[b-greek] Prototype theory (was: Decker on Olsen)

From: Wayne Leman (wleman@mcn.net)
Date: Mon Mar 05 2001 - 16:12:09 EST

Rodney Decker decried:

> That's about as clear as mud--at least for non-linguists. And most of us
> are not subscribed to b-hebrew. Would you mind explaining it to those of
> who are just ordinary exegetes? I would sincerely like to understand the
> theoretical problems that a few see with my proposal, but since I don't
> have a PhD in linguistics, I'm not even able to propose an intelligible
> defense.
Here is a start, Rodney:

Prototype semantics recognizes that people categorize meaning according to
certain "typical" examples. Hence, when we hear the English word "dog," we
think of one that looks like a collie, golden retriever, or a type in that
range, rather than a dachshund, chihuahua, or, a St. Bernard. So a German
Shepherd is a good example of a prototypical dog. Prototype semantics
enables us to investigate meaning while avoiding some of the problems that
occur with other approaches to semantics.

For Greek (since this is the b-greek list!), Louw & Nida's lexicon has an
advantage over simple alphabetic lexicons in that it organizes words by
meaning groups, like a thesaurus. We know that the primary meaning of a word
like KOIMAW is 'sleep.' That, we could say, is its prototypical meaning. But
KOIMAW can have meanings which are semantically farther from that cental
(prototypical) meaning point, such as the euphemistic meaning sense of 'to
die' in 1 Cor. 11:30.

That is only a start, Rodney, and oversimplified, but I hope it helps,
Wayne Leman
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