Re: post.prepared for anglican (reversible translation)

From: Jim Beale (
Date: Wed May 21 1997 - 18:14:39 EDT

On May 21, 6:27pm, Will Wagers wrote:

> However, I would argue that
> at the level of meaning, there is no reversible translatability, even
> for simple phrases, because, as Ong points out, each word carries with
> it its full etymology.

Hi Will,

Welcome back... :-)

Just a few comments:

Words are not like boxcars, I don't think. They Don't bring with
them the whole load of historical baggage accumulated over the
years. In general they do not. Some words acquire the status of
technical terms, and so do carry more baggage than others. For the
most part, though, the precise meaning of a word is determined by
the context. A word is not a proposition. I think it was James
Barr, in _The Semantics of Biblical Language_ who argued this point.

Nor do words bring with them their family trees when they enter
into linguistic relationship with other words to form a syntactic
unit. A word is a linguistic token which can only have been used
in a finite number of actual instances to help bear the semantic
weight of meaning. The etymology of a word hardly seems relevant
in determining the meaning of a sentence. How is the word used?
That seems to be the relevant question. Not, Whence did it come?

You say that at the "level of meaning" (not sure what you mean by
that!;-) there is no reversible translatability, but what really
seems to be entailed by your assertion (if words have the property
you suggest) is that there is no translatability at all!

But if forward translation is possible, as I'm sure you won't deny,
(hUPARXWN PANOURGOS DOLWi hUMAS LAMBANW;-) then upon what grounds
does one deny the reversibility, in principle, of a translation?

And if the forward translation is suspect, how can it be tested by
reverse translation? If the reverse translation does not arrive at
the original text, or equivalent, does that imply that the forward
translation was poorly done? Such an argument would be fallacious
to say the least.


In Christ,
Jim Beale

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