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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern Studies
Professor of Sanskrit
Email address: 
+44 (0)1223 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 ran from November 2011 to November 2014.

Teaching responsibilities: 

Dr Vergiani teaches Sanskrit

Supervision information: 

Prof. Vergiani is happy to supervise graduate students on work relating to his research.

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. 

Current PhD students

Madhulika Chebrol: Critical analysis of the confluence of Mīmāṃsā hermeneutics and Dharma texts
Hershini Soneji: Polemical Rhetoric in the Post-Bhāṣya Vedānta Tradition

Articles, Book Chapters etc

Scribbling in Newar on the Margins of a Sanskrit Manuscript (Add.2832, University Library, Cambridge) Manuscripts between Languages, Occasional Papers M. Ni Mhaonaigh (ed.) & M. J. Clarke (ed.) (2021)
Some of Bhartṛhari’s Insights on Complex Utterances R. Torella (ed.) Italian Scholars on India, vol. I (Classical Indology) (2021)
The practice of pratinidhi : Bhartṛhari’s views on substitution Essays in Honour of Paṇḍita Anjaneya Sarma (2021)
Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī. A Turning Point in Indian Intellectual History Rivista degli Studi Orientali, XCII, 3-4 pp. 11-35 (2019)
A tentative history of the Sanskrit grammatical traditions in Nepal through the manuscript collections V. Vergiani (ed.) & D. Cuneo (ed.) & C. Formigatti (ed.) Indic Manuscript Cultures through the Ages. Material, Textual, and Historical Investigations pp. 77-130 (2017)
Indic Manuscript Cultures through the Ages. Material, Textual, and Historical Investigations Proceedings of the workshops of the Sanskrit Manuscripts Project, Cambridge V. Vergiani (ed.) & D. Cuneo (ed.) & C. Formigatti (ed.) (2017)
Bhartṛhari on Language, Perception and Consciousness Jonardon Ganeri (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy (First published online August 2016. DOI:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199314621.013.50) pp. 231-252 (2016)
Helārāja on omniscience, āgama and the origin of language Eli Franco (ed.) & Isabelle Ratié (ed.) Around Abhinavagupta. Aspects of the Intellectual History of Kashmir from the Ninth to the Eleventh Century pp. 531-608 (2016)
The concept of prayoktṛdharma in the Vākyapadīya and some later works. The expression of feelings through words: a linguistic and philosophical outlook Bulletin d’Études Indiennes, 32 (2014) (actual date of publication: December 2015) pp. 268-292 (2015)
Āgamārthānusāribhiḥ. Helārāja’s use of quotations and other referential devices in his commentary on the Vākyapadīya Journal of Indian Philosophy, 43, 2-3 (First published online August 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s10781-014-9237-4) (2015)
The adoption of Bhartṛhari’s classification of the grammatical object in Cēṉāvaraiyar’s commentary on the Tolkāppiyam Whitney Cox (ed.) & Vincenzo Vergiani (ed.) Bilingualism and cross-cultural fertilisation: Sanskrit and Tamil in medieval India pp. 161-197 (2013)
An annotated translation into Italian of the first and the twelfth chapters of the Mānavadharmaśāstra F. Sferra (ed.) Hinduismo antico. Dalle origini vediche ai Purāṇa pp. 397-430 (2010)

Further publications

Undergraduate courses taught