The text is opaque FOR him, only because in attempting to read it, he discovers a certain area of DARKNESS within his own understanding. The opaque character of the text is NOT a constitute element of the text like the words, sentences and meanings but rather his OWN understanding. The text in its opacity makes the person conscious of his own IGNORANCE in certain matters; a certain area of DARKNESS in his understanding that needs to be lighted up, illuminated. The illumination is attained, the Darkness dispelled and the ignorance overcome when the text is learned, studied and understood. At the point where this illumination is reached we have otta katchi an understanding of text through learning where the status of the text changes from opacity to translucency and the content itself from unintelligibility to clarity, perspicuity and so forth. Dravidian Hermeneutics locates itself this movement of self.
Such an understanding, it must be noted, need not be absolutistic for as in the case of ordinary conversation, the speech or kurru can be re-investigated in a different angle, from a different perspective so that new dimensions of meaning hitherto unnoticed becomes now available. The having of otta katchi in the reading of a text does not preclude the possibility of furthering such understanding. The otta katchi is that state of understanding that results from learning, studying the text and as such it can be pursued indefinitely. It is always possible to return to a text and discover something new in it, in each one of these returns. Thus the hermeneutics available in this sutra is peculiar as it centers on the processes of learning and instructions. A text is instructive and hence anyone who engages in reading it, is thrown into being a learner. We shall term such an understanding of Hermeneutics as Pedagogic Hermeneutics to distinguish it from other kinds of Hermeneutics that parade in the philosophical literature. Pedagogic Hermeneutics sees Hermeneutics itself as pedagogical in its structure understanding results from learning and texts are that which bring into being these learning processes by their capacity to instruct. Learning is a certain movement of understanding in which an area of Darkness in understanding or IGNORANCE that the opacity of the text discloses as present in the understanding of the person is destroyed, annihilated, removed and so further. An important structural feature central to Pedagogic Hermeneutics as such must be highlighted here to elucidate further the meaning of otta katchi, the most crucial term that has served to shape the whole course of Dravidian Philosophy.
We have said that a text, when it appears opaque or unintelligible, unclear and uncertain as to its meaning and so forth, it is instructive in that it calls forth certain cognitive activities in the individual reading it, studying it. Under such circumstances, the text (and the author through it), assumes a regulatory control over the mental activities of the learner. The mind is captured by the text, the individual submits himself so that his understanding is taken along a certain route. In other words in submitting himself to the text in this manner, and without which a true understanding of the text is impossible, there comes to prevail a LEADER-LED kind of hierarchical structure in the hermeneutics process. The text leads on the thinking of the reader and the reader allows himself to be led thus. He forgoes his autonomy in thinking and reflecting in the interest of gaining a true understanding of the text. Without this submissiveness and forgoing if intellectual autonomy in the context of reading a text, a genuine understanding of the text is impossible. The absence of this complete submissiveness to the dictates of the text is a primary source of misunderstanding the text. Now this means that at the point of reaching otta katchi, there is no MORE this hierarchical Leader-Led kind of intersectional relationship between the text (hence the author as represented in the text) and the reader. The reader, through learning the text by submitting himself to its dictates gains an understanding in which the text's initial opacity and its instructively to the reader is annihilated, destroyed, removed. There is then a movement of understanding, upwards towards, a lifting up of self, ascending higher than the initial in mastering a text that is felt challenging in the initial encounter. The text thus develops the individual, causes the individual to move up above where he initially was. His understanding is not only transformed or changed but changed in the direction of less IGNORANCE, less Darkness in understanding. The obscurants blocking understanding of a certain subject matter is annihilated through flooding that region with illumination, knowledge. A text presents an understanding, a vision of truth and when someone reads it and understands it, his understanding is lifted up, pulled to the level of the understanding of the text. The ottal then also means reaching up, matching up, coinciding with the understanding that the text incorporates within itself.
We have not yet elucidated fully the meaning of this crucial phrase otta katchi but we shall leave further elucidations and come now to the utti-es themselves.
The Structural and The Sequential Organization of Text
When we examine the thirty two utties that are listed, it is clear that they can be grouped into three distinct classes. The first four appear to concern themselves with the global overall organizational structure of a text. Of the remaining, some belong to the learning strategies that are employed in the course of reading a text while some are obviously instructional, what one does in the course of instructing others on the text. The first four utties seem to have a peculiar importance and appear to distinguish the essence of Dravidian Hermeneutics from the European. The first is (1) nutaliyatu aRital and elsewhere it is also termed nutalip pukutal and so forth. Now the primordial meaning of nutal to which nuti is also related is that of projecting something as in front, as in the future and so forth. The introductory part of a text projects something as that with which the text is concerned, the text is about. It orientates the reader towards the subject matter of the text that is unfolded in the remaining part of the main body of the text through a brief pre-delineation of the essence. It is a kind of indicating, a telling without detailing what the text is about either directly or indirectly. It is projective for it moves the Being the reader into a future mode of Being, something the reader is not-as-yet but which he will be by the end of the text. For examples in Marapiyal itself the phrase marra arun cirappin discloses such a projection; it tells the reader what the text is about, here namely the historically of understanding that is difficult to eliminate. This phrase occurs in the first sutra itself and closely resembles the title of the book itself. In fact all titles are of this sort - they indicate what the content of the book is without detailing it thereby orienting the understanding of the readers towards a certain direction of movement, towards a certain kind of learning. What is projected is achieved by the end of the text, when the text closes, the closure issues forth only because the projective made of Beijing at the beginnings of the text is somehow made to be present at that point. Thus nutaliyatu is that projected mode of Being towards which the text takes any reader who ventures to read it earnestly. We shall can this the 'END-IN-SIGHT' on account of its projective nature and also because it provides the GROUND for the conclusion or closure of the text. It is an END because it serves to terminate the writing activity; it is IN-SIGHT because it is never forgotten; it is always there not only sustaining the activity but also providing the direction for its progressive movement. Thus it is required of any reader that in reading a text he first must understand the project of the text, the END-IN-SIGHT the text throws as a possibility that lies there now as the possibility of the reader, which he could realize, be that possibility only if he would persist in reading the text. The text promises a mode of Being that the reader is not-as-yet, that is still above what he is at the moment but which he could raise himself up to if he would only persist in reading the text. In articulating the END-IN-SIGHT in a title-like brevity, the reader is promised a kind of learning , a kind of mental journey that would lift him up from where is in into a mode of Being that is characterized by less ignorance, greater illumination. What is promised is a kind of vinai nikkam, the removal of certain restrictive and binding, finitude constituting constrains, chains within understanding. The word vinai is related to vil or vinai is related to vil or vilanku, fetters that are used to bind the hands and feet of someone so that his freedom of movement is curtailed. The vinai is also noted as tol vnai - the ancient, primordial fetters. Understanding is thrown into finitude primordially - it emerges as there in the world as finite, as fettered, as chained, as deeply constrained. A text that is meritorious and is challenging in someway promises the removal of this finalizing constrains afflicting understanding deep within. It definiteness the individual who bothers to read it at all by flooding into his understanding an illumination that dispels a darkness, an ignorance that is part of what constitutes his finitude.
