[b-hebrew] lexicography

Bill Rea bsr15 at cantsl.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Nov 17 16:00:45 EST 2003


I read Pastor Eddy's long post on core meanings and it sounds highly
artificial to me. If, and its a big if, the word strike had a single
meaning in the past, which some want to call its ``core'' meaning, it
is clear that it no longer has an identifiable core. The usage of
``strike'', and hence its meaning, has changed with time.

I'll throw in another usuage. If you buy a stock option on a
stock exchange the exericse price, i.e. the price you would
pay if you want to buy the stock by using the option, is known
as the strike price.

A quote from Pastor Eddy's post:-

> And when workers go "on strike" this does not mean that they "stop"
> their work. They only interrupt it. The purpose of the "strike" is to do
> damage to the managers of the company, to strike back at them (so as to
> hit them in their pocketbook). Again, this idiom grows out the the core
> meaning of "strike": to (try to) hit something. If they literally struck
> out at their managers (as happened in some of the violent strikes of a
> century ago), they would be thrown in prison. So they developed less
> physical ways to strike back at their employer (sitting down at their
> machines or simply not showing up for work). The term went along with
> the change in actions, so if we are to interpret what is meant in
> context, we will need to know that context and also the time period in
> which the word is used. But this does not negate the fact that there is
> a core meaning to the word "strike" in its history.

But isn't this really conceding the point while denying you are conceding
it. Perhaps, we don't know for sure, ``strike'' did have ``a core meaning
in its history.'' But surely you can see its meaning has split into a
range of unrelated concepts. Your very arguments make that point.

The problem is even worse in Hebrew because we can't reliably date the
writings. The only reason you can argue, in a highly artificial manner,
that ``strike'' has a core meaning is because you *can* reliably date
past usage. With the Hebrew scriptures you can get opinions on the date
of composition of individual peices that range more than 1,000 years. The
language seems to have changed much slower than what we are used to in
English, but nevertheless it did change.

Further, even if you could find an original core meaning for a word, which
appears to me to be nothing more than its earliest recorded meaning, that
doesn't give you a reliable guide to its later usuage.

Another quote:-

> So historically and biblically there are good reasons for us to look for
> "core" meanings to words (and core grammatical structures). This does
> not mean that in actually usage words will continue to hold on to their
> original "core meaning." We need to recognize where meanings branch off
> over time.

I hope you realise the significance of what you wrote.

Bill Rea, Information Technology Dept., Canterbury  University  \_
E-Mail bill.rea at canterbury.ac.nz                                </   New
Phone   64-3-364-2331, Fax     64-3-364-2332                   /)  Zealand
Unix Systems Administrator                                    (/'

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