Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Resources For Lexical Analysis (Part 3)

Part 1 is available here, and Part 2 here.

AP: Now let's turn our attention to the noteworthy dictionary of J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida titled Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains (2 vols.). The first volume of this dictionary contains the introduction to the words of the Greek NT distributed in 93 semantic fields; the seance contains three indices: (1) Greek-English, English, and biblical citations.

According to Louw-Nida (henceforward L-N), this dictionary is aimed at translators of the New Testament into various languages, but is also useful for librarians, pastors, and students of theology. In its methodology it may also interest linguists and lexicographers.

In the preface and introduction (pp. iv-xx) of the first volume, the authors set out the working process of this dictionary and the principles governing its redaction. Let's take a look at these.

First, the dictionary takes as its basis the vocabulary of Barclay M. Newman, which accompanies the third edition of the Greek New Testament, published by the United Bible Societies (1975).

Second, to classify the words, it distinguishes between words with a single reference (proper names of persons and places), words with class referent (common names, adjectives, verbs, etc.) and markers (prepositions and particles indicating the relationships between lexemes, phrases, or sentences).

The lexical elements designating class referents belong to three principle types: objects (fields 1-12), events (fields 13-57), and abstracts (58-91), including relationals (pronominal and deictic expressions indicating or substituting objects or entities and, to a lesser degree, events or attributes/abstracts: cf. field 92).

In L-N, the basis for the organization of the various semantic fields is formed by three classes of semantic features or semes: shared or common, distinctive and supplementary. The shared features are those elements of the meaning or semes that a body of lexemes has in common; the distinctive, those which separate some meanings from others; the supplementary, for their part, those which may be relevant in particular contexts and can play a primarily connotative and associative role.

With the fields or subfields the most generic meanings are dealt with first and the entries work towards the more specific meanings.

Third, from the point of view of the form or organization of each lemma, the authors consider it important to annotate the irregular forms if they have a new meaning or if they are sufficiently odd to cause difficulty in their morphological identification.

Fourth, for the authors, one of the advantages of this dictionary is that the different meanings are marked by exponential letters. The most common meaning or unmarked meaning is the first one listed (exponent a), followed by the other more or less common or peripheral ones in order of specificity. Nonetheless, given that the meanings at times form groups or constellations, the authors consider that the order of the list is not specially significant.

Fifth, the most distinctive feature of this dictionary just might be the fact that the meanings are indicated by means of definitions and not simply by equivalent translations (i.e., glosses). Thus ἐρημόω is defined as "to suffer a destruction which implies being forsaken and abandoned." The verbal equivalent ἐρημόομαι is "to be destroyed" or "to suffer desolation or destruction." The verb εὑρίσκω is defined as "to learn something not previously known, which frequently carries an element of surprise." Its equivalent is "to learn, discover." The authors think that, without definition or description, the equivalent word may lead to error or confusion.

Sixth, this dictionary sometimes deals with various lexemes, grouped together in a single lemma, as if they were fully synonymous. For instance, in section 15.78 the following appear together: ἀπαντάω, ἀπάντησις, ὑπαντάω, ὑπάντησις, defined as "to go to meet someone with an unfriendly or hostile intent."

Seventh, the dictionary contains suggestions that can be important for translators, especially when an object or action can have a different symbolic meaning in various cultures. For example, in biblical culture, "to beat one's breast" (cf. Luke 18:13) symbolizes repentance, while in other cultures it is a symbol of arrogance. In certain languages, the equivalent of the biblical expression can be "to beat one's head" or "to grasp one's stomach."


*The above is taken, with only slight modification, from Antonio Piñero and Jesús Peláez, The Study of the New Testament: A Comprehensive Introduction, trans. David E. Orton and Paul Ellingworth, Tools for Biblical Studies 3 (Leiden: Deo, 2003).

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