[b-hebrew] Semantics of paradigms
kwrandolph at email.com
Mon Sep 19 13:19:35 EDT 2005
Is not your rejection of etymology a bit simplistic?
For example, historically speaking, English is more
accurately described as a creole, not an integrated
language. What little contact I have had with creoles
showed surprising uses of words, often with tenuous at
best connections to their etymology. Even the same word
imported at different periods can have strikingly different
meanings and forms. Thus English is a poor language to
use in a study of etymologies.
Secondly one must be careful with words borrowed
across language barriers: the borrowing language may
take an idiomatic or slang usage of the word, not the
standard meaning as used in the originating language.
On the other hand, even in English, those words that are
derived by grammatical structure from a common root tend
to stay closer to their etymological meaning. For example,
in order to advertise, one either becomes or hires an
advertiser to make an advertisement. The very fact that the
latter words are tied to the root through grammatical rules
tends to tie the meanings to the root. Many, if not most,
Biblical Hebrew words are grammatical constructs from
common roots, hence usually, though not always, have a
commonality of meaning with their roots and with other
grammatical derivatives from the same root. Warning
here, some of the grammatical derivatives may have the
same forms as grammatical derivatives from different
roots, the contexts usually indicate the correct ones.
When carefully used, I think that etymological study of
Biblical Hebrew can often lead to a proper understanding
of lexemes. What you have described are two extremes,
neither of which are correct.
Karl W. Randolph.
Ps. a "chocoholic" may actually be an addict, as the sugar
used is an artificial (refined out of its natural form)
sweetener that is addictive. After having gone through
cold turkey withdrawal (yes, the symptoms are real), I now
refuse to buy foods made with artificial sweeteners.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Dr. Joel M. Hoffman" <joel at exc.com>
> > How many non-Semitic languages are oout there with rigid root system and no
> > excessiveness? Even in Russian, aspect affixes more or less mandate the
> > semantics.
> Well, if you're looking for a language system with a root system (I
> don't know what you mean by "no excessiveness"), how about Modern
> Hebrew and Modern Arabaic? This is why I keep trying to introduce
> evidence from those langauges.
> But we can even look at English. An "alcoholic" is an addict. A
> "chocoholic," though clearly patterned on "alcoholic," in a fan, not
> at addict.
> More generally, to evaluate a theory of language, I think it's useful
> to test the theory on a living language, because with living languages
> it is easier to know if the theory is helpful.
> For example, some people assume that etymology is the strongest clue
> to word meaning. By contrast, I look at English "host" and "hostile,"
> for example, which though they come from the same root do not mean
> even almost the same thing, and, based on evidence from living
> languages, conclude that etymology is not clear evidence of what a
> word means. Then I refuse to give it much weight in trying to
> decipher ancient languages. Other people ignore (or don't know about)
> the evidence from living languages and (wrongly, IMO) conclude that
> etymology tells us what words mean in ancient languages.
> Similarly, I look at modern languages, and note that there is no
> language in which form completely determines meaning, and conclude
> that it did not in ancient Hebrew, either.
> -Joel Hoffman
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