Advanced Greek (04)

7 05 2009

greekenglishlexiconjpg4. Lexical Semantics and Lexicography

In our Advanced Greek unit at Moore College, we spent an hour talking about lexical semantics and lexicography. It was really only an introductory overview, but this is what we covered.

a. Lexical Semantics

Lexical semantics has to do with thinking through the theoretical issues to do with lexemes. Moisés Silva’s book, Biblical Words and their Meaning, is an example of a work of lexicology.

Key issues in lexical semantics include: context, ambiguity, lexical choice, lexical fields, and idiolect.

b. Lexicography

Lexicography is the practice of analysing lexemes, and determining their meaning. The standard lexicon for NT study, BDAG, is a product of lexicography.

We explored difficulties in the practice of lexicography, methodological problems, and some ways forward.

My favourite quote regarding the challenges for change within lexicography comes from Frederick Danker:

‘Change spells pain, but […] scholars’ tasks are “not for sissies.”

But more seriously, John Lee offers an ominous appraisal of NT lexicons:

[…] first, there is the legacy of the long tradition of indicating meaning by glosses rather than definitions, which leads to many problems (as Louw and others have shown). Secondly, there is the fact that even the latest lexicons derive their material from their predecessors, and a great deal of it has been passed on uncritically over the course of centuries. Thirdly, there is an aspect that I think is not well known: meanings given in the NT lexicons are contaminated by glosses from the standard translations, going back as far as the Vulgate. There is a fourth tendency which has become evident to me lately: NT lexicons are unsystematic in their control of other discussions, and may or may not take up useful contributions to the understanding of the meaning.

Bibliography

Barr, James. The Semantics of Biblical Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961.

Black, David Alan. Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications. Second edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995.

Danker, Frederick William. ‘Lexical Evolution and Linguistic Hazard’. Pages 1–31 in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker. Edited by Bernard A. Taylor, John A. L. Lee, Peter R. Burton, and Richard E. Whitaker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Danker, Frederick William. Review of Lexical Semantics of the Greek New Testament, by E. A. Nida and J. P. Louw, 1992. JBL 113 (1994), 532–33.

Lee, John A. L. A History of New Testament Lexicography. Studies in Biblical Greek 8. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

Lee, John A. L. ‘The Present State of Lexicography of Ancient Greek’. Pages 66–74 in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker. Edited by Bernard A. Taylor, John A. L. Lee, Peter R. Burton, and Richard E. Whitaker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Lee, John A. L. ‘The Present State of Lexicography of Ancient Greek’. Pages 66–74 in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker. Edited by Bernard A. Taylor, John A. L. Lee, Peter R. Burton, and Richard E. Whitaker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Roberts, Terry. ‘A Review of BDAG’. Pages 53–65 in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker. Edited by Bernard A. Taylor, John A. L. Lee, Peter R. Burton, and Richard E. Whitaker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Silva, Moisés. Biblical Words and their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics. Revised edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Posted by Con Campbell

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4 responses

8 05 2009
kristanslack

Con,

As someone not anywhere near ‘Advanced Greek’, what does this mean for us with BDAG and nowhere else to go? I can see that we’d need to be careful in wholesale just running with glosses, but what positively can we do about it?

ta,
Kristan

8 05 2009
Con Campbell

Good question, Kristan. The short answer is, we need to make do with what we’ve got. But we may use BDAG with our ‘eyes open’, knowing the kinds of faults that it has. I think it means, in part, that we ‘use’ the tool without treating it as the final authority. When it lists a particular occurrence under a certain subcategory of usage, we need to realize that BDAG have used the same tools that we have to get there: exegesis, context, and common sense. If you come to a different conclusion, you should not feel that because BDAG lists it in a particular that that closes the matter.

9 05 2009
c. stirling bartholomew

Iver Larsen (SIL, East Africa) who posts frequently on b-greek, has a highly critical approach toward what he calls the English language “tradition” which is represented by a combination of versions going back to Tyndale (Wycliffe?) and the lexicons, commentaries, ktl. Iver prefers to base his lexical decisions on a corpus study from Hellenistic texts. That is a time consuming approach.

Louw & Nida is now 20 years old and the theoretical basis for it is much older. Someone somewhere is working on a new lexicon to replace it. I suspect it will make some use of cognitive models, e.g. relevance theory. The OT Hebrew dictionary project started some ten years ago was preceded by a thorough critical analysis of Louw & Nida’s methodology and structured the new lexicon using several central concepts from cognitive linguistics.

10 05 2009
Nerd Greek « Fish Piper

[…] doing a particularly nerdy subject at Bible college, to do with linguistic and exegetical issues in biblical Greek. Fun, but not for your average […]




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