Next in order comes (2) atikAra muRaimai, the noting of the sequential progression of the text. The word atikari is to increase, progress and go beyond. However atikari means an overseer, a supervisor, a leader of a sort while atikaram means power, authority and the like. Thus the most relevant sense of atikaram here is thematic unity, an overall organizational structure, a unitary division of a text such as that of a chapter and so forth. We see this sense in the structure of Tolkappiyam itself-eZuttatikAram, collatikAram and poruLatikAram. Now muRaimai means ordinality, progressive order, sequentially and so forth. Thus the phrase atikAra muRaimai describes a sequential, progressive organization of a text where the text itself clusters into unifying thematic unities. These thematic units are sequentially ordered, organized such that there is a progressive order with a connectively linking up the thematic units. The initials leads up to the next and thus progressing sequentially reaches the final chapter that close the book as whole.
Now it must be realized that there is an intimate linkage between the initial nutaliyatu arital, noting the projected END-IN-SIGHT and the global, sequential organization. The END-IN-SIGHT lies in the future, ahead there in front, it hovers pulling the reader unto itself. The reader having grasped the END-IN-SIGHT, sees that as what one is not-as-yet but which one could be. The sequential organizations of the text into a progressive sequence of thematic unities is that which takes him step-by-step towards that projected mode of Being that the text promises at the beginning itself. The progressive sequentially of organization of the contents of a text is consistent with the projected nature of the 'benefits' of the text.
The next two hermeneutics categories viz. (3) Tokuttuk kURal and (4) vakuttu mey niRuttal are quite different from the above. Tokuppu is bringing together, collecting the scattered notions into a unity and it presupposes the existence of different parts. Similarly vakuttal means dividing, analysing into distinct parts, differentiating classifying and so forth and as such it presupposes a unity, a tokuppu. The tokuttal and vakuttal are mutual related and presuppose each other. There cannot be a collecting together into a whole unless there are already parts; and there cannot be differentiating or analyzing into distinct parts unless a wholeness of a sort pre-exists. Thus what we have here is the same as the 'whole-part' structure that has been also a central structure in Western Hermeneutics from the times of Renaissance, from the time of Protestant Hermeneutics. Here we must point out the important difference between the first pair and the second pair of categories, an importance that does not seem to be appreciated even presently in the West. The Global intentional and progressive-historical movement of understanding that the atikara muraimai of text throws a reader into, is distinctly temporal while the whole-part relationship of the latter pair which is also a mode of understanding is a temporal. In nothing the general intent of a text, what the text has in store for the reader that is indicated right at the beginning in the introductory part itself, the understanding of the reader is stretched out into the future; the reader continues reading the text n a state of not-as-yet with respect to the END-IN-SIGHT that the production projects. This orientation as-not-yet but now this, now this and so forth is what has been called by Tolkappiyar, Kurippuk kalam, time-consciousness structured by intentionally that we shall call temporality. In the first two Hermenuetics categories the capacity to impose temporal structure upon the understanding of the reader is noted while in the 'whole-part' relationship the understanding appears to be freed from temporality. The parts can be understood only against a grasp of the whole, while the whole can be understood only in terms of the parts. They develop together moving cyclically till a stable state is attained. Since the whole is had in mind in nothing the parts, and the parts in mind while nothing the whole what we have here is movement of understanding in a Gestaltic manner-backgrounding one while foregrounding the other and vice versa. Such a movement is a temporal for the reader is not put is a state where he sees himself as not-as-yet in relation to the 'nutaliyatu' - the projected mode of Being, the END-IN-SIGHT. The former is progressive, historical while the latter is structural, cyclical, but both interacting in complex ways to generate an agreeable understanding of the text.
3.3 The Remaining Utti-es
Among the next text related hermenuetics categories, the fifth to the fifteenth appear to be learning strategies while the remaining instructional strategies though a strict division into these two does not seem to be always possible. This initial confusion was resolved in later times and the investigations are brought together in a neat way in the potuppayiram of NannUl (13th cent?) but the verses incorporated going back to earlier centuries. We shall consider some of these briefly here.
