Rolf Furuli furuli at
Fri Sep 3 10:46:50 EDT 1999

Dear list-members,

While etymology can be helpful, I agree that we cannot find traces of an
original meaning in all uses of a word. To come to grips with *meaning*,
however, we need to differentiate between levels or classes of meaning:
lexical, grammatical and syntactical. The starting point should be lexical
semantics, and the crucial point here is:  Does a word signal a *concept*
in the minds of persons with the same presupposition pool, thus signaling
an independent meaning of its own? Or is a word meaningless without a
context? To state it differently: Is the meaning of a word "known" or must
it be "found"?

To avoid a clouding of the issue, let alone the fact that it is difficult
to define  "word", that different words are different as to complexity and
may have different meanings (polysemy), and concentrate on simple everyday
words. Please also note that I am not speaking about how we, by help of
lexica or the context try to find the different senses in which a Hebrew
word was used in the Bible. But I am speaking of "meaning" in Bible times
or "meaning" inside an English presupposition pool.

To illuminate the issue I make the following claim: Simple words
(=letters/sounds) such as NEPE$ and BFSFR do not have any intrinsic
meaning, but they signal a concept in the minds of those having the same
presupposition pool. Thus *meaning* is not found in spoken and written
words or in contexts, but in the minds of living people. Even though word
meaning may change through time, it seems that all uses of the two
mentioned words in the MT stress different sides of the very same concept
(found in the minds of the people from the time they learned their mother
tongue); and that even figurative uses or implicature take this meaning as
a point of departure. Thus a part of the same basic meaning (concept) is
found in most/all uses of the words, and this does not stem from etymology
but from the linguistic convention connected with the Hebrew presupposition
pool and of course the human minds.

Once this question is settled, one can proceed by discussing the nature of
grammatical and syntactical meaning. BTW, I teach my students that the
basic differences between the Hebrew stems (binyanim) can be explained in
the terms of diathesis, i.e. the relationship between the agent and the
patient in connection with the action.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>the following still seems to be an issue:
>(quotes below are from the vav conversive thread)
>>The root is the lexical form most of the time, although the term is
>>also used of the non-pointed (usually-)three-radical base from
>>which words are derived (e.g. )HB for both )FHAB the verb and
>>)FHFB the noun).  The stems or binyanim are inflections of the root
>>that are formed using various infixes and affixes.
>i would strongly advise that the second line is correct and would point out
>that the first line is very misleading, something endemic in our field. the
>first line leads to "etymological" thinking and students thinking that they
>can/should 'conjugate' new vocabulary. (e.g. waltke/o'conner's overview of
>roots are abstractions but are not lexemes (e.g. in terms of a deep
>structure producing and filling predicate frames), despite the 1000-year
>old dictionary convention of gathering verbs and other words under roots.
>to exemplify the potential for misunderstanding i will cite another quote
>>from the thread:
>(... The stem is the conjugating, which is roughly the adjustment of that
>meaning for the specific usage.
>Please understand that this is a quick and dirty answer...) {hey, i won't
>hold the author to this, it is just a nice example.-rb}
>SBL "linguistics and BH"  will discuss "piel" this year and i hope some of
>the papers will be able to generate frameworks more in line with human
>language and communication.
>please don't get me wrong, etymology is a very useful and legimate
>untertaking, but it is one level removed from lexicography and semantics.
>using a semitic language usually makes these distinctions quite clear to a
>learner, which is why it is important to clarify the issue for students who
>are learning an abstract framework from a book.
>braxot leshana tova
>randall buth
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