Illustrating Semantic Range

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Illustrating Semantic Range

Post by Barry Hofstetter » May 12th, 2011, 12:34 am

My favorite example to illustrate semantic range to show how context restricts that range (in normal prose) to one usage:
The captain can run the ship with a run in her stocking while her crew members run a race on the run on deck 10.
A native speaker of English will find such a sentence odd, but neither will he mistake the quite distinctive usage of each occurrence of the word "run." So why do we sometimes attempt in biblical Greek to force a usage of the word that does not fit the context?

1) Unfamiliarity with the language

2) Theological agenda...
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Illustrating Semantic Range

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 12th, 2011, 10:56 am

Suppose I don't speak English, and I encounter this text:
The captain can run the ship with a run in her stocking while her crew members run a race on the run on deck 10.
If I'm struggling with the words, it's easy enough to think "run in her stocking" may refer to a physical activity done while wearing a particular kind of clothing. In other English texts, I find things like "she starts out each day with a run in her pink sweat suit". And "on the run" is a phrase we also find in many texts, with a different meaning. The sense we choose for each word affects the sense of the surrounding words.

As native speakers of English, it's hard to get it wrong, even for such a complex sentence, because we have such well-developed intuition for the language. But it's easy for a non-native speaker to get it wrong.

I think we ask ourselves questions about the sense of a word that a native speaker of Greek would not have asked in the New Testament era. And it's not always driven by an agenda.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Illustrating Semantic Range

Post by Barry Hofstetter » May 13th, 2011, 6:42 am

Jonathan, these are good observations, but notice that my first reason was:
Unfamiliarity with the language
So I agree completely. The more familiar we are with a language, the greater the chance we'll get it right. But I think we've all seen agenda driven lexical fallacy, as well... :?

So that means we must develop familiarity, and with ancient Greek that means reading lots of Greek. Have I ever said that before?
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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cwconrad
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Re: Illustrating Semantic Range

Post by cwconrad » May 13th, 2011, 7:38 am

Yes, it's "unfamiliarity with the language." And I think that's exactly what's involved in the current discussion on the regular B-Greek list about πάντα πιστεύει, "believes all things." Even the NET has "believes all things" for this expression, but it is really what people on the B-Translation list call "Biblish" rather than standard English.Either one understands πάντα πιστεύει at once or doesn't really know Greek very well. I think sometimes we are so familiar with an English version of a Biblical text that we are shocked when we see the original Greek that has been translated literally and suddenly realize that we don't really understand the English -- even if the Greek makes perfectly good sense.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

David McKay
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Re: Illustrating Semantic Range

Post by David McKay » May 30th, 2011, 11:45 pm

We were recently informed by Oxford English Dictionary folk that RUN takes the biscuit for most meanings of one word in English: at least as it is reported in the OED. On my smartphone OED app, there are 77 different entries, not counting the entries for use in phrases.
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