(5) mozinta poruLodu onRa avvayin moziyAtatanai muttinRi mudittal
What is mentioned here is that a text because of its need to highlight some matters to the negligence of others, and all texts are such, there is a need to bring in the unhighlighted as well in order to generate a wholesome understanding of a text. These are the moliyatatu - the unsaid, the unhighlighted, the assumed. Where such matters are recalled or inquired into, the interpretation of the meaning of such matters must be consonant with, in agreement with what in fact has been said, articulated, described. The articulated presents the horizon, the principle of selection for investigating into the unhighlighted, the unarticulated for a proper understanding of the text. Making such recollections agree with the articulated is molinta porulotu onral and muttinri mutittal is the elimination of obscurities, uncertainties in meaning and so forth by such moves.
(6) VArAtatanAl vantatu mudittal
We have already seen that a text has a sequential organization and as such the reader is taken by it along a journey into an unknown region of understanding. The varatatu is the yet-to-come while the reader is sojourning with the author through the text. The vantatu is what has been covered till the present moment, the territory that has been trodden. Now it may happened that because of the projectiveness of the text, the text stretching out the understanding of the reader into the future, some matters currently being presented may be unintelligible unless the projected, that is yet-to-come is brought to bear upon it. The present can be understood only in the light of the yet-to-come.
(7) Vantatu koNdu vArAtatu uNarttal
This is obviously the opposite of the above.
In reading a text, what has been said so far, makes possible projections into
the future. One looks ahead in an anticipatory vein. The inherent projective
character of the text, makes the reader himself projective. This is the
varatatu, that which has not yet come, has not yet been presented. But what has
been represented so far, the vantatu does not make the person just remember it,
retain it in memory. It also pushes the readers' understanding into the future
so that a number of projective possibilities are disclosed. These possibilities
the presented provoke the reader to weigh, is also part of understanding the
text. Some may be confirmed and some thrown out as erroneous.
(8) Muntu mozintatin talai tadumARRu
The muntu mozintatu is what has been said earlier. The talai tadumARRu is the reversal of order or going backwards over the sequentially presented material. This is seen necessary for having covered to a certain progressive level, we have to consider the earlier thematic unities (or chapters) in terms of the later in order to disclose to oneself, as if by hindsight, the significance of certain parts of the chapters that remained rather unintelligible or cloudy. Since a text is a progressive unity, as we move along we have to consider the earlier in terms of the later in order to better understand the overall meaning of the text some parts of the earlier portions become more perspicuous only in terms of the later and such illuminations can be attained only if we travel in the reverse order.
(9) oppak kURal
The meaning of oppu is similarity, homology, agreeability and so forth. In the course of reading (or instructions) a text the similar must be collected and allowed to bear upon the present for otherwise the subtle contextual meanings will not be disclosed. The meanings are not always equivocal; univocally of meaning is possible only by comparing and thereby bringing out the distinctive and the nondistinctive aspects of the meaning. In such cases the multiplicities of meanings is filtered out in such a way that a univocally and hence clarity in meaning is attained.
(10) oru talai mozital
This is also related to the above and it can be either a hermeneutics category related to learning the text or insturctions on it. Oru talai means definiteness, absolute certainty, unambiguity and so forth. Disambiguation of the inherent plurality of meaning of words and utterances leads to a definiteness, a univocity and hence anamguity. Where such is possible, it must be noted and mentioned either to oneself or another if instruction is involved.
(11) Tan kOL kURal
A reader of a text is not reduced to passivity in that kind of engagement. A challenging text, because of its destructive character disturbs the complacency of the reader. He is provoked into thinking, reflecting matters related to the subject. In the course of such intellectually demanding engagements, the reader formulates his own ideas on the matters by way of criticism and thereby generates the possibilities of agreeing or disagreeing with the presented in the text. Tan kol is one's own position, perspective, view. Such ventures are particularly necessary in the context of instructing someone on the contents of a text. This kind of generative activities belongs to the application of what the text presents to oneself. Such activities pull out the outstanding to new positions of clarity. Since such working out of one's own position requires the complete assimilation of the matter of the text into one's own understanding, clearly a proper understanding of a text requires such maneuvers as well.
(12) MuRai pizayAmai
We have already mentioned the importance of sequential organizations of a text. There is a progressive thematic movement of a text which as one slowly ploughs through, unfolds gradually. The order murai is not the order in the global sequential organization of the text but rather the intratextual, the order within the thematic unities, the chapters. There is an order within the themes, there is sequential organization - logical, semantic and so forth within chapters. Such orders in which the materials are presented must be noted in the order in which they are presented in order to understand the flow of thoughts of the author. It is in such orders that the rational mind of the author is disclosed to the reader. Taking this as an instructional move, we can say that in instructing the natural order in which the thoughts flow from one to the other must be maintained for clarity of perception, effectiveness of instruction.
(13) udampaddatu tAm udam padal
This hermeneutic category is quite different and discloses the social structure of understanding. The understanding of a text, not only should be agreeable to the general intent of the author but also because differences in interpretations are unavoidable, there must also be attempts to seek agreement with others who have also studied the text and interpreted it in their own ways. Where there is widespread agreement, the chances are that it could be close to the truth because it echoes the views of so many independent scholars. Such matters on which convergence of interpretation have been obtained by numerous scholars must be considered carefully and one must give in, where necessary, to the general opinion in such contexts. Though truth can be idiosyncratic, but it also that on which different people can agree. In fact truth is the only one in which genuine agreement is possible. This need to agreed with others and such other possibilities related to the notion of truth reveals that textual interpretations cannot certainly be dogmatic. The text becomes an unending source of truths, different scholars digging up different truth or the same. The Hermeneutics here, in emphasizing the need to be open to the understanding of others and simultaneously the need to yield to the opinion of others where necessary gave the nondogmatic structure to philosophical inquiries that became the dominant feature of the Agamic or Tantric tradition in subsequent times.
