Hyponymous entries in NT lexica.

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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Stephen Hughes
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Hyponymous entries in NT lexica.

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 7th, 2016, 1:10 am

Has anyone categorised the multiple meaning entries in (one or other of) the New Testament lexica (presumably BDAG as being the accepted standard) as being polysemous, hyponymous or a mixture of the two?

An example of a hyponym is the word βῆμα which means "judgement seat" in 11 out of its 12 occurrences in the New Testament, and it means "step (of the foot)" at Acts 7:5. There is no similarity between the two meanings, i.e. is no way of guessing the meaning of βῆμα at Acts 7:5 if only the meaning "judgement seat" were known. Hyponymy means that a person processing the word βῆμα wouldn't think of the meaning of "judgement seat" as somehow an extension of the meaning "step".

[I think that for a native speaker the meaning of βῆμα as "step", "pace" would be the common, or well-known one (because of the easily identifiable affinity with the βαίνειν family of words and because βῆμα "judgement seat" is not a household word), but because of the nature of the subject matter of the corpus of New Testament texts, the particular meaning of βῆμα as "judgement seat" has the highest frequency.]
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RandallButh
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Re: Hyponymous entries in NT lexica.

Post by RandallButh » March 7th, 2016, 4:06 am

The question on the relationships of vocabulary is a far-reaching one, but the example of BHMA is confusing as a hyponym.

Basically, my understanding of hypernym and hyponym is generic ~ specific.
In English, a house, cottage, hut, tower, bungalow, skyscraper, and church would all be hyponyms of "building".

With BHMA a metaphorical extension seems to have taken place that makes it better to classify as polysemous in my sense -- having more than one meaning.

I'm am not sure how to best classify the prototypical notions behind BHMA. I get language interference from African English boma "corral, stockade", Hebrew bama "high place" later Hebrew bimah 'synagogue platform', SyroAramaic bim (loan word from Greek BHMA {first century [bema], second century+ [bima] "judicial seat/court"}, not to mention a 'pedestal' and 'podium' [related to -pod- foot] being a raised place. τί συνέβη;
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Homonymous entries in NT lexica.

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 7th, 2016, 11:36 am

RandallButh wrote:The question on the relationships of vocabulary is a far-reaching one, but the example of BHMA is confusing as a hyponym.

Basically, my understanding of hypernym and hyponym is generic ~ specific.
In English, a house, cottage, hut, tower, bungalow, skyscraper, and church would all be hyponyms of "building".
You are right. I meant to say "homonymous". I got mixed up between the hypernymy - hyponymy and polysemy - homonymy pairs.

Was I said makes sense if I had said βῆμα meaning "judgement seat" and βῆμα meaning "step" are homonyms. I used the wrong term, for the right concept.
Last edited by Stephen Hughes on March 7th, 2016, 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Hyponymous entries in NT lexica.

Post by Barry Hofstetter » March 7th, 2016, 11:39 am

βῆμα, ατος, τό (s. βαίνω; Hom. Hymns, Pind.+; ins, pap, LXX, TestSol; TestAbr A 13 p. 92, 21 [Stone p. 32]; Joseph., Just.) orig. movement by raising a step, ‘step’; then
① a step forward made by a foot, step (Hero Alex., Deff. [spurious] 131 = a little less than a meter) ἑπτὰ βήματα περιπατήσασα when she had taken seven steps GJs 6:1.
② a very limited space, step οὐδὲ β. ποδός not even a square meter of ground less than the space covered by one taking a stride Ac 7:5 (‘foothold’, REB; cp. Dt 2:5).
③ a dais or platform that required steps to ascend, tribunal (Thu. 2, 34, 8; Epict. 4, 10, 21; Jos., Bell. 2, 172; 2 Esdr 18:4; 2 Macc 13:26). A magistrate would address an assembly from a chair placed on the structure. Esp. judicial bench (Isocr., Ep. 8, 7; Ps.-Demosth. 48, 31; POxy 237 V, 13; PTebt 316, 11; PAmh 80, 7 al. S. καθίζω 3 and s. Reisch in Pauly-W. III 264; Preisigke, Fachwörter) Mt 27:19; J 19:13; Ac 18:12, 16f; 25:6, 10, 17; also God’s judgment seat (SibOr 2, 218; 8, 222 and 242) Ro 14:10 and Christ 14:10 v.l.; 2 Cor 5:10; Pol 6:2.—Ac 12:21, 23 D of the throne-like speaker’s platform (Appian, Liby. 115 §546; Arrian, Anab. 7, 8, 3; 7, 11, 1; Jos., Ant. 4, 209; 7, 370) of Herod Agrippa I. In mng. 2 בֵּימָה is a loanw. in rabb.—DELG s.v. βαίνω p. 157. M-M. TW.


Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 175). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Homonymous entries in NT lexica.

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 7th, 2016, 12:34 pm

a dais or platform that required steps to ascend
Βήματα or βαθμοί ?

That is an explanation that is almost etymological in its attempt to bridge the gap between two meanings.

Compare our word "upstairs". People generally think of the level of the building that "upstairs" denotes, rather than that someone has to climb a set of stairs to get there. "The revolving restaurant is upstairs on level 28" doesn't imply that the doorman is telling the guests that they are required to climb the stairs to ascend.

That explanation in BDAG actually works well in English because we use the same word for "steps" as in (forward) motion using the feet, and "steps" as in different (progressively higher) ledges in a flight of stairs. A "step" on the stairs (or a rung on a ladder) in Greek, however, is βαθμός.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Homonymous entries in NT lexica.

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 7th, 2016, 12:47 pm

Besides the issues specific to βῆμα, has anyone made an attempt to mark entries for homonymy and/or polysemy? What number include homonyms - meanings that are not so apparently derived from the other(s), as in here "judicial authority" is not readily guessable by knowing the word means "step" (as in the movement of a foot), whereas "a metre long piece of ground" - the length of a step -is.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Homonymous entries in NT lexica.

Post by Stephen Carlson » March 8th, 2016, 6:51 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:Besides the issues specific to βῆμα, has anyone made an attempt to mark entries for homonymy and/or polysemy? What number include homonyms - meanings that are not so apparently derived from the other(s), as in here "judicial authority" is not readily guessable by knowing the word means "step" (as in the movement of a foot), whereas "a metre long piece of ground" - the length of a step -is.
The normal lexicographical convention is that homonyms get separate entries, and polysemes get separately numbered senses. Where certain senses rise by metonymy, as I think with βῆμα, the usual practice is to consider them cases of polysemy, but it is conceivable to have "secondary homonymy"--two words of the same origin that diverged so much that native speakers do not perceive any connection between them: e.g., English lap, the body part that only exists when sitting, and once-around a circuit in a race course. (There is also "secondary polysemy" where unrelated words converge like ear as in "ear of wheat" or "ear of human").
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Homonymous entries in NT lexica.

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 9th, 2016, 9:48 am

Well, I think it would be a good skill (for me) to have, to be able to see the structure of the relatedness between different sections of the longer lexical entries. One way of doing that is using the jargon to describe the relationships. I would rather use somebody else's analysis than just rely on my own. Homonymy seems as good a place as any to start with the jargon. Hypernymy and hyponymy are not well spelt out, but are sometimes sort of mentioned in discussions of synonymy in older works. In general, the interrelatedness of vocabulary is not covered so well in a single word single entry style of dictionary. The logical and less taxing task then would be to understand the way the meanings inside dictionary entries relate to each other.

Just looking at them all is probably just an entry-level usage skill. Seeing the structure would either let me make a more informed choice of meaning, or understand why the one that is right is the one that is right.
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