[b-hebrew] Human Sacrifice - Semantic Domain

tladatsi at charter.net tladatsi at charter.net
Sat Oct 22 16:42:05 EDT 2005

It is my own fault for having commented on a topic that has both many technical aspects and is highly contraversial without access to my usual refernece materials.  My house is being painted and I writing from a coffee shop.

The term semantic domain of course is a metaphor, derived from the feudal term domain (dominus = lord), the geographical territory controlled by a lord.  The political domain had a capital (core) and borders (periphery). The borders of a feudal domain of course could change due to through the acquisition of new territory, either existing feual lands of another lord or through feudalization of non-feudal lands.  Lose of lands can occur as well.

I find it useful to extend this metaphor to semantics.  A semantic domain has a core concept, for example to kill a domesticated aminal - to slaughter in English.  When domesticated animals are killed, they are usually easy to find, are killed in close quarters, and there is rarely much of fight put up (pigs are something on an exception). This is why there is usually a separate lexeme for killing wild animals since they must be found, they can put up much more of a fight, and as a result are usually killed from a distance.

The domain of slaughter however can be expanded to the killing of people, either when those dying are unarmed and are unable to resist, soldlers kiling civilians for example, or when those dying, even if armed and capable of resistence, are dying in such a way that they may as well be unarmed.  These people are dying as if they were domesticated animals.

The domain might be extended even further to conflicts between people where no one actually dies, but the conflict is so one sided, that it had lives been on the line, it would have seemed like the passive death of a sheep.  Sporting events or elections come to mind ("They got slaughtered.")

The core concept of the domain is an easy, passive death (viewed from the slaughterer's perspective of course) of a domesticated animal, the capital of the domain. The borders include non-domesticated animals (including people)that die as if they were domesticated animals and situations where difficult opposition would be expected but fails to materialize resulting in one-sided outcome.  Where one is in this wide semantic domain is determined by what the neighboring semantic domain are, i.e. the context.

XRM could have grown the same way. I would think that originally it applied to ritual events were domesticated animals were slaughtered, butchered, and burnt beyond the point where they might be consumed by humans (and by extention only consumed by God).  The animals was made inaccessable to the owner (given-up) and accessable to only to God (given to).  This core concept might be extended to non-dietary objects that are given up by the owner and given to God, although not physically destroyed although perhaps metaphorically.  The semantic domain could also be extended to military conflicts that differed from the normal fighting between warriors (who can put up a fight) to military conflicts where civilians (who are not expected to be able to defend themselves) are also targeted, resulting in the complete eradication of the opposing party.  That this eradication might have divine sanction only makes the link to the core conept stronger.  I think the Isaiah citation is an eve!
 n greater extention of the borders.

Jack Tladatsi

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