The remaining hermeneutics categories appears to be more inclined towards the instructional. But because reading a text can also be considered instructing self on it through an internal dialogue, or a dialectical form of reasoning, they can also be considered as important learning strategies.
(14) iRantatu kAttal and (15) etiratu pORRal
Clearly these two are related to each other. The iRantatu is what is past, what has been covered, read and understood. The etiratu is what remains yet to come, the yet to be grasped and so forth. Such categories clearly disclose the temporal structure of understanding that it assumes in the course of reading a text. Understanding moves temporally with each time encountering something in the text, it saying 'now this', 'now this' and so forth and simultaneously 'not-yet-this, 'not-yet-that' and so forth. The presented, encountered and understood is pushed into now, as in the past and by that very act awaiting for the as-yet-to-come. What we have here is clearly the historicalizing movement of understanding in the course of reading. Reading a text and understanding it, is a genuine historical movement where matters already understood are historicalized as now in the past but because the process of understanding at that point is not as-yet-complete, there is awaiting for the as-yet-to-come. Understanding is ekstatic (to use a phrase of Heidegger) - it is pulled out into the future and hence on that account disposing it towards understanding the presented as now, and what was presented as now-in-the-past. The presentness and the pastness arise in understanding because it is cast into a basic futureness in its engagement with a challenging text. These two categorises emphasize the temporal structure of understanding, it being unavoidable historical in the course of reading a challenging text. Tearing oneself away from this historicality will mean erroneous understanding of the text with which one is engaged.
Now kAttal means preservation, retention while porral, appreciated. Caught up within a temporal mode of Being in the course of reading text, that which has been understood must be retained and the projective possibilities must be kept continuously there. The understanding gets continuously restructured, reformed, developed into something new by the engagement with the text and such transformations of the understanding must be presented or kept as relevant to understand the yet to come that hovers over the horizon as the future possibility. Only by retaining, preserving the understood as an integral part of self, can new possibilities for understanding be viewed at least initially projectively but later thrown out as false or assimilated as truth. Understanding is continuously reformed by what is learned and retained. But such a learning and retention is also not possible unless understanding approaches the text, encounters the matters in a projective manner and submits to the truth so that projections that are unsubstantiated are thrown out. The protension and retention belong together the projected possibility becomes the retained when it gets substantiated. Similarly understanding can be appropriately projective, project into the yet-to-come in a manner future substantiation is possible only if it takes off from what has been learned and retained as relevant.
We notice that such hermeneutics principles are operative not only in learning a text but also in the course of instructing it to others. The students must be reminded continuously about what has been instructed so far and what awaits them in the near future. For otherwise the sequentially organized content of the text cannot be understood in an agreeable manner.
(16) mozivan enRal and (17) kURiRRu enRal
These hermeneutic categories are clearly instructional. It presupposes the being there of students desirous of knowing what the text is about. These two are equally temporal and are intimately related to the above two. While learning requires the retention of what has been understood and the anticipation of different possibilities that the present understanding as constituted by the retention allows one to project, the instructions too cannot escape putting the students in the temporal frame of mind. In molivam enral which means 'later, I will explain it' and kURiRRu enral whih means 'I have explained that earlier', the teacher works on the understanding of the students stretching it outwards the future and simultaneously bring the past into the present. The student is put into a temporarily of time consciousness for otherwise the progressive movement of understanding where that is presented by the teacher is received, understood and assimilated into the Being of the students will not be possible.
The understanding of the students must be opened up in such a way that what is relevant amidst what has transpired so far is retained. The yet-to-be presented has to be integrated, fused with what has been presented for otherwise the movement of understanding towards mastering what is contained in the text cannot come to a completion; the process of instructions and hence learning cannot come to a conclusion, reach the stage of otta katchi.
The remaining categories, like the above, also appear to be more related to the process of instructing rather than learning though we cannot rule them out even there. We shall also consider them in some detail for they seem to disclose another important element of text hermeneutics-the need to be critical and truthful in the face of ambiguities, uncertainties and so forth.
(18) tan kuRiyidutal
This hermeneutical category that pertains to
the introduction of novel technical nomenclature may happen either in the
context of understanding a text, writing of a text or even expounding a
text to others. One can introduce a technical term of one's own in
any of these circumstances. What does it disclose about the dynamics of
human understanding? A new technical term will be necessary only when
something that has remained hitherto in the dark, has been wrested out from the
darkness and placed in the open. Something significant but which has remained
unconscious becomes now an element of conscious prehension and hence
necessitating the introduction of new technical terms to retain the
consciousness attained. In such situations understanding moves ahead in an
archeo-teleo-logical manner, digging up the buried and moving ahead
precisely by that act of penetration. In such cases, we may note here,
the reader may understand more than the writer as has also been recently
observed by Humboldt, Boeckh and so forth. In this movement of
understanding of the reader beyond what is explicitly and openly articulated by
the author, of the text, we get another insight into the meaning of the crucial
term otta katci. If the hermeneutics that is being propounded
acknowledges the possibility of the interpretive understanding to go beyond
what is being articulated by the text and such an understanding is still
'agreeable', then clearly otta katchi is not perfect understanding such
as that of Chladenuis or Schleimacher or even the re-experiencing, re-living
the initial experience of the author as emphasized by Dilthey. The text
pulls up no doubt, but it can also push up understanding towards greater depth,
towards deeper and more meaningful insights. Such deeper understandings that
a text facilitates though unintentionally are nevertheless consistent
with what it purports to disclose. Such consistent but deeper understandings
is also captured by the phrase otta katchi with which this lengthy sutra
begins. This meaning is consistent with the meaning of urai or as it came
to be distinguished in later times as virivurai, a lengthy explicative
commentary that may articulate insights deeper than what the text itself
articulates as for example in Yapparunkala Virutti or even the philosophical
classic Acarya Hirudayam of
Manavala Mamuni of later times. An interpreter of a text in submitting himself to the demands the author makes through the texts, also gains an entry into realms of meaning that would have been inaccessible to him otherwise. The author is showing something intentionally, shows also something else unintentionally,. Turning attention to such unintentional, unconscious disclosures and gaining a clear vision of them and hence introducing novel technical nomenclature of one's own also belongs to the hermeneutics of textual understanding.
