Some of those who follow the ancient path say that sphota and nada are different in nature. Others say that we divide by thought what is really one into two. Just as the flame of the firestick is the cause of other flames being produced, so the sphota in the buddhi is the cause of the variety of sounds we hear (nada). It is first thought out by the mind, then associated with some object, and then grasped as sabda. Nada is produced in succession; but sphota has no before or after. Although not successively produced, it appears as if gradually made and thus appears divided. Just as a reflection [of the sun, for instance,] seems to take on the motion of the water in which it exists because it is subject to that motion, so also is the relation of sphota and nada.This text has echoes of Augustine on the inner word; or at least, it hovers around the same area. Nada is the utterance - also known by others as dhvani; it bears all the marks of manifold particularity (difference of pitch, accent, etc.). Sphota - also known by others as artha or meaning - is the sense-giving internal cause of nada.
We see Bhartrhari struggling with the relationship between sphota and nada: some say they are different; others say they are one. [But the problem is not really the relationship between meaning and utterance; the problem is the relationship between intelligere and dicere, the moment of the insight and the emergence of the inner word.]
Sphota is "first thought out by the mind", "then associated with some object", and "then grasped as sabda." First thought out by the mind is fine; what is "then associated with some object"? Is it the moment of identification / objectification? Or does B hold here for some simple application of the eternal sphota to some concrete individual? And what is "then grasped as sabda"? What is sabda here?
"Nada is produced in succession; but sphota has no before or after." Very much like Augustine describing the inner word as beyond any particular language, etc.
At any rate: B holds clearly for a distinction between sphota and nada.
The problem is that he has a theory of eternal sphotas, rather than sphotas / meanings that are actively grasped in data.