Sabda or testimony, we have seen, gives us knowledge about certain things through the understanding of the meaning of sentences, either spoken or written by some authoritative person.
Hence the question is: what is a sentence and how does it become intelligible? A sentence, we are told, is a group of words (pada) arranged in a certain way. A word again, is a group of letters Ranged in a fixed order.
The essential nature of a word lays meaning. A word is that which has a fixed relation to some object, so as to recall it whenever it is heard or read, i.e. it means an object. So we may say that words are significant symbols.
This capacity of words to mean their respective objects is called their sakti or potency, and it is said to be due to the will of God.’
That a word has a fixed and an unalterable relation to certain things only, or that this word always means this object and not others, is ultimately due to the Supreme Being who is the ground and reason of all the order and uniformity that we find in the world.
A sentence (vakya) is a combination of words having a certain meaning. Any combination of words, however, does not make a significant sentence.
The construction of an intelligible sentence must conform to four conditions. These are akanksa, yogyata, sannidhi. By akanksa or expectancy is meant that quality of the words of a sentence by which they expect or imply one another.
Generally speaking, a word cannot by itself convey a complete meaning. It must be brought into relation with other words in order to express a full judgment.
When one hears the word ‘bring,’ he at once asks: ‘what?’ The verb ‘bring’ has a need for some other words denoting some object or objects, e.g. ‘the jar.’
Akanksa is this mutual need that the words of a sentence have for one another in order to express a complete sense.
The second condition of the combination of words in a sentence is their yogyata or mutual fitness. It consists in the absence of contradiction in the relation of objects denoted by a sentence.
When the meaning of a sentence is not contradicted, there is yogyata or fitness between its constituent words. The Sentence ‘moisten with fire’ is devoid of meaning, because there is a contradiction between ‘fire’ and moistening.’
Sannidhi or asatti is the third condition of verbal knowledge. It consists in the juxtaposition or proximity between the differed words of a sentence.
If there is to be an intelligible sentence then its constituent words must be continuous with one another in time or space. Spoken words cannot make a sentence when separated by long intervals of time.
Similarly, written words cannot construct a sentence when they are separated by long intervals of space.
Thus the words ‘bring a cow’ will not make a sentence when uttered on three days or written on three pages, even though they possess the first two marks of akanksd or expectancy and yogyata or fitness.
Tatparya as a condition of verbal knowledge stands for the meaning intended to be conveyed by a sentence.
A word may mean different things in different cases. Whether it means this or that thing in a particular case depends on the intention of the person who uses the word.
To understand the meaning of a sentence, therefore, we must consider the intention of the writer or the speaker who uses it.
Thus when a man is asked to bring a ‘bat’ he is at a loss to understand whether he is told to bring a particular kind of animal or a playing implement, for the word means both.
This can be ascertained only if we know the intention of the speaker. Hence the understanding of sentence depends on the understanding of its tatparya or intended meaning.
In the case of ordinary sentences used by human beings, we can ascertain their tatparya from the context (prakarana) in which they are used.
For the understanding of the Vedic texts, we are to take the help of the various rules of interpretation systematised by the Mimamsa.