(19) orutalai anmai
This term means the absence of univocity in meaning either lexical or propositional. It discloses the possibilities of ambiguity, multiplicity of meaning and so being rather irresoluable. This hermeneutic category emphasizes that in such cases it must be said so in a honest manner. Covering up such possibilities is erroneous not only in understanding a text but also in expounding it. But why should it be so? Human understanding is finite, a notion that is central to the whole of Dravidian philosophy to this day. The finitude of human understanding means that it is still in the DARK with respects to so many other matters. Being in doubt, having only an unclear, ambiguous unequivocal understanding of some matters is a transitional state of Being-transitional between being in total Darkness, and total and absolute illumination. Any pretension of univocity where as a matter of fact there is none would mean denying or covering up the finitude that the understanding of man is. A textual understanding may not eliminate all doubts, any pretentions to the contrary will not be legitimate in the context of textual hermeneutics.
(20) Mudintatu kAttal and (21) ANai kURal
These two hermeneutics categories bring in the notion of authority in matters of interpretation. Mutintatu is what has been agreed upon in general probably by numerous scholars of repute and hence on that account demanding compliance on the part of those who are now being inducted into the realms of meaning of the text. In matters pertaining to the meaning, whether words or sutras-multiplicity of meanings forever crop up leading to disputes of various kinds. One way of resolving such disagreements is to cite an accomplishment of any earlier generation of scholars who have disputed over the issue but succeeded somewhat in resolving the same. What has been resolved thus has to be restated at an appropriate juncture so that unnecessary disputations are avoided. This does not mean of course the earlier resolution cannot be questioned further. But kattal only means 'showing' or 'bringing to the attention of ' and hence not coercive in itself. It can contribute towards the resolution of differences without demanding it. The next category ANai kURal is somewhat different. Anai is a principle or decree that is in itself authoritative. If some matters in dispute can be related somehow to an anai, the disputants must acquiesce with the meaning that is consistent with the anai. The anai is not the law as in the natural sciences but rather a fundamental percept that has some kind of dictatorial powers. They are structural principles, fundamental percepts, truth of a deep kind, first probably unearthed by a man of extraordinary gifts or talents and henceforth inherited through a tradition as something basic and primordial.
(22) PalporutkERpin nallatu kOdal
This category too deals with ambiguities and uncertainties. This simply states that multiplicities of interpretations may not be resolved even by such maneuvers as above. There may be new possibilities where the past convergencies may not be applicable. In such situations, among the different possibilities the best under the circumstances, the nallatu must be chosen. Here what is the best is clearly left to the discretion of the reader or the instructor. He must judge the different possibilities, weight each, evaluate each in accordance with certain principles and choose the most suitable under the circumstances. Such a demand of text hermeneutics clearly calls for critical activities in the context of understanding a text. The critical acumen called up here is clearly an evaluative judgement, a judicious decision.
(23) Tokutta moziyAn vakuttanar kOdal
This category is clearly quite different from the earlier two similarly phrased but pertaining to the overall structure of a text, the dynamic whole-part structure of textual matter. Here we have something similar to the formation of a law-like understanding, the articulation of a principle probably much in the vein of Dilthey's principle of induction. The vakuttanar here obviously is not the analytic understanding, the breaking of a whole into distinct component parts but rather the noting of different instances where something similar is noted. There is repetition, reoccurence, the meeting again and again the same phenomenon. This is common enough in linguistics for example in morphophonemics. Such a repetitious phenomena can be isolated because of its repetitiveness and stated as a principle, as a law. It is repetition and the future possibilities of such repetitions that allows the formulation of principles. Such principles constitute the fabric of informed understanding, an understanding that has been re-formed, re-structured, re-created through being informed of the range of repetitions that are there. A person equipped with such principles does not function like a natural scientist who evaluates a phenomenon either as an instance or not of a law. The principles learned exists in the understanding of the person not as a tool for objective understanding, but as the very competency of the self to see the phenomena in its variegated richness. The principle enable the self to see more in a phenomena in comparison with another devoid of the knowledge of these principles. The difference is between that of maestro and a novice, a skilled craftsman and peddler, the guru and the sisya. An understanding equipped with the synthetic formulations (tokuttu molital) of what which is repetitious in the world of experience is an understanding equipped with the synthetic formulations (tokuttu molital) of that which is repetitious in the world of experience is an understanding equipped not only to see more but also to see almost instantaneously, non-inferentially, a logically, nondiscursively. Such an understanding comprehends more of a text in terms of depth and range and with an immediacy that is almost instantaneous. The texture of understanding itself is considerably richer in terms of depth, delicacy and range.
Now there is also another way of understanding this category provided we understand 'vakutta' not simply as systematic classification, which is the usual meaning but rather in terms dispersing, throwing into a disarray, breaking something down to pieces, destroying and dispersing into a variety of elements. 'Tokuttu molital' under these circumstances will be a concatenation, a bringing together into a synthetic unity what has been mercilessly dismembered, destroyed and thrown into bits. In the temporally constituted movement of understanding, we continuously concatenate the meaning that unfolds as the reading progresses, each subsequent encounter with the text destroying the earlier concatenation, the synthetic unity but at the same time forming another, a process not possible unless the newly encountered is placed appropriately to where it belongs. This requires dispersing the existing thematic unity and placing the new somewhere in this dispersal, casting out. Understanding forms unities, destroys them in the interest of assimilating more and reforms another and proceeding along these lines resonates with the unity the text itself possesses by the end of the reading adventure.
