Subtle differences between paired Greek words

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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PhillipLebsack
Posts: 63
Joined: January 17th, 2018, 10:31 am

Subtle differences between paired Greek words

Post by PhillipLebsack » November 4th, 2018, 8:30 pm

Χαίρετε,

I've been very vexed by certain Greek words that are given the exact same or similar glosses. I understand that it is possible to have two different words mean essentially the exact same thing in a language. I'm okay with that and I can live with it (though it kind of irks me). This concept is something students may fail to grasp and err in early, so I am cautious to keep this thing in mind. But I'll add that even some words in English that are the same have slightly different or subtlely different meanings. Like "see" and to "look" in English still arguably have a slightly different meaning, though they mean the same thing. The definition of "see" is more focused on perceiving with the eyes, whereas the definition of "look" is more focused on "directing one's gaze in a certain direction". That may seem like an insignificant difference, but you would never know that it would be insignificant unless you truly understood the subtle difference that there is in the first place. And i'll also add that some words that have the same meaning actually have a bigger difference than the one between "look" and "see". Take "hit" and "smack" for example. Clearly one is more specific than the other. In Greek, I would give the example of αλλος and ετερος. The former means another of the same kind and the latter means another of a different kind. Same gloss would be given, but there is a subtle difference that you would just need to remember. The list could go on, but I'm sure you get the point.

With all of that said I also think it is equally a mistake to think that all words that are given the exact same gloss mean the exact same thing, and careful study of several (or at least a few good) sources are necessary for gaining a more thorough understanding of the semantic range of the word. Especially since I have noticed that logos has several mistakes everywhere. (For example, it gave the gloss "altar" for αλλοιοω instead of "alter" for me one time. This was surely just a typo, but I have had cases where it was just wrong in the gloss or information given.)

So, I've come across several words that have really been enigmatic for me when viewed side by side. I'm just asking for anyone's insight or guidance here for how to better understand these words. I'm also kind of asking for confirmation on the first pair. These are all words that I have checked for on BDAG, NA28 Lexicon, and occasionally Liddell-Scott. I'm just focusing on the difference (however subtle) between the words, and not necessarily the entire semantic range of each word individually, unless that helps.

καιρος vs κρονος vs ωρα The former is a defined period of time and the middle is an undefined period of time? The latter could be either?
γινωσκω vs οιδα
αιτεω vs ἐρωτάω
ἀνάκειμαι vs ἀναπίπτω
γεμίζω vs ἐμπίμπλημι vs πληρόω
πονηρός vs κακος vs ἀδικία
οὐδέπω vs οὔπω vs οὐκέτι
ποῦ vs πόθεν vs ὅπου
φημί vs μηνύω
καθως vs ουτως
κρυπτός vs λάθρᾳ
κλαίω vs δακρύω
δεῦρο vs ερχομαι
οδε vs ουτος
πληθυνω vs αυξανω

I have more words I need to add to this list. So i'm just wondering if I can update this thread with more words as I come across them?

I greatly appreciate anyone's comments here.
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PhillipLebsack
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Joined: January 17th, 2018, 10:31 am

Re: Subtle differences between paired Greek words

Post by PhillipLebsack » November 4th, 2018, 9:13 pm

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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Subtle differences between paired Greek words

Post by Stephen Carlson » November 5th, 2018, 1:29 am

All of these seem fruitful for a proper lexical study. I don't know if any have been done.

(Some of your examples seem to involve homonymity in the English glosses, however.)
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Jacob Rhoden
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Re: Subtle differences between paired Greek words

Post by Jacob Rhoden » November 5th, 2018, 7:01 am

Thinking about γινωσκω vs οιδα will probably help you think through the issues as it connects to other verbs, see:
  • Oida and ginōskō and verbal aspect in Pauline usage, Erickson, Richard, Westminster Theological Journal
  • Reimagining Οἶδα: Indo-European Etymology, Morphology, and Semantics Point to Its Aspect, Sedlacek, James, Conversations with the Biblical World, 36 2016
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Subtle differences between paired Greek words

Post by Barry Hofstetter » November 5th, 2018, 10:55 am

PhillipLebsack wrote:
November 4th, 2018, 8:30 pm
Χαίρετε,

I've been very vexed by certain Greek words that are given the exact same or similar glosses. I understand that it is possible to have two different words mean essentially the exact same thing in a language. I'm okay with that and I can live with it (though it kind of irks me).
It sort of upsets me too. It makes me angry. It even ticks me off.
This concept is something students may fail to grasp and err in early, so I am cautious to keep this thing in mind. But I'll add that even some words in English that are the same have slightly different or subtlely different meanings. Like "see" and to "look" in English still arguably have a slightly different meaning, though they mean the same thing. The definition of "see" is more focused on perceiving with the eyes, whereas the definition of "look" is more focused on "directing one's gaze in a certain direction". That may seem like an insignificant difference, but you would never know that it would be insignificant unless you truly understood the subtle difference that there is in the first place. And i'll also add that some words that have the same meaning actually have a bigger difference than the one between "look" and "see". Take "hit" and "smack" for example. Clearly one is more specific than the other. In Greek, I would give the example of αλλος and ετερος. The former means another of the same kind and the latter means another of a different kind. Same gloss would be given, but there is a subtle difference that you would just need to remember. The list could go on, but I'm sure you get the point.

