[b-hebrew] etymology [was: Semantics of paradigms]

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Tue Sep 20 13:26:34 EDT 2005


It looks as if we basically agree. Notice, I consistently used 
the weasel word "tend" to allow for exceptions.

While I think Hebrew differs from English, that difference is 
more quantitative than qualitative. With Hebrew we deal 
with a language under less pressure from other 
languages for change during a period when change 
tended to be slower, but otherwise the same patterns 

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dr. Joel M. Hoffman" <joel at exc.com>
> > Is not your rejection of etymology a bit simplistic?
> I almost didn't even mention etymology for fear of starting this
> argument.  I don't reject etymology completely; my point is more
> simple, and, I think, indisputable.  The meaning of some words is so
> far removed from what their etymology suggests that studying their
> etymology will not tell you what they mean.  Certainly there are some
> words whose meanings match their etymologies perfectly.  (Please,
> don't start writing about the fact that the match is nearly perfect
> but not in fact perfect).  But the existence in modern languages of
> etymology/meaning mismatches forces one to go one of two routes:
> 1.  Ancient languages, too, have etymology/meaning mismatches; or
> 2.  Ancient languages are qualitatively different than modern ones in
>      this regard.
> My point was that I choose (1).  Some people, wrongly in my opinion,
> choose (2).  Even if you disagree with my point about etymology, the
> methodology is still the same. Either (1) you can use modern languages
> to learn about ancient ones; or (2) you cannot.  As I said, I think
> both common sense and Occam's Razor point clearly toward (1).
> > On the other hand, even in English, those words that are derived 
> > by grammatical structure from a common root tend to stay closer 
> > to their etymological meaning.
> Actually, even that's not true.  A "patent" by definition is
> non-obvious; an obvious idea cannot be patented.  How surprising,
> then, to the etymology folks, that "patently" means "obviously."
> > Ps. a "chocoholic" may actually be an addict, as the sugar
> Yes, a chocoholic might be addicted to sugar, but "chocoholic" doesn't
> mean "addicted to sugar."  A chocoholic might be 6-feet tall, but
> "chocoholic" doesn't mean "6-feet tall."  "Chocoholic" means "someone
> who likes chocolate."
> -Joel Hoffman
>   http://www.exc.com/JoelHoffman

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