[b-hebrew] The spice of lexicography: Human Sacrifice

Read, James C K0434995 at kingston.ac.uk
Fri Oct 21 18:15:03 EDT 2005

That would be a call to me. Now then! Where shall I start.

The most major failing of lexicography IMO is to force readers to 
search words under their routes, which not only complicates things 
for the untrained reader but is also downright misleading.

IMO a good lexicon would not only list and deal with words in their 
individual forms but would also list and deal with the real 'words' 
or that is to say the common repeating combinations of words which 
permeate the entire text of the tanach.

It is undeniable that function is far more important that form and 
a form based approach is the most unnatural way of learning a language 
that currently exists. People learn languages in functional phrases 
for the practical reason that functional phrases are the atomic 
building blocks of an expressive language.

That is not to say that the lexicon should not offer information of 
form but that a good lexicon should not be completely oriented around 
form as if that were the true atomic component of expression.

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org on behalf of Peter Kirk
Sent: Fri 10/21/2005 10:55 PM
To: Karl Randolph
Cc: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [b-hebrew] The spice of lexicography:  Human Sacrifice
On 21/10/2005 18:38, Karl Randolph wrote:

>I just realized as I write this response, another place 
>where I differ from BDB and other lexicographers: first 
>I mentioned that I look for action, not form, when looking 
>at how words are used. An example of that is where I 
>disagreed with Reinier de Blois as to the meaning of RXB 
>LBB: I ended up agreeing that his definition of "filling the 
>mind" is most likely correct (my original understanding 
>wrong), but he looked at the object, *what* filled the mind, 
>thus his claim that it has different meanings, while I look at 
>the action, the *filling* of the mind, and see the same 
>action despite different contexts. But now, in connection 
>with the presupposition that each word usually has one 
>basic meaning, I realize that as a lexicographer, I look for 
>the unique flavor that a spice adds to all the recipes to 
>which it is added and not the flavors it soaks up from 
>around it, i.e. what slant does each word add to the 
>contexts wherein it is found, not the meanings it receives 
>from its semantic domains. I tend to concentrate on the 
>different flavors, not the recipes. As a diner, I'm trying to 
>reverse engineer the cook's spice rack by sampling the 
>restaurant's total menu, so I try to reverse engineer a 
>lexeme's meaning by all its contexts, recognizing if 
>possible what it adds to each context.
>Correct me if I'm wrong, but based on the above, it 
>appears to me that semantic domains are based on form 
>over function. If so, it explains my intuitive discomfort with 
>the concept, as I have already rejected form over function 
>to champion function over form.
Karl, this is a very interesting and potentially useful contribution. I
certainly agree that this is what lexicography should be doing - without
necessarily agreeing that the semantic domains approach is not doing it,
at least in principle. I'm not sure what to do with this immediately,
except to resend the relevant part, as above, with a more suitable
subject line to attract the attention of people interested in
lexicography but not necessarily in human sacrifice.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
b-hebrew mailing list
b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

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