Semantic Domains Across Languages
Randall Tan, presiding.
4:00-6:30, Saturday, Nov 23, HB-Sapphire 400B
Louw and Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains was the first lexicon of the Biblical Languages that made use of semantic domains. This lexicon was published approximately 30 years ago and we want to celebrate that with an overview of different initiatives relating to Bible Research and Bible Translation that make use of semantic domains. We will discuss different semantic frameworks and the pros and cons of each of them. Another question that will be discussed is whether semantic domains are universal or language-specific and whether it is possible to create mappings from one semantic framework to another. A panel discussion will conclude the session.
- Ronald Moe: Categorizing Reality: Meaning, Semantic Domains, and Language
One of the cognitive abilities that all people share is the ability to categorize reality. Linguists call such categories “semantic domains.” Linguists have investigated domains in a variety of languages and discovered that most domains are shared by all languages because of universals of human experience and universals of semantics. Obviously there are differences of culture and each language combines semantic elements into an infinite variety of word senses. But it is the similarities in semantics that enable us to learn any language on earth and to translate from one language to another. Older work such as Roget’s Thesaurus and more recent work such as Louw and Nida’s Greek lexicon have developed lists of semantic domains for various languages. I developed a standard (and mostly universal) list of domains that has proven useful in collecting words in a variety of languages around the world. Recent work by Reinier de Blois for Hebrew and by me for Greek has created an opportunity to relate the lexicons of Hebrew and Greek to any language on earth. This has created opportunities in the fields of Bible study software and Bible translation. This talk explores the challenges and benefits of linking various lists of domains to words in Hebrew, Greek, and vernacular lexicons and words in the Biblical texts.
- Reinier de Blois: Semantic Domains in Biblical Hebrew Lexicography
This paper focuses on the concept of semantic domains as it is used in the Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, a lexicographical project that was first launched in 2000 and is still ongoing. This project makes use of the cognitive linguistic principle that meaning is structured and that this structure should be made visible in the lexicon. Even though Biblical Hebrew is no longer a living language with native speakers that can be interviewed, we can still deduct the structure of meaning with the help of a semantic analysis of the available text corpus. We will discuss the criteria undergirding the postulation of different lexical and contextual senses and the role that semantic domains play in this process.
- Kevin Warfel: Rapid Word Collection for Minority Languages (as It Impacts Bible Translation)
Mastery of the target language is a fundamental ingredient in the production of a high-quality translation. A Bible translation team inherits a rich set of resources for Greek, Hebrew, and languages of wider communication. But while professional translators say that a bilingual dictionary and a thesaurus of the target language are their primary tools, many Bible translation teams are working without the benefit of even an organized word list, let alone a completed dictionary, thesaurus, or grammatical description.
In this talk, we show how semantic domains can be used in an entertaining way to help native speakers provide the data needed to create a semantically classified word list (i.e., rudimentary thesaurus) for their language. We will argue that this product of the word-collection effort is of great and immediate value to translators, whether it is polished and published or not.
This talk is based on personal experience gained from Rapid Word Collection workshops in the following languages: Lotud (2013, Malaysia), Kaansa (2014, Burkina Faso), Koorete (2014, Ethiopia), Gwama (2014, Ethiopia), Bissa Barka (2015, Burkina Faso), Cøllø (Shilluk) (2015, South Sudan), Dangaleat (2016, Chad), Gusilay (2017, Senegal), Acoma (2017, USA), Djimini (2017, Côte d’Ivoire), Crow (2018, USA).
- Jonathan Robie: Word Meaning Across Languages: Practical Tools for Translators
The meaning of words is very dependent on context. Because translators carefully consider the meaning of each word in a passage, the biblical text is an ideal hub for comparing word meanings across languages. Instead of asking translators to compare multiple lexicons—a complicated and time-consuming task!—we can provide the relevant sense(s) of each word in Hebrew or Greek, translations in languages of wider communication, and lexical resources in the target language. Most translators use Paratext as their translation platform. This talk focuses on tools in current and potential versions of Paratext that can be used to bridge between languages and their semantic domains, finding the appropriate definition even when their semantic domains are based on different underlying models. Other tools can be used to track translation equivalents that have been used for a given sense of a Greek or Hebrew word, enabling consistent translation. This talk demonstrates some tools, imagines others, and explores how they change what translation teams do.