Semantic Domain of Prepositions

From: Clayton Bartholomew (
Date: Fri May 02 1997 - 17:21:40 EDT

Semantic Domain of Prepositions

Sara wrote:
>> >> >>
I must say that the method which has worked best for me over time, when
dealing with Greek prepositions, is (with apologies to Alice) "A
preposition means what the context wants it to mean, no more and no

This may sound flippant, but I've honestly found it to be the least
stressful and most generally accurate working rule... Learn the basic
meanings of the prepositions as found in any textbook, so you'll know
the possible limits are, and then assume (within those limits) that a
preposition means what it appears most naturally to mean in the context.
I'm not all that sure that there is any real semantic difference between
eis, en and epi in the examples given. (Some of the other examples
- -- dia, uper -- do have more distinctive meanings, though.)

That's not to say that one might not discover subtle shades of meaning
through extended analysis. But somehow, I rather doubt that native
speakers were consciously or unconsciously engaged in that level of
>> >> >>

Here are two more questions about the semantic domain of prepositions.
The first question leads into the second question.

The following construction is very common in the NT:

prep(prefix)+verb -> prep phrase
example: kai eisercomai eis to soma

Why is the preposition repeated after the compound verb. Has the
compound become semantically vague over time and for this reason the
preposition needs to be reasserted? I have become accustom to seeing
this construction but have never seen it explained in any of my reading.

I have a second question which baffles me. Why do we find textual
variants of the following sort which seem to treat the prepositions in
compound verbs as if the were irrelevant when all the lexicons show
these verbs as having distinctly different semantic domains.

textual variants of this pattern:
             eisercomai eis ...
             katercomai eis ...

Two examples appear in Acts 4:2:

pair 1: diaponoumenoi dia ...
         kataponoumenoi dia ...

pair 2: kataggellein en ...
         anaggellein en ...

Now the verbs in pair number one have very distinct semantic domains,
but pair number two might be considered near synonyms. I have no problem
with pair number two. But how do you explain repeated examples of the
pattern found in pair number one?

These questions may or may not be directly related to the semantic
domain of prepositions.

Can you help me with this?

Clay Bartholomew
Three Tree Point

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