RE: Source for the semantic range of ...

From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Mon Aug 30 1999 - 08:47:00 EDT

Jefferson, Robert C wrote:

>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.

Dear Robert,

I agree with your words above. However, a crucial question is: Did a Greek
word have an independent meaning of its own apart from any context? Or
rather: Did a word signal a particular *concept* in the minds of those
having the same presupposition pool, and the role of the context was only
to help the readers find which side of the rather broad concept that was
stressed (was the *meaning* of a word "known" or "found")? Or was a word
meaningless without a context?

To avoid different side-tracks:
(1) The questions relate to "meaning" at the time the NT was written and
not to how the English mind try to find this meaning by help of different
lexical tools and a study of the contexts in which a particular word occurs.
(2) What a word signals is different as to complexity, so it is may be fine
to start with ordinary, simple words.
(3) Native speakers of Greek could be children and adults and could have
very different backgrounds, so the questions relate to the average Greek
(4) There is no doubt that a *combination* of words in a clause could
create abstract or figurative senses by implicature or other means, and
these senses were not a part of that which each word signalled alone. This
is a function of the highly creative human mind and need not show that each
word does not have an independent meaning. Perhaps we therefore should
start with the simple literal level of communication when we address the

The points above are not meant to put a restriction on which arguments can
be used, but rather to suggest that the answers to the questions are best
seen at the simplest levels of word use. At more complex levels it is
difficult to know whether a factor is "semantic" or "pragmatic" (to use
terms from luinguistics which do not completely fit but can be

So, did/does a word have an independent meaning?


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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