[b-hebrew] Contextual Semantic Domains

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Fri Nov 21 12:25:05 EST 2003

On 21/11/2003 09:06, furuli at online.no wrote:

> Dear Peter,
> Your remarks below are very fine, and I agree with them. 
> Lexicographers must do their best, as does Reinier de Blois. However, 
> the question is what the lexicographers lead their readers to believe 
> that they get by reading a lexicon. Do they find the *lexical meaning* 
> of a word in such a lexicon, or do they find something else?
> The explanations of Reinier de Blois are fine indeed, but he does not 
> give the *lexical meaning* of each word, he gives only explanations 
> and glosses. And it is a pity if his readers believe that they get the 
> *lexical meaning*. Your words below reminds me of Paul's words in 1 
> Corinthians 13:12, which in English translation can be: "For at 
> present we see in a hazy outline by means of a metal mirror". If this 
> is applied to Hebrew-English lexicons, that is very fine. If not, the 
> readers simply are hoodwinked.
I am reminded more of 2 Corinthians 12:3, "inexpressible things". I 
would agree that the lexical meaning is not entirely expressible in 
words. Lexicographers realise this and often give disclaimers to this 
effect. But we do our best.

> ...
> In order to use lexicons in the right way I think its readers should 
> be taught the following: The letters and sounds of a word has no 
> meaning (save onomatopoetica). But each word signals one (or 
> occasionally two or more) concepts in the minds of people speaking the 
> same language. The concept signalled by the word is its *lexical 
> meaning*, but in most cases a concept cannot be adequately defined, it 
> must be known. True, we can in many cases point to a "core sense" of 
> the concept. But this is not its *lexical meaning*, but only a part of 
> this meaning.  Let me illustrate my case by using the word "meaning"
> In The Concise Oxford Thesaurus (1997). Oxford: Oxford University 
> Press I find the following under "meaning":
> Meaning noun 1 understand the meaning of what he said, signification, 
> sense, message, import, drift,, gist, essence, substance, purport, 
> connotation, denotation, implication, significance, trust. 2 what is 
> the meaning of the word? Definition, explanation, interpretation, 
> elucidation, explication. 3 it was notour meaning to delay him 
> intention, purpose, plan, aim, goal, end, object, objective, 
> aspiration, desire, want. Wish. 4 his life has no meaning 
> significance, point, value, worth, consequence, account. 5 a glance 
> full of meaning significance, implication, allusion, intimation, 
> insinuation, eloquence, expression.
> Where do we find the *lexical meaning* among these words? We don't 
> find it at all. ...

But you are quoting here from a thesaurus, a list of near synonyms. If 
you want to find the lexical meaning, look at a good dictionary. You 
won't find it perfectly, but you will get much nearer.

> ... But when we hear or read the word "meaning" we get a relatively 
> clear or a vague notion in our mind of what is spoken about. But how 
> can we use this *lexical meaning* which is more or less vague? 
> Communication between individuals by help of words basically consists 
> in making a part of the meaning potential visible and to make all 
> other parts invisible. The tool we have to achieve this is the 
> context. The context does not generate new *lexical meaning* - all the 
> *lexical meaning* is found in the concept in the mind - but the 
> context helps the listener/reader to see which part of each concept 
> the author wants to make visible. The context can generate other kinds 
> of meaning, but not a single piece of *lexical meaning*. Thus it is 
> definitely wrong to claim that lexical meaning can be found in 
> lexicons, ...

What you say here seems reasonable at first sight. But if you want to 
demonstrate it more fully, at least start by quoting from a lexicon and 
not a thesaurus.

> ... and it is equally wrong to claim that the context has anything to 
> do with lexical meaning at all, except of making visible the right 
> part of the lexical meaning that already is present.
> BTW.  A conclusion of my aspect studies is that the basic purpose of 
> Hebrew aspects is to make a part of the verbal meaning visible and to 
> make other parts invisible.

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

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list