(24) MaRutalai citaittu tan tuNipu uraittal
(25) PiRan kOL kURal
Clearly these two are interrelated and pertain to a mode of criticism where the author's understanding are unfolded in the text is brought to bear upon one's own understanding as well as that of other's. MaRutalai is contrary understanding or at least understanding that is not consonant with that of the author. PiRan kOL kural is going beyond what the author says and mentioning the position of others that are relevant. The author's position cannot be understood fully unless it is placed as similar or dissimilar , is consonant with or not so, analogous to or not so with that of many others. Such a movement of understanding beyond the author's own position allows viewing it circumspectively and thereby gain additional insights of a useful kind. The different understandings of a matter must not only be juxtaposed, placed simply next to each other but allowed to work on one's understanding to gain a clarity and depth of understanding that is not otherwise possible. The different sorts of interpretive understanding of a matter engages the reader meaningfully or at least must be allowed to do so in order to sight dimensions of meanings that have remained hitherto hidden from view. Now under such circumstances when mutually incompatible understandings or interpretations are articulated with equals claims for truth, it becomes the task of the reader/instructor to resolve such a conflict. Where the claims are incompatible, conflicting, contrary to each other further movement of understanding is arrested till it is resolved. The kind of resolution that is demanded here is stating one's own position, of course with adequate reasons. Conflict arrests movement, resolution allows the continuation of the journey either in the same direction or different.
(26) ARiyAtatu udampadal
this is important category as Peraciriyar rightly observes, is a reminder of the finitude of human understanding. No one's understanding is omniscientific and hence it is not possible for anyone to speak authoritatively on every subject matter. Human understanding, no matter how informed it is, is always surrounded by un-understanding, darkness, ignorance. There are always matters beyond the reach, access of oneself. When such matters are encountered particularly in instructional context one must acknowledge one's own ignorance of the matter. Utan patal here is submitting one self. We cannot conquer ignorance by pretensions to the contrary of feigning that it does not exist. No matter how learned one becomes, one cannot become authoritative on every subject matter, understanding forever being characterized by finitude. There is always the realm of the unknown, the inaccessible, the Dark, the Depths that is yet to be understood. It is the pretentious and egoistic who forget their own finitude, an attitude wholly unbecoming in the hermeneutic endeavours.
(27) PoruL idai idutal
This category pertains to elaborations, interpolations and such other a-sides that are legitimate in the course of expounding a particularly difficult area of a text. Bringing in illustrations, examples and such other matters that would serve to make the topic more intelligible is meant here. Models, analogies, similitudes and so forth will be admitted. But why are such activities called forth particularly in the context of expounding a difficult text? Clearly a difficult text stand high above, quite beyond the grasp at the initial stages. There is a wide gap between the understanding of the student and the level of understanding embodied in the text. The gap must be a bridged, the alienness must be overcome, the existing distance must be destroyed. The various kinds of illustrations, insertions, which is the real meaning of ital itutal, softens the difficulties, provides an in-between ground from where the understanding can leap towards the level of the text.
(28) collin eccam colliyAngku uNarttal
The term uNarttal - instructing, informing clearly discloses the pedagogic context of this category. The concept of eccam has also been extensively investigated even in those days and we have a comprehensive account of it in the Eccaviyal of the Collatikaram. We may note here that only in this hermeneutics category are the grammatical considerations mentions. As has been explained elsewhere (Loganathan Mutharayan, K. 1991) the concepts eccam and its opposite murru have placed a central role in the grammatical investigations recorded in Collatikaram. Using these notions, the syntactic structure of a language has been investigated in terms of how the different grammatical categories stand to each other in complementary relationships. The eccam means 'incomplete' 'the unsaid', 'the implied' and so forth. The 'incompleteness' sense has been used in the syntactic considerations of sentences where the concepts peyar encu kilavi (relative principle) and vinai encu kilavi (verbal participle) are central. However , collin eccam here does not man these but rather what are termed eccap porul. Such eccap porul are divided into ten different types each with its own distinctive features. Some of these are lexically related e.g. ummai eccam, enaveneccam and so forth. The conjunctive particle um has meanings that are not always the standard., the normal. For example, in kantan-un vantan what the -um indicates is not conjunction but rather repetition, the re-enactment of the act (of coming) by kantan that has been enacted previously by an unamed author. The col-eccam, kurippu eccam and icai eccam are implicatures that have to be worked by using not only the semantics of the linguistic elements but also the contectual clues. There are many other such eccams into the details of which we shall not go here, it is sufficient to note that meanings may not be articulates in a straight forward manner thus calling for grammatical considerations of various sorts. Such demands are also made when metaphors, similes, analogies and such 'ornamental' (ani) linguistic devices are utilized in the articulation. The grammatical considerations have a place in the explication of meanings and where such manoeuvres are made, care must be taken to bring out explicity what is actually meant by the author. The explication must be in consonance (colliyanku) with the intended and not extraneous, however fascinating it may be by itself.
