Alternate spelling or homonym?

Alan Bunning
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Alternate spelling or homonym?

Post by Alan Bunning » June 6th, 2016, 3:06 pm

In parsing my collation of manuscripts (http://greekcntr.org), I have encountered another difficulty where I have to determine whether a word is an alternate spelling or homonym. Common sound-alike letter substitutions such as αι = ε, ει = ι, ο = ω, etc. often lead to alternative spellings, but in some cases they could also be a different word. For example, καινοσ could be considered an alternative spelling of κενοσ, or it could be a homonym that has a different meaning (new vs. empty). Likewise, ειδηται could be an alternative spelling of ιδητε or it could be a different word (to know vs. to see). (I think Stephen Carlson published something on the latter, but I don’t remember where I read it or what it said). And then there are hundreds or words with the ending of τε or ται which again could be considered a phonetical misspelling or a different intended meaning.

I see 3 different ways of handling these situations when a word follows the rules for an alternative spelling in the same position in the collation, yet could also be considered a different word.

1. Parse it as a different word, even if it leads to a nonsensical reading.
2. Parse it as a different word unless it leads to a nonsensical reading, in which case it should be considered an alternative spelling of the word that makes sense.
3. Parse it as being the same word, and in that case pick the spelling of the majority, or the one that makes the most sense?

I have tried to go with 2, but probably did not do it very consistently and now I am wondering if maybe I should have gone with option 1.

Take for example the καινοσ/κενοσ issue:

- κενοσ (empty) is the preferred reading, καινοσ (new) might work but seems odd: 1Cor. 15:58, Jas. 2:20
- κενοσ (empty) is the preferred reading, καινοσ (new) seems nonsensical: 2Cor. 6:1, Gal. 2:2, Phil. 2:16
- καινοσ (new) is the preferred reading, κενοσ (empty) might work but seems odd: Rev. 3:12
- καινοσ (new) is the preferred reading, κενοσ (empty) seems nonsensical: Rev. 2:17, 21:5
- could go either way: Eph. 4:5, Col. 2:8, 2Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1.

This is not all of the occurrences of those words, but only the ones where there is a difference. With 2Pet. 3:13 and Rev. 21:1 it actually created a doctrinal issue for theologians to argue about. How would you handle this issue in general?
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Alternate spelling or homonym?

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 6th, 2016, 8:10 pm

Perhaps "homophone".

At different era during ghe transmission process, there would have been different mistakes that could have been made.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
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cwconrad
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Re: Alternate spelling or homonym?

Post by cwconrad » June 7th, 2016, 7:18 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:Perhaps "homophone".

At different era during ghe transmission process, there would have been different mistakes that could have been made.
I would concur with Stephen's term "homophone." Upon reflection, moreover, it occurs to me that there's a case to be made for preservation of archaic orthographies in the face of "modernized" simplifications: καῖνος "brand-new" is spelled as it was pronounced in a bygone era, whereas in NT Koine it was pronounced in the same manner as κένος "empty", and the pitch-marks were invented to represent an articulation that has already become obsolete; so even in English we retain "night" and "light" in prose usage even while our commercials refer to "nite spots" and "lite beer" -- and we retain the distinct spellings of the more-or-less homophones "to", "too" and "two" to avoid confusion that is less likely in oral communication.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Alan Bunning
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Re: Alternate spelling or homonym?

Post by Alan Bunning » June 7th, 2016, 9:39 am

cwconrad wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:Perhaps "homophone".

At different era during ghe transmission process, there would have been different mistakes that could have been made.
I would concur with Stephen's term "homophone." Upon reflection, moreover, it occurs to me that there's a case to be made for preservation of archaic orthographies in the face of "modernized" simplifications: καῖνος "brand-new" is spelled as it was pronounced in a bygone era, whereas in NT Koine it was pronounced in the same manner as κένος "empty", and the pitch-marks were invented to represent an articulation that has already become obsolete; so even in English we retain "night" and "light" in prose usage even while our commercials refer to "nite spots" and "lite beer" -- and we retain the distinct spellings of the more-or-less homophones "to", "too" and "two" to avoid confusion that is less likely in oral communication.
Okay, but I am not sure how this helps me solve my problem. Should I classify them by meaning (ignoring the spelling), by spelling (ignoring the meaning), or combination of both? In the example I gave, there are many other verses where all the same manuscripts agree on the spelling (which corresponds to the preferred reading) so they seem to be aware of the difference. And yet, then there are the verses I listed where they differ. Should I assume they knew what they were doing with the spelling to imply a different word? But then, what do I do about the nonsensical readings?
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Alternate spelling or homonym?

