RE: Signe, sense, concept and reference

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Sun Mar 02 1997 - 05:46:56 EST

Dear Lee,

You wrote:
<What is the difference between the "concept" and the
<totality of "senses" that may be obtained?

A camera and a house may be used to illustrate the
differences between `concept` and `sense`. If we take a
picture of the house from some distance, we see the whole of
it. If we take a picture from a plane, we also get the whole
but it looks very different. If we take a close-up picture,
just a door and a window may be seen on the picture. The
house is the concept and the different sides of it focused
upon in different contexts are the senses, but all these
`senses` clearly relate to the concept `house`, and in the
picture of the whole house, `concept`and `sense` are very
close. (One problem with the illustration is that a house is
a definite object with clear boundaries, while the concepts
of our mind have `fuzzu edges` and we often have a concept
without being able to define it definitely, but in a context
we are able to see the sense.) Contexts therefore add little
or no information, just make a part of the concept visible
for inspection/interpretation.

When do the `senses` of a word represent different concepts?
The proverbial five blind men who should describe an
elephant may illustrate it. One described the belly, another
the tail and so fort. Everything they said were true, but
they lacked the concept `elephant`.
Language is evolving, and when the senses of a word become
so far apart that the mind no longer can relate them to one
concept (as the parts of the elephant), a new concept is
born. In the case of KOSMOS the Greek mind would relate both
the sense `world` and `apparel` to the same concept. In
English there are two concepts.

A very good illustration is `spirit` and `soul`
(philologically speaking!). The different senses of
RUACH/PNEUMA - spirit , spirit creature, wind, mental
inclination - and so forth, may be viewed as the blind mens
description of the parts of the elephant. Etymologically
they spring from one concept related to something invisible
that creates visible manifestations. This concept was lost,
and a host of new concepts were in time created. Therefore
the word must be translated differently.
Regarding NEPHESH/PSYXH the situation is different. I have
been through all their occurrences in OT/NT and find only
one concept. So when the word is translated with 20-30
different English words, form `life` to `appetite`, the
concept is completely lost, and the reader is confused.

<Some words are more referential and others are less
<referential. For example, "Plato" is highly referential,
<referring to a particular person. "Law" is partly
<referential, but "beauty" is almost non-referential.
<Highly referential words may be defined by studying the
<referent, but non-referential words must be defined by the

This is important! AGAPH is a non-referential word, and is
also in idiomatic translations translated by one English
word. This illustrates that words serve as `semantic
signals` which the reader must interprete by help of the

<Are you re-defining "Aktionsart" and "aspect"? Your
<definitions are different from what I have read in other,
<older sources.

I use `Aktionsart` in the traditional meaning as the
lexical, objective contents of a verb, which cannot be
altered by time, aspect or mood.
My use of `aspect` is close to that of Fanning, but is
further cultivated and is a part of a `model of semantic
visibility` which entails both verbs and nouns

<Have you convinced the professors at Oslo?

My view of Greek verbs is a fruit of the study of Hebrew
verbs and the LXX, recognizing that `the principle of
visibility` is the same in both languages. I have also
worked with the text of the NT, but not to the extent of
producing a thesis. I have, however, discussed parts of the
view, which have been well received. Fanning is valued in



Rolf Furuli
Ph. D candidate of Semitic languages
University of Oslo

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