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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern Studies
Reader in Sanskrit
Fellow of: 
Queens' College

An early interest in mathematics led me to the study of mathematical logic, which in turn led me to the study of philosophical logic, philosophy of language and linguistics. Realising that the Indians had made amazing contributions to these areas from as early as 500 BCE, I took up the study of Sanskrit (and also of Prakrit, Pali and Chinese). After studies also in Paris and Uppsala and with scholars in India, I was awarded the Magister Artium degree in Indian Philology in Oslo in 1980, and later the Doctor Philosophiae degree for the dissertation Substitution and change: foundations of traditional Indian hermeneutics. I arrived in Cambridge in 1989 as University Lecturer in Indian Studies (Sanskrit), and became Reader in Sanskrit in 2003. Engaged also in Pali and Prakrit studies, I am the Honorary Secretary of the Pali Text Society. I am a Fellow of Queens’ College.

Teaching responsibilities: 

Dr Kahrs teaches Sanskrit

Research interests: 

From an early concern with Sanskrit grammar and philosophy of language, including Buddhist theories of meaning, my interest came to concentrate on the nature of the Buddhist-Brahmanical controversies in the field of epistemology. However, as my research progressed, my attention shifted to the question of whether one might describe a pattern of consistencies underlying Indian Śāstric exposition in general. On a larger scale, I became concerned with the questions of how classical Indian culture determined what something or someone meant or believed, how meaning was created and negotiated, how cultural change was promoted and how it was opposed. Such questions necessarily involve an extensive study of texts from various areas of Sanskrit literature, the indigenous processing of these texts, and the models and means of interpretation which were used in that processing. This led me again to investigate more carefully the patterns of the Indian linguistic and ritualistic traditions, particularly vyākaraṇa, nirvacanaśāstra and mīmāṃsā, as well as Indian philosophy and religion in general, including Buddhism. I have also worked on the Pali grammarians.


Indian Semantic Analysis: the nirvacana tradition Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1998)

Articles, Book Chapters etc

Action, Being and Brahman Journal of Hindu Studies, vol. 6 (3) pp. 317–332 (2013)
Commentaries, translations, and lexica: some further reflections on Buddhism and philology Journal of the Pali Text Society XXIX pp. 137–51 (2007)
What is a tadbhava word? Indo-Iranian Journal 35 pp. 225–49 (1992)

Undergraduate courses taught