Words and Such
Date: Wed, 11 May 94 12:19 CDT
From: Keith Massey <NAPH@macc.wisc.edu>
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Having lurked at a distance for some time from the word study/equivalence
discussion, I think it's time to jump in. The whole emphasis on word studies is
generated by a view of Scripture which our knowledge of language and textual
transmission cannot support. Meaning, as it can at all be theologically
significant, is conveyed on the level of the sentence, not the word.
More generally, at the level of the utterance (since not all
utterances are sentences). And more generally still, at the level of
continuous text (or continuous dialogue, whether spoken or written,
when we turn away from Scripture and other such texts), since
unintentional ambiguity that exists at the utterance level is
typically resolved at the text (dialogue) level.
When any of
us has something to say, we express it by the use of sentences and passages.
What we intend never stands or falls on one word. True, one word could be the
source of a misunderstanding, if there is ambiguity. Context almost always
clears this up.
Precisely. (Of course, sometimes the ambiguity is deliberate.)
This message convinces me that my previous message about lexical
semantics, which elicited an enormous silence punctuated only by one
shrill shriek, was a failure, since its point was precisely that
disambiguation takes place at the level of the text (dialogue), not at
the level of the individual word. I'll see if I can put together a
less-compressed, and more accessible, variant. Because, from my point
of view, y'all are thrashing around in obvious unawareness of even the
basics of lexical and compositional semantics that are relevant to any
discussion of ambiguity and word meaning.