Re: Source for the semantic range of ...

From: Mike Sangrey (
Date: Fri Aug 27 1999 - 11:08:00 EDT

jwest@Highland.Net said:
> Your prof was correct. Semantic domains, etymology, and all those
> little tidbits of trivia are interesting- but not useful in the final
> analysis because words gain meaning only from context.
> To isolate a word and assign it meaning is futile.

There is more context to the text than the words proximate to
the text. For example, 'dog' might have special meaning to someone
given a vivid experience they had when young. In certain discourses,
one would need to know about that experience in order to understand
this person's use of the word. This may be what you are referring
to in your words, "tidbits of trivia". However, by not knowing
this little fact about 'dog', one could misinterpret the word;
the discourse may be enough, maybe not.

Another example, more central to B-Greek: 'Fox' in Jesus expression,
"Tell that fox...". The semantic domain for 'fox' does NOT contain,
as we westerners typically think, 'sly' and 'clever'. To the Greek
mind, 'fox' carried the connotation of 'scoundrel' and 'rascal'.
In certain languages (English is probably included) one should
NOT translate ALWPHX in Luke 13:32 as 'fox', 'scoundrel' would be
much better. (My emphasis is for clarity, not for strength of opinion.)

In an exhaustive analysis, one would need to consider etymology
and other history, culture, occurrences of the word within other
discourses, and the impact of those discourses on the current
focus of study. There are likely other areas of consideration,
but any area would carry a different weight which would need
to be considered. The immediately proximate discourse would always
carry substantial weight--it must absolutely be considered--but it's
not the only weight; it may even be that it doesn't carry the most

To my mind it is much like a game of chess--during any moment of the
game there exists a set of potential moves. This set forms a tree;
one move leading to another; and having selected a particular move,
a whole substantial set of moves is no longer possible. The best
players "know" what potential moves to trim so they do not have
to analyze the entire set. The best interpreters "know" what
avenues to analyze in order to gain an understanding of the text
(or semantic) component under consideration.

Mike Sangrey
Lancaster, Pa.
       There is no 'do' in faith, everywhere present within it is 'done'.

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