Specificity & vagueness, eg. ἐπιρράπτει & ἐπιβάλλει

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Stephen Hughes
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Specificity & vagueness, eg. ἐπιρράπτει & ἐπιβάλλει

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 27th, 2016, 10:44 am

Mark 2:21 wrote:Καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐπίβλημα ῥάκους ἀγνάφου ἐπιρράπτει ἐπὶ ἱματίῳ παλαιῷ·
Matthew 9:16 wrote:Οὐδεὶς δὲ ἐπιβάλλει ἐπίβλημα ῥάκους ἀγνάφου ἐπὶ ἱματίῳ παλαιῷ·
Luke 5:36 wrote:Οὐδεὶς ἐπίβλημα ἱματίου καινοῦ ἐπιβάλλει ἐπὶ ἱμάτιον παλαιόν·
As an example, clearly, ἐπιρράπτει is more specific than ἐπιβάλλει because it tells us how the patch was affixed. I have Louw and Nida, and the more recognisable ἐπιρράπτει is listed in L&N section 48 - "Activities involving cloth", but the less specific (more euphemistic or general verb) ἐπιβάλλει (that requires or relies on lexical information from elsewhere in the phrase - ἐπίβλημα ῥάκους ἀγνάφου / ἐπίβλημα ἱματίου καινοῦ) is not. The same distinction between specificity and vagueness seems to hold for ῥάκος ἄγναφον "unfulled piece (strip) of cloth" (specifiying that it is limited in extent and that it has not been to a fuller) and ἱμάτιον καινόν "new cloth" (not specifying how it is viewed as new and not specifying that it is cut cloth).

Is there an off-the-shelf work that discusses or covers specificity, vagueness and euphemism in Greek, or is this another part of meaning that needs to penciled in in an existing work too?
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MAubrey
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Re: Specificity & vagueness, eg. ἐπιρράπτει & ἐπιβάλλει

Post by MAubrey » March 27th, 2016, 2:20 pm

Not that I'm aware of. There's a lot that isn't done. Maybe you could do it.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Specificity & vagueness, eg. ἐπιρράπτει & ἐπιβάλλει

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 27th, 2016, 7:11 pm

MAubrey wrote:Not that I'm aware of. There's a lot that isn't done.
We are lucky to have synoptic parallels to see different ways of expressing the same thing. Beyond retellings of the same story, or alternative translations of the same text, discovering an idiomatically acceptable generalisation is not an easy skill for a learner to master. Early acquisition of a language, is characterised by beginning with language that refers to things in the learners' immediate vicinity, then extending those ideas into generalisations. Later they acquire an extended vocabulary and the grammatical and syntactic skills to use the language with subtlety, allowing them to express very specific meanings. We, who have acquired Greek in our teens (or later), have a great ability to understand the subtleties of complex words and expressions (so long as they conceptually map onto what is familiar), but are unable to readily euphemism, simplify or re-express things by rearranging semantic elements. Such inverted-house-of-cards attempts at periphrasis, can easily lead to our downfall. Such information as a study of specificity and vagueness might yield, would be valuable for both private understanding, pedagogy, discourse analysis and ultimately exegesis to be sure, but it seems to be more suitable as way of thinking, than as a set of easily definable "answers" to unposed taxonomical questions. Following on from it and underpinning it, there is the issue of adequacy. In most cases, nobody would need to specify anything about a ἐπίβλημα anyway that they need to put on anyway. What we read is building on the assumption that it is normal for someone to ἐπίβλημα ἐπὶ ἱματίῳ παλαιῷ. Those expected elements of the process are not so open to innovation as the elements that refer to something specifically are. From a behaviouralist point of view, we have skipped the process of habituation, and therefore don't share the same element of surprise that the added specification would bring to somebody, who had been.
MAubrey wrote:Maybe you could do it.
Identifying a need and seeing what could be done, is part of the imaginative "one percent". Actually having the wherewithal to do something about the idea belongs to the perspirationally inflated much larger percentage. I don't flatter myself as being any better at sticking to a task than I am at sticking to a topic. :oops:
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Specificity & vagueness, eg. ἐπιρράπτει & ἐπιβάλλει

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 28th, 2016, 12:00 am

What I wanted to say, but never got there is that the idea of vagueness might sometimes not be so much vague as it is non-redundant, so considerations of this type need to be approached with higher order thinking - considering a number of factors, BECAUSE ...

Luke may be writing in a style (a type of linguistic productive ability), like when some speakers might write, "The houses were washed away after two hours of bad weather.", while the others wrote something like, "The houses were washed away after two hours of wild thunderstorms .". Nobody would have misconstrued Luke's hypothetical, "bad weather" to mean "dense fog" or "severe frost". Such vagueness, as Luke uses in the phrase under consideration tends to be characteristic of native speakers (early learners - those, who learn before the critical age - during the period of brain placticity). The need to over specify is characteristic of non-native speakers. Probably because have not learnt the language with its inherent vagueness, they tend to feel the need to make everything very clear. In this example, Mark specifies the most - makes everything the clearest, and Luke has the least redundant information.

In addition to considerations of the "Who is a native speaker?" question, the "context is king" principle can be applied more aptly if consideration is taken of the degree of vagueness or specificity a writer is writing with. An added consideration may be that is not only the authour's ability, but also their consideration of their audience's ability.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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