George F Somsel
gfsomsel at yahoo.com
Sun Mar 18 09:50:30 EDT 2007
That words do not have an "innate" meaning seems all too obvious. If words had innate meanings then they would always be used in the same way. Yet, not only do different writers in different times use words with different significance, even one writer in one work can use the same word in different ways. That was the point in my mentioning Humpty-Dumpty's comment
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,'
it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.' ...
Through The Looking Glass
[Thanks to Elizabeth for finding this. I couldn't remember whether it was the caterpillar or Humpty-Dumpty who stated it]
Words do have a conventional meaning, i.e. a sense dictated by its normal usage; but this can and does change. It is possible to expand the significance of a term by its usage. Sometimes this is done by using it in an antithetical manner so that when one calls something "bad" he actually means "very good." It would not do, however, to simply change the significance of a term without reference to its prior usage by either expanding the area to which it applies or using it in opposition to its usual sense without having first "set the table" by indicating how my usage applies. If I were to to use the term "bullet" for a truck, someone might well wonder what in the world I was talking about. But if I were writing about someone who was using a truck as a weapon in an attempt to kill another person, it might then make sense for me to refer to it as a bullet. It is thus usage which gives significance to words, not something contained within words regardless of how they are
----- Original Message ----
From: Mitch Larramore <mitchlarramore at yahoo.com>
To: Barry <nebarry at verizon.net>; B Greek <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 9:16:15 AM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] APOLUTRWSIS
--- Barry <nebarry at verizon.net> wrote:
> 1) There is no such as the innate meaning of a word,
> only its usage in context.
> 2) Get a good lexicon, and look it up. Better yet,
> look up the citations, if at
> all possible, in context. That should help...
What if I argued as follows:
All words have innate meaning, and it is this
characteristic, and this only, that distinguishes one
word from another word. Words have semantic domains,
and within each domain nuances, but to say a word has
no "innate" meaning 'assumes innate meaning' in words
to affirm that they do not have innate meaning. For
example, you used the word "innate" instead of
"elephant." (Was there something already assigned to
the word 'innate' that distingished it from 'elephant'
and therefore you chose it for this usage (context)
and not elephant?)
I seems silly to me, but having said that, I assume
this is a linguistic statement (that words don't have
innate meaning). So, could you explain what this
statement is suppose to mean?
Also, why do we post questions out here if not to get
others' perspective. Every question asked out here
could be answered with "look at several commentaries
or lexica (hence, this site has been shut down)." I
did look at my new BDAG but I was not satisfied that
it answered my question.
Sugar Land, Texas
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