Glosses vs. Definitions
clayton stirling bartholomew
c.s.bartholomew at worldnet.att.net
Fri Dec 8 13:50:36 EST 2000
With the advent of the of the now famous 3rd edition (F. Danker), it might
be appropriate to revisit the question about the use of translation glosses
In the case of many (not all) substantives and verbs the difference between
a gloss and a definition is somewhat mechanical. One could write a set of
transformation rules that would covert a gloss to a definition and a
definition to a gloss. The definition of a verb is often nothing more than a
slightly periphrastic rendering of the infinitive form of the verb. Since
most of us learn fairly quickly to make this transformation from a gloss to
a definition, I am wondering how important the distinction is between the
gloss and the definition in actual practice.
When it comes to words like prepositions and particles I can see that a
definition is called for since a simple list of glosses can be quite
I am will openly admit, I am somewhat addicted to the gloss. I checked with
the Milam Clinic, a local detox center about programs for gloss addiction
and they informed me that they currently do not treat this since there is no
federal funding for gloss addiction.
I have been using Louw and Nida since '88 and I appreciate their approach. I
have read several times their book* explaining the theory behind this work.
However, I still think there is a place in lexical work for the translation
gloss. The gloss is a form of short hand notation and it suffers from the
weaknesses of shorthand but is also very convenient in terms of space and
ease of use.
The translation gloss has received a lot of bad press in recent years,
perhaps more than it deserves.
Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062
*J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida, Lexical Semantics of New Testament Greek,
Scholars Press, 1992.
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