RE: Source for the semantic range of ...

From: Jefferson, Robert C. (
Date: Mon Aug 30 1999 - 07:31:47 EDT

It would seem to me that a good lexicon would:
Have the range of meanings listed from most common to least common.
Have example sentences of each meaning from an original author-not
Have a short discussion if necessary on anything than maybe needed to know
about that word.


        -----Original Message-----
        From: Rolf Furuli []
        Sent: Friday, August 27, 1999 5:18 PM
        To: Biblical Greek
        Subject: Re: Source for the semantic range of ...

        Mike Sangrey wrote:

>jwest@Highland.Net said:
>> Your prof was correct. Semantic domains, etymology, and all
>> little tidbits of trivia are interesting- but not useful in the
>> 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
>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
>"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
>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
>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
>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.

        Dear Mike,

        Your observations are sound and complement Carl's comments. I would
like to
        add another dimension, which you hint at, namely the one of
        presupposition pools. When Jim claims that meaning almost
exclusively is
        connected with the context, he is right regarding the *English*
        Because we try to find the meaning of Greek words like MISEW and the
        in which it stands, by the help of Greek-English lexica and a study
of the
        Greek context. The native Greek speaker did not need any books for
this but
        he or she could depend on the common presupposition pool of the
        speakers and would get an instant understanding of the meaning of a

        If we take the Greek words MISEW and ALWPHX, where is the
"meaning"? Not
        in the letters or the sounds they represent, and not in any
"context", but
        rather in the *minds* of those having the same presupposition pool.
        the pronunciation of the *single* word MISEW or ALWPHX would trigger
        same *concept* in the minds of the people (I am speaking of simple
        signalling one concept), just as for us when we hear the single
        words "hatred" and "fox". We need no context to know the "meaning"
of these
        words. In my view, the context does not generate "meaning", but the
        "meaning" is found in the mental concept signalled by the word. The
role of
        the context for those who had the original presupposition pool was
to help
        the readers or listeners to know which area of the concept that was
        visible or stressed by the author. (While I agree with your
        I think such things only play a limited role in our understanding of
the NT

        For example, the "hate" mentioned in 1 John 3:15 (cf vv 11-14)
        includes negative feelings so strong that one could kill the one who
        hated. However, the "hate" mentioned in in Jude 1:23 evidently only
        includes a strong negative feeling, and the "hate" mentioned in Luke
        only includes a negative feeling toward something or someone in
        with something else. The difference is not one of "meaning" but
rather one
        of degree and quality (or visibility and stress), and this is what
        conveyed by the context.

        I believe that the extreme stress that is put on the context in
        Lexical semantics is just as fallacious as the "context" that was
used a
        hundred years ago, namely, etymology. Studies of etymology and
context can
        be profitable when the limitations are taken into account. The
problem when
        either of these is viewed as the principal "player", is that
attention is
        directed away from where meaning really is - in the human mind- and
        translations based on concepts rather than "kernels" are not
encouraged. In
        this way all the power rests with the translators, and the readers
have no
        way for testing the quality of a translation. The excercises
described by
        George are profitable and fine, but to help our students we should
        them that they have to deal with two different persupposition pools
and two
        different situations of communication, and that "meaning" is not
        with English glosses. If they are not aware of this, they may, by
help of
        the context, find fitting English glosses and at the same time they
        overlook the "meaning" because these glosses are confused with


        Rolf Furuli
        University of Oslo

        B-Greek home page:
        You are currently subscribed to b-greek as:
        To unsubscribe, forward this message to
        To subscribe, send a message to

Content-Type: application/octet-stream;
Content-Disposition: attachment;

Attachment converted: Tacitus:RCJefferson.vcf 2 (????/----) (0002CA9B)

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:37 EDT