Words and Sentences

     While in general meaning may be conveyed by sentences or larger units,
that seems to create a practical problem in at least two cases.  If it
is the case that the context solves most ambiguities, and individual
words don't especially matter, why do writers and speakers (all of
us, I'd argue) often pause, trying to mentally find just the "right" word?
Sounds like a waste of time if words alone don't convey meaning.
Second, this does not address how to understand the meaning of a sentence
in which one or more key words admit of multiple meanings.  This is not a
case of ambiguity.  This is a case of understanding which senses are
possible and from those, which are meant.  When someone using Californian
slang says "That's really bad", the meaning of bad is not ambiguous,
but the word "bad" does have multiple meanings and the intent of the
sentence hinges on which of those meanings is intended.  If we are
only going to look for meaning at the sentence level, how do you
propose to come to terms with Paul saying Jesus is a hilastErion?
The meaning of this word is crucial for what the sentence means,
and this word's "meaning" determines what the sentence means, not
the other way around, and so in all cases (except perhaps for
political speeches that drone on saying nothng -- intentionally),
words may not stand on their own, but the postings I've seen today
seem to be saying we can dismiss looking at the usages of a given
word in determining its use and meaning in a given sentence.
How would those who have expressed these opionions suggest
understanding things like, John's use of alEtheia, or Paul's
use of charis?  I'd usggest a much more symbiotic relationship
between words and sentences than seems to have been expressed
so far.  Responses?

Ken Litwak
IBM, San Jose, CA