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Dr Vincenzo Vergiani

History of linguistic ideas and the philosophy of language in ancient India
Dr Vincenzo Vergiani

University Senior Lecturer in Sanskrit

Office Phone: 01223 335135


Born and brought up in Naples, I went to university in Rome and did an MA in psychology. After working for a few years as a freelance translator from English and French, I went back to university with the intention to study linguistics. Instead, I ended up becoming a Sanskritist, a turn of events that I have never regretted. I did a second MA in Sanskrit and later a Ph.D. in Classical and Medieval Indian Studies from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. I was lecturer in Indology there for a few years before being hired in Cambridge in 2007.  Between 2005 and 2006 I was affiliated to the EFEO (French School of Asian Studies) in Pondicherry and took this opportunity to begin studying Classical Tamil. In 2011 I was awarded an AHRC Standard Route research grant for the project "The intellectual and religious traditions of South Asia as seen through the Sanskrit manuscript collections of the University Library, Cambridge", which began in November 2011 and will end in November 2014.

Subject groups/Research projects

Indian Studies:

Research Interests

My main areas of research are the history of linguistic ideas and the philosophy of language in ancient India, with a focus on the period from the late first millennium BCE to the early second millennium CE. I am also investigating the role grammar – especially (but not exclusively) Pāṇinian grammar – played in the history of the Sanskrit language and the broader socio-political context of classical and medieval South Asia.

At the centre of my interests is the work of Bhartṛhari, the influential 5th-century Brahmanical philosopher known for his innovative views on language and epistemology, and of his 10th-century Kashmiri commentator Helārāja. My long-overdue study and annotated translation of the Sādhanasamuddeśa from the third book of the Vākyapadīya of Bhartṛhari, with the commentary of Helārāja, is now in its final stages of preparation.

In the past I have been one of the members of an international team working on the critical edition of the Kāśikā Vṛtti (7th c. CE), the first complete commentary on the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini, the initial part of which was published in 2009 (Studies in the Kāśikāvṛtti. The section on pratyāhāras).

In recent years I have also become interested in the Tamil grammatical tradition and its relation with Sanskrit grammar, as part of the complex process of acculturation of the Dravidian South that took place from the first millennium CE and brought it into the pan-Indian cultural horizon.  In 2009 this led to the organisation in Cambridge of an international workshop on “Bilingualism and Cross-cultural Fertilisation: Sanskrit and Tamil in Mediaeval India”, co-convened with Dr Whitney Cox (then at SOAS), thanks to a British Academy Conference Support Grant. 

Key Publications

2013 Bilingualism and cross-cultural fertilisation: Sanskrit and Tamil in medieval India, edited by Whitney Cox and Vincenzo Vergiani, Pondicherry : Institut français de Pondichéry : École française d'Extrême-Orient, including my contribution:

“The adoption of Bhartṛhari’s classification of the grammatical object in Cēṉāvaraiyar’s commentary on the Tolkāppiyam”, pp. 161-197.

2011 Studies in the Kāśikāvṛtti. The section on pratyāhāras. Critical edition, translation and other contributions, edited by Pascale Haag and Vincenzo Vergiani, Anthem Press, London, 2011, including:

“Critical Edition of the section on pratyāhāras”, co-signed with S. Bhate and P. Haag;

“The section on pratyāhāras. An annotated translation”, co-signed with P. Haag;

and my contributions:

“Methodology and results”, pp. 31-51;

“A Quotation from the Mahābhāṣyadīpikā in the Kāśikāvṛtti”, pp. 161-189;

“The relationships between the manuscripts”, pp. 243-262.

2010 An annotated translation into Italian of the first and the twelfth chapters of the Mānavadharmaśāstra, in collaboration with Federico Squarcini, in F. Sferra (ed.), Hinduismo antico. Dalle origini vediche ai Purāṇa, I Meridiani, Classici dello Spirito, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Milano, pp. 397-430.

See more here (link to PDF of publications)