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 7th, 2016, 9:54 am

I suspect you have to do this on a case-by-case basis. When two possible interpretations are reasonable, you have to allow for them both. When it's clearly just a spelling variation that does not affect meaning, you don't.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Alternate spelling or homonym?

Post by Stephen Carlson » June 7th, 2016, 7:09 pm

In my study of Galatians, I only considered an interchange between αι and ε (as well as ει and ι) to be a non-orthographic textual variant if the reading produces a syntactically coherent form (i.e., not ungrammatical nonsense) with a different meaning. This probably overstates the variants, however, because most of these tend to be between second-person plural actives in -ετε and third-person singular middles in -εται, in a context where Paul is directly addressing his readers.
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Alan Bunning
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Re: Alternate spelling or homonym?

Post by Alan Bunning » June 7th, 2016, 7:53 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:In my study of Galatians, I only considered an interchange between αι and ε (as well as ει and ι) to be a non-orthographic textual variant if the reading produces a syntactically coherent form (i.e., not ungrammatical nonsense) with a different meaning. This probably overstates the variants, however, because most of these tend to be between second-person plural actives in -ετε and third-person singular middles in -εται, in a context where Paul is directly addressing his readers.
That kind of sounds like my option 2 which I have tried to do so far, but I worry about my own subjectivity. For example, what would you do with these 2 cases:

- κενοσ (empty) is the preferred reading, καινοσ (new) might work but seems odd: 1Cor. 15:58, Jas. 2:20.
- καινοσ (new) is the preferred reading, κενοσ (empty) might work but seems odd: Rev. 3:12

Would you consider them variants even though the variant reading might seem a little odd or consider them the same word with alternative spellings?
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Alternate spelling or homonym?

Post by Stephen Carlson » June 7th, 2016, 8:03 pm

Alan Bunning wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:In my study of Galatians, I only considered an interchange between αι and ε (as well as ει and ι) to be a non-orthographic textual variant if the reading produces a syntactically coherent form (i.e., not ungrammatical nonsense) with a different meaning. This probably overstates the variants, however, because most of these tend to be between second-person plural actives in -ετε and third-person singular middles in -εται, in a context where Paul is directly addressing his readers.
That kind of sounds like my option 2 which I have tried to do so far, but I worry about my own subjectivity. For example, what would you do with these 2 cases:

- κενοσ (empty) is the preferred reading, καινοσ (new) might work but seems odd: 1Cor. 15:58, Jas. 2:20.
- καινοσ (new) is the preferred reading, κενοσ (empty) might work but seems odd: Rev. 3:12

Would you consider them variants even though the variant reading might seem a little odd or consider them the same word with alternative spellings?
Well, I had treated Gal 6:15 ἀλλὰ κενὴ κτίσις ("but an empty creation") as a separate variant, even though most readers with a brain would see it as merely an orthographic variant. But in my study, I cared about variants at this stage of the analysis only to identify which MSS were relatively closely related, not whether the scribe intended a distinct sense.
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Alan Bunning
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Re: Alternate spelling or homonym?

Post by Alan Bunning » June 10th, 2016, 10:17 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Alan Bunning wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:In my study of Galatians, I only considered an interchange between αι and ε (as well as ει and ι) to be a non-orthographic textual variant if the reading produces a syntactically coherent form (i.e., not ungrammatical nonsense) with a different meaning. This probably overstates the variants, however, because most of these tend to be between second-person plural actives in -ετε and third-person singular middles in -εται, in a context where Paul is directly addressing his readers.
That kind of sounds like my option 2 which I have tried to do so far, but I worry about my own subjectivity. For example, what would you do with these 2 cases:

- κενοσ (empty) is the preferred reading, καινοσ (new) might work but seems odd: 1Cor. 15:58, Jas. 2:20.
- καινοσ (new) is the preferred reading, κενοσ (empty) might work but seems odd: Rev. 3:12

Would you consider them variants even though the variant reading might seem a little odd or consider them the same word with alternative spellings?
Well, I had treated Gal 6:15 ἀλλὰ κενὴ κτίσις ("but an empty creation") as a separate variant, even though most readers with a brain would see it as merely an orthographic variant. But in my study, I cared about variants at this stage of the analysis only to identify which MSS were relatively closely related, not whether the scribe intended a distinct sense.
Now you got me wondering if I should do the same thing for the very same reason. If the computer auto-generates an apparatus, would we want to know that there is a variant there or merely an alternative spelling?
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Alternate spelling or homonym?

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 12th, 2016, 10:35 pm

Have you found cases where the middle-passive infinitive in -εσθαι replaces/is replaced by the second person indicative/imperative -εσθε, and both could make sense?
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