With all of that said I also think it is equally a mistake to think that all words that are given the exact same gloss mean the exact same thing, and careful study of several (or at least a few good) sources are necessary for gaining a more thorough understanding of the semantic range of the word. Especially since I have noticed that logos has several mistakes everywhere. (For example, it gave the gloss "altar" for αλλοιοω instead of "alter" for me one time. This was surely just a typo, but I have had cases where it was just wrong in the gloss or information given.)
You've surely grasped the basic idea here. I would suggest that we normally only have practical or approximate synonyms. It's really a matter of usage in context. Some things just sound better in one context than in another. As native speakers of a language, we usually make these choices intuitively (example -- I almost wrote "instinctively" -- why did I change my mind and what's the difference between the two?). To expand on what Stephen said, no English gloss corresponds precisely to the Greek, it is simply that in a particular context, the semantic range of the English gloss and the semantic range of the Greek lexical item happen to intersect (there should be a nice graphic to post, but I'm to lazy to create one). Of course, there are words that come down as cognates that have practically the same range of meaning, and loan words, calques and technical terms tend to have the identical meaning.
So, I've come across several words that have really been enigmatic for me when viewed side by side. I'm just asking for anyone's insight or guidance here for how to better understand these words. I'm also kind of asking for confirmation on the first pair. These are all words that I have checked for on BDAG, NA28 Lexicon, and occasionally Liddell-Scott. I'm just focusing on the difference (however subtle) between the words, and not necessarily the entire semantic range of each word individually, unless that helps.
Commenting on some of your specific examples, these are just off the top of my head, so take it cum grano salis.
καιρος vs κρονος vs ωρα The former is a defined period of time and the middle is an undefined period of time? The latter could be either?
ὥρα often refers to a specific point of time. There's a reason that Greek uses the term ὡρολόγιον for sundial.
γινωσκω vs οιδα
Don't we wish we knew? :lol:
αιτεω vs ἐρωτάω
I think of αἰτέω as ask in general, and particular to ask for something or make a request, but ἐρωτάω as to make an inquiry.
πονηρός vs κακος vs ἀδικία
You are comparing here two adjectives and a noun. I think of πονηρός as referring to moral corruption, κακός as generically bad, and ἀδικος as unjust or unrighteous.
οὐδέπω vs οὔπω vs οὐκέτι
The first two as "not yet" but οὐκετι "no longer."
ποῦ vs πόθεν vs ὅπου
Where? From where and wherever.
φημί vs μηνύω
Make a statement/report information.
καθως vs ουτως
as/just as vs. so/thus
κρυπτός vs λάθρᾳ
Adj. hidden vs. adv. secretly.
κλαίω vs δακρύω
A lot of overlap, but crying out loud with the voice vs. shedding tears.
δεῦρο vs ερχομαι
δεῦρο is a frozen form either used imperatively or adverbially. ἔρχομαι is simply the verb.
οδε vs ουτος


The former was originally catophoric, the latter anaphoric. I'm not sure this distinction holds in the NT.
I have more words I need to add to this list. So i'm just wondering if I can update this thread with more words as I come across them?

I greatly appreciate anyone's comments here.
You can add as many words as you like, but a little more attention to the lexical entries in BDAG and/or LSJ would have cleared up most of them for you.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Joined: August 9th, 2012, 4:19 pm

Re: Subtle differences between paired Greek words

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » November 5th, 2018, 3:02 pm

Some theoretical reading might help you clarify your work. What do you mean by meaning? For example, sense and reference need to be distinguished. Semantic domains and semantic networks are different notions which combine to form a "framework" for dealing with meaning in texts. What is a semantic prototype? Can prototypes be combined with domains?

My first exposure to semantic theory was working with several Artificial Intelligence colleagues 30 years ago. Here is a recent paper talking about this. The ideas are not new, been around in some form since the late 1960s cold-war federal government (US) initiative to automate some aspects of intelligence analysis of texts[1] from the Soviet block.

Semantic Networks Thesis:

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3050/f ... f5a0c1.pdf

[1] of ... of; A construct chain, somewhat awkward in English

postscript:

There are of course books on lexical semantics of the new testament but they have been mentioned many times. Louw & Nida, 1992. Moises Silva 1983, several editions, etc.
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C. Stirling Bartholomew

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