Thursday, June 21, 2012

Supplement Response to Chris Date on Result Nouns

This post is heavily reliant (to the point that it would be plagiarism if I did not give full credit) on Adam Blauser's comment in the previous post. 

First, he provided an article that states:
Deverbal nouns that allow a result interpretation often allow an event interpretation too.
In order to separate the different meanings of a deverbal noun, one usually employs distributional
tests. If we assume result objects to be concrete entities then result object nouns
should be usable in complement positions of verbs which require concrete objects:

(1) a. Die F¨alschung wurde der Polzei ¨ubergeben.
‘The forgery was handed over to the police.’

b. Er ber¨uhrte versehentlich seine Verletzung.
‘He inadvertently touched his injury.’

c. Er verbarg seine neuste Erfindung im Keller.
‘He hid his newest invention in the basement.’

d. Die Beurteilung wurde ihm gestern zugesandt.
‘The assessment was sent to him yesterday.’
He points out that words like "injury" and "forgery" are deverbal result nouns, yet one can easily think of contexts in which the focus is not on the result, but upon the action. Consider:
His back was injured during the first quarter of last night's game. During the injury, he also hurt his left forearm.
He could have honestly worked for the money necessary to buy a house in the time the forgery took.

Notice how, in each of those instances, it doesn't seem to make much sense to say that the only or primarily result is in view. While one might think that we are talking about the results of the act of injuring occurring, it is much more rational to assume that we are talking about when the act of injuring itself took place, especially since it is connected temporally with another event, namely, the "hurting" of his forearm. The same thing can be said of the second example. "The forgery" clearly refers to the making of the false document, with no focus on the result, especially when it is coupled with a parallel reference to a process verb ("worked") and a reference to time.

His point (he used different but similar illustrations) that, even if Date were correct that "punishment" were a deverbal result noun, he would have to argue that the context favors a result interpretation, not an event/process/manner interpretation.

He goes on to state:
However, it gets even worse when he deals with the Greek and the Hebrew. From a historical linguistics perspective, the Greek term κολασις has the ending -σις, which is typical of words that are nominalized forms of actions. Consider the following:

ερημοω-to lay waste [to a city] ερημωσις-destruction, depopulation

κρινω-to judge κρισις-judgment

ζητεω-I seek ζητησις-investigation

ελευσομαι-I will come ελευσις-coming

πιπτω-I fall πτωσις-a fall

As can be readily seen, the meaning "the action itself as a noun" is typical of Greek nouns formed by adding the ending in -σις to the root. However, this is why historical linguistics can never settle these issues. The reason is that some of these nouns would go on to develop resultant meanings, for example, ποιησις comes from the Greek verb ποιεω which means "to do." While ποιησις *can* mean "the act of doing something" [James 1:25], most of the time, it means the result of doing something, namely, "a work."

However, in Matthew 25:46, the "result" meaning very clearly cannot be sustained, as it is put in parallel with "eternal life." Living is something that will be done eternally, and thus, why would anyone think that punishment is something that will not be done for all of eternity? Even though this is my final point, I think it is what I would want to emphasize. Meaning in language cannot be taken from historical linguistics or semantic categories. Semantic classification is, itself, subject to change by multiple factors, including context, background assumptions, etc. Thus, when we discuss the deverbal character of nouns, how they morphologically came into existence, or their meaning, we cannot simply give universal labels, but must consider how this particular term is understood in the light of the communal and authorial context of our target text. If we don't do that, we can fall badly into the fallacy of defining words by roots, and thus, a person who is feeling "awful" is "full of awe!"
I want to underscore what I see as his most crucial point. Words can have a range of meanings, known as the "semantic range" of the word. When there is a question about which meaning of the range of meanings applies, the very best clue to that meaning is the immediate context.

Recall that, above, "injury" and "forgery" are deverbal result nouns (generally speaking), yet clues from the sentence allowed us to recognize that they were being used in a "event" or "manner" sense. Likewise, when "eternal punishment" is placed in parallel with "eternal life," we are given an unmistakable clue that the "event" or "manner" sense is intended.

Thus, while my previous post sinks Mr. Date's argument, even if Mr. Date were correct about punishment being (generally speaking) a result noun, Mr. Date's argument is still sunk.


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