"Semantic Domain" and Translating Synonyms (was: entropy)

From: Wes Williams (WesWilliams@usa.net)
Date: Sun May 31 1998 - 22:57:42 EDT

>There are many advantages of the semantic domain model, but the more I read
>about it and the more I view its application, the more problems do I see.
>In fact, it seems to me that this model introduces into the fields of
>lexical semantics and translation more entropy than did the old
>etymological model, which even is veiewed as a fallacy.
> <snip>
>constitute *one* concept, which he expresses by the *English* word
>"righteous". He does of course not suggest that the original readers knew
>English, and therefore must his argument imply that there is a Greek
>counterpart to the English "righteous", i.e. a Greek " umbrella"-concept
>(or word) under which the mentioned words can be subsumed.

Dear Rolf,

First, I express appreciation to you for posting this since it further
clarifies the question "What is an accurate translation of Greek to
English?" You posted this several days ago but I wanted to think on it for a

You raise a good point with which makes clear sense: i.e. if we consistently
translate two (or more) distinct Greek words as a single English word, the
English readers lose something in translation. Isn't this similar to
Eskimos who have seven different words for our American English "snow?" If
we translate all seven words as "snow" without discriminating "wet snow,"
"snow and rain," "dry snow," etc., WE lose the fine distinctions in meaning
that THEY have.

So, I find I agree with your approach. The question next arises: "What is
the benefit of semantic domains in translation?" I think they prove useful
when BEGINNING a translation project. To use your example above, I would
start with translating each word in DIKAIOS,AGAQOS,hAGIOS, KAQAROS,KALOS and
hOSIOS with a different English word and try to maintain that use as long as
context allows. (The same for other similar cases like hADES/ GEHENNA,
KOSMOS/ AIWN, AGAPH/ FILIA, etc). This raises the problem of synonyms.

Many of the most lengthy discussions on b-greek involve English synonymy
with distinct Greek words (AGAPH/ FILIA in John 21, e.g.). But we have
synonymy in English as well. But that does not mean that two words MEAN the
same thing. Take "high" and "tall." I can say:
(1) The mountain is tall
(2) The mountain is high
without a loss in meaning.

(1) The girl is tall
(2) The girl is high
reveal that "high" and "tall" do not mean the same thing but they do overlap
in certain contexts.

In conclusion, I agree with your approach. As points of insertion, I would
like to propose that semantic domains are helpful at the start to define the
differing nuances of synonyms to create the "translation lexicon" with
different and distinct English words. Also, I think more could be said for
handling consistency of translation even when synonyms are involved, which
is a common objection against your argumention. But the importance of it is
underscored when the English reader thinks that two differing Greek words
mean the same English word in other contexts, which may not be true.

Wes Williams

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