(29) Tantu puNarntu uraittal
Peraciriyar takes this category to be another species of interpolations, bring in the nonexistent as if it is so, in order to add to the dept of understanding. More approximately perhaps, the teacher in the context of expounding a test must fuse his own understanding (tantu punartal) with that unfolded in the text itself and explicating further (uraittal) on the basis of such fusions achieved. An understanding that one gains through reading a text does not remain simply a body knowledge stored somewhere in the brain. If understanding a text involves learning what it means, what it purports to tell, the learner does not remain the same self as the one prior to the act of reading or learning. In the temporally structures movement of understanding that the text demands, in each progression towards the nutaliyatu- that which is projected as the END-INSIGHT, a roughly delineated mode of Being that constitutes the end of reading adventure, involves self transformations for otherwise achieving the END mode of Being will not be possible. In reading a text one gives one's own self (tantu) to be fused and changed into the projected self (punarntu). Effective and meaningful instructions or exposition is possible only if such self presentations and self transformations are actualized. The reading experience is one where self-transformations are actualized. The reading experience is a self-transforming and anyone who resists such transformational effects of a text cannot expound the text in all its richness.
(30) nApakang kURal
Peraciriyar and also Kuncakarar, the brilliant commentator of Yapparunkalam note under this category the composition o a sutra in a language that is not plain and ordinary but rather somewhat more demanding idiom so that some deeper meanings are brought forth as well.. Taking again the pedagogical, instructional or expository context, this may not e the most appropriate meaning. The etymology of the term na-a-akam (na:understanding, akam: interior) suggests meanings that are hidden, deep inside, not obviously there on the surface but lurking in the depths. One has to go beyond the obvious, penetrate deep into the textual meanings, unearth in an archeological manner the buried and hidden. Clearly what we have here is something analogous to droysen's interpretation of ideas, expounding the unconscious as noted Boeckh, the deeper understanding of a text that one gains through empathy as noted by Dilthey, or the hidden semiotic subterranian features of modern semioticians.
A more straightforward meanings of this category will be stating the type of knowledge that the text or a part of it unfolds. Here we are falling back on the primordial meaning of napakam where it simply means knowledge. After all every inquiry unfolds a certain kind of knowledge - the attributes of physical objects, the phonological shape of words, the psychological dispositions of persons , the kinds of social distinctions that prevail in a society and so forth. All these are nApakam, forms of knowledge, the substance of what is articulated in a text. This probably is the correct meaning as the next category seems to be related to the deeper forms of understanding such as those of Dilthey and so forth.
(31) Uyttuk koNDu uNartal
Peraciriyar correctly observes that it pertains to understanding what are not explicitly articulated but are only implicit, hidden. The root meaning of 'uy' is to go beyond, transcend and move ahead and so forth. In the present times 'uki' means to guess, to infer, to conjecture and so forth. Clearly it is a species of cognitional activity that involves distinct mental operations. We can include under this category what we have said earlier in connection with napakankural, i.e. accessing the hidden, the implicit, the unconscious and so forth. A text articulates more that it says, and such cognitional activities attends to these 'mores'. As 'Dilthey has noted, an utterance as a species of 'life expressions' allows the content of the unconscious surface up for view. A text or a part of it emerges from the life of an individual and in this , displays in some manner the contents of the unconscious that the individual himself may not be aware of. There is also a Husserl noted the fringe-consciousness that companies every focal-consciousness that cannot be understood unless attention is specially directed towards them. The 'uyttal' seems to cover all such cognitional maneuvres.
This concludes our brief considerations of the specific hermeneutics categories, the ottakatci utti. Ilampuranar lists a few more and in such later texts as patalam (6th cent. A.D.) Avinayam, nannul and so forth there are many more. The author of marapiyal also affirms that the above are not exhaustive, there may be other categories similar to or distinct from the above that ought to be accepted after inquiring into their validity. The term meypata natal used here discloses that what he has listed are true, what in fact obtains, actual in textual understanding. Mey patal means actual, what are actualized and contrasts with imaginary, fictitious, hypothecital, purely theoretical and so forth.
There are some other descriptive terms that occur in the end of part of the sutra that we have consider in some detail in order to elucidate further the kind of hermeneutics being articulated. The important phrase is manattil enni macu arat terintu kontu. Here manaittil enni pertains to thinking, reflecting, carefully weighing various issues and so forth. Macu arat terital means faultless comprehension, nondefective and understanding, understanding what it really means as opposed to misunderstanding it. The hermeneutic categories, particularly those pertaining to understanding a text are species of cognitional activities that issue forth in a proper understanding, a nondefective grasp which we can see here has to be the same as otta katci, an agreeable understanding. An agreeable understanding of a text, understands precisely what the text says explicitly and implicitly, and because such an understanding is non-deviant, it is also on that account faultless, nondefective. Defective understanding or misunderstanding is a possibility and the utti-es help to avoid it.
But at this point can we say that the kind
of Hermeneutics being articulated here is similar to that of Schleimacher who
understood hermeneutics as a filed of activity concerned with methodologies for
avoiding misunderstanding that is natural? At the end of this discussion of the
utti-es, it is clear that behind the superficial similarity, there lurks a
vital difference. What is natural in the encounter of a demanding text is NOT
misunderstanding but rather IGNORANCE. The text by its depth and subtlety
discloses to the reader his own ignorance, areas of Darkness in his own
understanding. The hermeneutic categories serve to avoid misunderstanding, most
certainly but more important dispel the Darkness, destroy in which the reader
lived prior to the engagement with the text. They illuminate the person with
respect to some matters and in thus illuminating not only correct some
misunderstandings that might have existed but more importantly reduce the scope
of ignorance-his finitude in some ways. A demanding text is definitising in its
effect, it is educative, pedagogic precisely in this sense. Thus the
hermeneutics of Marapiyal can be called Pedagogic Hermeneutics, a name most
appropriate for a variety of reasons. Now the term macu arivu may
mean as Peraciriyar
notes mayakka arivu - a confused and unclear understanding. This discloses the subjective state of the person in relation to the understanding of the text. Macu aruttal is the destruction of this confusion, initial unintelligibility. The understanding that develops through this destruction is the agreeable understanding of the text, a proper or nondefective understanding of the text. The utti-es are not methods of avoiding misunderstanding but rather maneuvers that destroy the initial un-intelligibility or ignorance. These are practices arising from certain modes of Being of the reader that dispel the initial ignorance in which the person is and which is disclosed to him by the text.
