[b-greek] Lexical Fallacies

From: c stirling bartholomew (cc.constantine@worldnet.att.net)
Date: Wed Feb 06 2002 - 14:20:17 EST

Lexical Fallacies

There is a rather common fallacy employed in lexical semantics which has
surfaced once again on this list in the last week. I don't know a name for
the fallacy but it is stated something like "we find no attested examples of
that word used with that sense . . . ." The hidden flaw in this argument is
that you cannot find new meanings of a known word as long as you are using
this logic. The knew meanings are impossible since the are not "attested."
So the new meaning which is staring you directly in the face is ruled out as
impossible, even though the context in which the word is found makes this
new meaning highly probable. The employment of this "we find no attested
examples . . . " leads lexical analysis to an abrupt dead end when the first
"attested example" is the object of the dispute. In other words this logic
is a trap.

I have been using LEH* extensively while working Codex Panopolitanus
(1Enoch) and have found a number of rare words in this codex which show up
only once in the LXX and are marked as Neol. (Neologism). These are often
compound words made up of elements that can easily be identified but you end
up being forced to use a certain amount of etymology in combination with a
study of the context to determine the probable meaning of these words. There
were not attested examples of these words or their meanings before they
appeared in the LXX. Most scholars have no problem accepting the existence
of "new meaning" when it comes to a neologism but they have a BIG problem
accepting "new meaning" when it comes to known words.

I have also run across more than one word which is found in the LXX and
elsewhere but in no other known document is it "attested" in the sense which
is found in C. Panopolitanus. Both new words (Neologisms) and new meanings
of known words are regularly encountered in the process of exploring ancient
documents. I did some work in Agamemnon (Aesch.) a few years ago and came
across a number of known words used with unknown meanings.

If the lexical analyst isn't prepared to use the context as the determining
factor in word meaning, he will never discover new meanings to known words.
People who are suffering from this syndrome need to browse in Louw & Nida
and mark all the semantically isolated low level domains, i.e., words
attested with a given sense only once. This little exercise should help to
release one from the death grip of the "no attested examples" fallacy.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

*A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, ed. by J. Lust, E. Eynikel, and
K. Hauspie, in cooperation with G. Chamberlain.
1992, 1997 by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.


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