[b-hebrew] Contextual Semantic Domains

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Wed Nov 19 19:16:58 EST 2003

On 18/11/2003 11:54, CS Bartholomew wrote:

>Reinier de Blois following J.P.Louw** draws a distinction between lexical
>and contextual semantic domains:
>In an article written in 1991, Louw makes a distinction between lexical and
>contextual meaning. According to him, the former deals with those aspects of
>meaning that a word ³contributes in and of itself,² whereas the latter deals
>with the information provided by the utterance in which that word occurs
>³involving the circumstances of and the objects referred to in a specific
>context in terms of its usage in such a context along with other words or
>phrases contributing to the context.²
>----end quote
>Does anyone who has taken a serious look at this issue have any reservations
>about developing a Hebrew dictionary which is structured around this
Excellent question, Clay. I am involved in a project to develop just 
such a dictionary, restricted to "Key Terms" (this is not R de Blois' 
SDBH project). I consider this to be a helpful distinction, but it is 
also a confusing one. In fact the project leadership has just agreed to 
a change in the terminology: we will continue to refer to "lexical 
meaning", but no longer to "contextual meaning", rather to "contextual use".

Let me explain briefly what is happening here (see 
http://www.ubs-translations.org/sdbh/ for more details). Reinier de 
Blois criticises the Louw and Nida dictionary of NT Greek for confusing 
lexical meaning distinctions and the uses of words in different 
contexts. His approach makes these into two independent factors. In my 
opinion, things are not quite as tidy as de Blois would like them to be, 
but he does have a very good point. The distinctions he makes are rather 
subtle, but they are helpful.

To go back to the "strike" example, there may be separate lexical 
meanings here, but it would be possible to see this as one rather broad 
lexical meaning with a number of distinct contextual uses e.g. in music, 
baseball and labour relations. Not perhaps the best example, but it's 
too late at night here in England to think of a better one.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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