The next important phrase inattil cErtti unarttal ventum occurrs as the final phrase of this lengthy sutra that discloses again in the instructional intend. But what we have to analyse here is the meaning of inattil certti. The inam means the same class, species and so forth. And here the question arises what class or species of entities are meant. The text furnishes something that can be integrated (cErttal) with similar kinds of things. What can be integrated thus must be itself isolated as a distinct entity having its own identity. In view of this we can see that it can only be the overall understanding the text has furnished to the reader. Having gained an agreeable nondefective understanding of a text, the reader can now reflect upon it and through this act see as a whole the understanding that has been developed, knowledge that has been gained. It can now be said that the text is about linguistics, philosophy, pharmacology, poetics, political science and so forth. This higher reflective understanding of the text as a WHOLE allows interrelating it meaningfully with other texts. It is similar or dissimilar to another, develops the same theme but somewhat differently from another and so forth. Through such an intergrated and interrelated understanding of the text one gains a circumspection that allows delimiting appropriately its own boundaries and at the same time relate it in a meaningful manner with similar accomplishments. Such a circumspective,structural understanding of a text is a prerequisite for a competent instructions.
4.0 Similarities and differences Between Dravidian and Western Hermeneutics
This concludes out exposition of this important sutra, that embodies an ancient text hermeneutics which probably took several centuries (perhaps millenniums if we take it to the Sumerian times) to shape up. Before we conclude this study, some important similarities and differences with the essentials of Western Hermeneutics must be briefly noted.
(i) A demanding and challenging text engages a reader and throws him into a temporal mode of Being. In virtue of the intentional and sequentially developmental global organization, the moment the reader engages himself with the text, his time consciousness is altered to that of Temporality - a future directedness in which he awaits for the not-as-yet, and notes the present against what has been and what is to come. Thus the intentionally related sequential organization of the text throws the reader into modes of Being that are basic towards understanding the text. A 'directness-towards' kind of existential structure takes over his Being so to speak. He is thrown into a state of 'awaiting - for', a mode of Being without which what is reader further cannot grasped, understood in relation to what has already been understood.
This is the ontological dimensions of text hermeneutics as it deals with the Being of the reader in relation to the text and not with the cognitive maneuvers, kinds of knowledge acquired and so forth. In Western Hermeneutics this has not surfaced till very recently and the credit of reinstating the meaning of Being as the central question of philosophy belongs to Heidegger. But such ontological considerations have not been brought to bear upon issues pertaining to text or discourse understanding till the emergence of pedagogic Hermenuetics that has been the good fortune of myself to introduce (K.L. Mutharayan, 1989).
(ii) The tokuppu-vakuppu structure has a similarity with the whole-part relationship that has been noted as an important part of text structure from the times of Protestant Hermeneutics. This has given rise to the notion of the circular structure of Hermeneutics as well as historical understanding, a notion central to the Hermeneutics of heidegger and Gadamer. Because of its importance and complexity we shall take it up in sufficient detail in a separate study later. We may note briefly here that the pedagogic structure of Hermeneutics mau either remove this circularity or at least explicate it in a manner substantially different from that of heidegger.
(iii) The focus of inquiry in pedagogic hermeneutics is more on practices that are called up in the reading engagements rather than on kinds of interpretations grammatical, psychological, historical, generic and so forth. The focus on practices is also, we may note, consistent with the ontological orientation. Each mode of Being discloses itself through an activity, practices of various sorts. Being is actualized as activity, as practices. But the kinds of interpretations as above are available in Tolkappiyam proper and constitute the essence of Dravidian philosophical heritage (K.L. Mutharayan, 1990).
(iv) In the hermeneutics categories that we
have considered in some detail, we continuously met with the problem of
deciding whether the practice articulated pertains to learning what the
text says or instructions or expounding it to others. Several centuries
later in such texts as Iraiyanar Akapporul and the partially existent
patalam, Avinayam and so forth as well as in later classics such as
Yappariunkala Virutti, nannul and so forth, these ambiguities are
overcome through a clear differentiation. The hermeneutic considerations are
grafted onto the Payiram, the introduction to a text and this itself becomes
distinguished into two different types-the Cirappuppayiram and the
Potuppayiram. The former provides the historical details - the who of the
author, where it was expounded, which king or noble served as the patron, under
what circumstances the text was written, what the text is about and so forth.
In contrast to this the Potuppayiram which deals with the general structure of
texts. It is here that instructional considerations are distinguished and the
notion of utti is confined to activities pertaining to text compositions. These
later historical developments reinforce the view that the hermeneutics
being articulated here is essentially pedagogic. There is learning a text
in the context of being engaged with it. This learning provides an
understanding of the subject matter of the text that is nondefective provided
certain practices are maintained. This in turn allows instructing on it in an
affective manner. Understanding results because of learning and this in turn
gives the competency to instruct on it. Learning and instructing are the
practices that maintain and develop the understanding; understanding exists
only because of the learning - instructional processes. But clearly the
learning - instructional processes are historical, constitute tradition a
marapu hence understanding as such is essentially historical, tradition-bound.
(v) This historicality of understanding, which is also emphasized in the hermeneutics of Heidegger and Gadamer, emerges here as something that things on pedagogic processes, a notion that appears to distinguish Dravidian Hermeneutics from the Western. In future studies we hope to elaborate further on this important difference.
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