Monday, February 22, 2010

Deriving meaning from context

It is often said that we can derive the meaning of an unknown word from context. Here is Dr. Kostenberger on this,
    While what you say is generally true, in the case of the use of didaskein and authentein in 1 Tim 2:12, in conjunction with oude, it does not appear that these verbs are of such a nature that they transparently and unequivocally convey a positive or negative connotation apart from consultation of the context and syntax of the passage.” Kostenberger BF, Nov. 30, 2008
And here is the Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought, page 123,
    Language is a lever with which we can convey surprising facts, weird new ideas, unwelcome news, and other thoughts that a listener may be unprepared for. This leverage requires a rigid stick and a solid fulcrum, and that’s what the meaning of a sentence and the words and rules supporting them must be. If meanings could be freely reinterpreted in context, language would be a wet noodle and not up to the job of forcing new ideas into the minds of listeners.
And here is Baumann and Kameenui, Vocabulary Instruction: Resaerch to Practice, page 23,
    We tested the effectiveness of the four types of contexts in helping readers derive meanings (Beck et al., 1983). The contexts consisted of stories from fourth- and sixth-grade basal readers in which we had blacked out the words recommended for attention, and our subjects were all adults. The results were as follows: directive, 86%; general, 49%; nondirective, 27%; misdirective 3%. What these results mean is that adults, reading stories for fourth and sixth graders, were able to identify meanings of words already in their vocabularies, slightly less than half the time.
And yet theologians have decided that they are certain enough about the meaning of some poorly known words to derive the teaching that women may only fill the subordinate role in the church and in the home. Piffle.


EricW said...

"Piffle" is too polite a term, IMO, for the contortions that complementarians go through and the word/mindgames they play to put down egalitarians for supposedly doing the things that they themselves are at least as equally guilty of doing.

Donald Johnson said...

The prot paradigm is that the clear passages are to be used to interpret the unclear. What the non-egals claim is that the gender passages are clear. With every paper the non-egals write, they deny their own claim.