TIP of the day: meaning and classification of words

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Jul 3 2015 5:38 PM

Today’s tip is a number of definitions with Logos examples to clarify what you see using different tools. These look at meaning and its organization from a variety of perspectives:

  1. Summary of meaning
  2. Analytic definition
  3. Inter-relationships between words
  4. Role of word in meaning of clause (contrast to grammatical role)
  5. Componential analysis of meaning
  6. Taxonomy of meaning

1. Gloss “A gloss is a summary of the meaning of a morpheme or word, suitable for use in interlinear text displays.” (from SIL http://www-01.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsAGloss.htm)

2. Definition: A definition is a thorough description of the meaning of a lexical unit It is composed of two parts:

Wikipedia categorizes the analytic definition as:

  • ‘An intensional definition, also called a connotative definition, specifies the necessary and sufficient conditions for a thing being a member of a specific set. Any definition that attempts to set out the essence of something, such as that by genus and differentia, is an intensional definition.
  • An extensional definition, also called a denotative definition, of a concept or term specifies its extension. It is a list naming every object that is a member of a specific set.”

3. Wordnet: A lexical database that groups words into sets of synonyms called synsets, provides short definitions and usage examples, and records a number of relations among these synonym sets or their members. WordNet can thus be seen as a combination of dictionary and thesaurus (adapted from Wikipedia).  Among the relationships captured are (not all are used in the BSL):

  • Hyponym is a word that is more specific than the vocabulary word e.g. fish is a hyponym of aquatic animal
  • Hypernym is a word that is more general than the vocabulary word e.g. animal is a hypernym of aquatic animal
  • Coordinate terms share a hypernym e.g. fish and crocodile.
  • troponym is a manner of doing the vocabulary word e.g. walking, staggering
  • meronym is a constituent part of the vocabulary word e,g, finger is a meronym of hand
  • holonym is the whole of which the vocabulary is a constituent part e.g. finer is a holonym of fingernail

4. Semantic role (aka semantic case, thematic role, theta role, deep case): “A semantic role is the underlying relationship that a participant has with the main verb in a clause … Semantic role is the actual role a participant plays in some real or imagined situation, apart from the linguistic encoding of those situations.” (from SIL http://www-01.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsASemanticRole.htm )

5. Semantic domain: “A semantic domain is a specific place that shares a set of meanings, or a language that holds its meaning, within the given context of the place(from Wikipedia): One example from Wikipedia is “For instance, in basketball there are many words that are specific to the sport. Free throw, court, half court, three pointer, and point guard are all terms that are specific to the sport of basketball. These words make very little sense when used outside of the semantic domain of basketball.”

Louw-Nida use “semantic domain” in a different sense, one that derives from a componential analysis of meaning in which words are differentiated by the presence or absence of semantic features e.g. woman is + female, - male, + adult, - child. (see Dr. Reinier de Blois’ “Semantic Domains for Biblical Greek:Louw and Nida's FrameworkEvaluated from a Cognitive Perspective “ at https://www.academia.edu/2964052/Semantic_Domains_for_Biblical_Greek_Louw_and_Nidas_Framework_Evaluated_from_a_Cognitive_Perspective

“The basis for the various semantic domains and subdomains consists of three major classes of semantic features: shared, distinctive, and supplementary. The shared features are those elements of the meaning of lexical items which are held in common by a set of lexical items. The distinctive features are those which separate meanings one from another, and the supplementary features are those which may be relevant in certain contexts or may play primarily a connotative or associative role” ( Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996).)

6. Cultural ontology: “In computer science and information science, an ontology is a formal naming and definition of the types, properties, and interrelationships of the entities that really or fundamentally exist for a particular domain of discourse. It is thus a practical application of philosophical ontology, with a taxonomy.” (from Wikipedia). The Logos version is based on a standard ethnographic classification system (http://hraf.yale.edu/online-databases/ehraf-world-cultures/outline-of-cultural-materials/ )

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Schumitinu | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 3 2015 9:55 PM

MJ. Smith:

6. Cultural ontology: “In computer science and information science, an ontology is a formal naming and definition of the types, properties, and interrelationships of the entities that really or fundamentally exist for a particular domain of discourse. It is thus a practical application of philosophical ontology, with a taxonomy.” (from Wikipedia). The Logos version is based on a standard ethnographic classification system (http://hraf.yale.edu/online-databases/ehraf-world-cultures/outline-of-cultural-materials/ )

MJ, thanks for all the explanation and trying to keep things separate. I'm less scientific and more practical. So I sometimes forget that there are different needs out there.

Concerning the cultural ontology. You said that the Logos version is based on the OCM, which would make sense. But I don't see how that is the case. Neither the definition of the cultural concept nor the domain outline/hierarchy seems to stem from the OCM. Can you tell me where they are taken from? I'm especially curious about the domains used.

Thanks

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 3 2015 10:35 PM

I'll check my source on information on this.

"Cultural concepts were originally selected from the Yale Outline of Cultural Materials, a cultural ontology created to be used by anthropologists the world over. The Yale OCM contains broader cultural categories that are thought to be universal to human behavior and culture. Cultural practices and concepts that were not relevant to the biblical texts were eliminated and other concepts unique to the biblical texts were added. Our primary focus was on cultural practices and concepts that were especially relevant to the biblical text and not necessarily all ancient Near Eastern culture. During the process of annotation more concepts were added to the ontology if encountered in the text. Concepts were defined broadly in order to allow for more annotations and to prevent unnecessary complications within the ontology."

Witthoff, David, Jessica Parks, and Sean Boisen. Lexham Cultural Ontology Dataset Documentation. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2015.

I do not have access to the Near Eastern materials on the Yale site to verify the details.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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