[b-hebrew] lexicography

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Mon Nov 17 00:08:44 EST 2003


Your examples in English do show up exactly what I mean.

For example, “strike”, especially when one looks at the history of the term, refers to an action. It is the motion of one object towards another irrespective of whether the objects make physical contact or not. That action is shown in the swing of a bat in baseball, the swing of the baton in the hand of a band’s conductor, the motion of sails towards the deck as sailors lower sails to protest bad conditions.

It is also an example of how languages shift meanings, such as including the result of when two objects, after moving towards each other, try to occupy the same volume; in the narrow confines of a particular ball game, where if the ball thrown by the pitcher traverses a certain restricted volume where it should be easiest for the batter to swing, would be counted as if the batter had swung his bat and missed; and where the term is taken out of its original context and applied to a new context, so just as a ship where the sailors struck the sails is dead in the water unable to travel and trade, so a company whose workers have struck it is unable to manufacture and trade. Though these accretians over time obscure the core meaning, it is still recognizable if one looks for it.

Your example of “bad” shows a dialectal and/or argot use by a small minority within a population. The majority recognize and understand that argot usage, but don’t use it because it is considered bad form. Should the minority usage ever become mainstream, then we have an example of language shift.

Most lexemes don’t have such historical accretians and/or argot usage that obscure the core meaning of a word.

I have found the same pattern in every language I studied. And if I limit myself to Biblical Hebrew, ignoring the accretians and shifts of post-Biblical Hebrew, the core meaning is usually, not always, fairly easy to recognize.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: Dave Washburn <dwashbur at nyx.net>
> On Sunday 16 November 2003 02:12, Karl Randolph wrote:

> > The first lesson I learned is that lexemes have one core meaning (unless
> > where there are two lexemes with the same pronunciation that have merged,
> > like “to” and “two” in English). I found it easiest to learn to use the
> > lexemes correctly if I could learn that core definition to recognize how it
> > is used, even if it didn’t make sense in English. 
> Interesting.  Let's look at one of my favorite English examples.
> Strike can mean:
> -to hit (strike the rock with your staff)
> -to miss (in baseball)
> -to start something (strike up the band)
> -to stop something (go on strike)
> to name just a few.  Here we have one lexeme with at least two meanings, plus 
> two more that are polar opposites of the first two.  What exactly is the 
> "core definition"?
> Another quickie from English:
> -my car has BAD tires
> -those are some BAD shoes, dude
> The former carries negative connotation, the latter positive.
> IMNSHO, there's no such thing as an actual "core definition."  Words mean what 
> they mean because a society chooses to use them that way.  In America, 
> "breakfast" used to mean "a meal taken at a particular time of day."  Now, 
> thanks in large measure to Village Inn, it means "a particular group of 
> foods."  And so it goes.  To me, looking for some "core definition" rather 
> than just examining usage in a given context, makes the task of grasping 
> Hebrew (or any other language, for that matter) just that much more 
> difficult.  YMMV.
> -- 
> Dave Washburn
> http://www.nyx.net/~dwashbur
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