Disambiguating Louw-Nida’s Lexicon

Posted by on August 8, 2008 in General | 0 comments

I have taken up this excellent Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament as a test case before. You have heard me say that the different electronic editions were much more flexible and powerful than the printed 2-volume work. The main drawback I used to point out is that many Louw-Nida searches would return false hits that did not belong to the cluster of meaning (i.e., semantic domain) we were trying to isolate, and that those search results had to be manually weeded out.

I am happy to say that this is no longer the case. Two different products have now gone a step further and followed a thorough process of disambiguating each occurrence of the words as they appear in context in the NT. In other words, each Greek term has been specifically tagged to the most likely instance (meaning) listed under Louw-Nida’s domains (and there’s 93 of them, each comprising many articles).

First of all I should mention a new and innovative program called ScriptureDirect. Bennie Wolvaardt, the developer, worked alongside Johannes Louw himself, who dedicated years of his life to this project after his retirement as professor. The interlinear translation has been prepared specifically for this program, and both the links between the Greek and English and the selection of the most likely meaning from Louw-Nida for each word of the NT have been done one by one. Similarly, it has been proofread word by word. The program does not include a library of books integrated by a search engine. Rather, it is very specific tool for diving into the original meaning of the Greek New Testament. This can be done starting from the English text (typing practice will yield five different semantic domains — i.e., 41.28, 42.3, 42.10,  68.20 and 90.45), the list of semantic domains itself [e.g.,  10. Kinship Terms D. Kinship Relations Based Upon Marriage (10.53-10.61)] or the Greek text itself (φυλακή). It is very useful when you follow the designed workflow, but it does not offer yet the ability to make complex command line or dialog searches.

The other product is the new Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (LGNTI) published by Logos. This work, edited by W. Hall Harris III, includes disambiguated Louw-Nida domains. To put it another way, each Greek term has also been tagged in context and assigned to what is believed to be the likely instance mentioned in Louw-Nida. Unfortunately, I don’t have a license to use this tool, but you can see a demo video of its main features. What I do have is the latest Logos revision of Louw-Nida, that includes a look-up table linking word and meaning (disambiguation at work!). Whereas before you would keylink to the headword that listed all the different meanings of that term (as found in volume 2 of the Lexicon), as shown here:

now it jumps to the most likely meaning in context. For example, clicking on φυλακή in Revelation 18:2 the program takes you directly to 85.85. Like so:

So, in conclusion. To answer my own question (posted June 30th, 2006):

We now have the whole text annotated with Louw-Nida’s domains, but since each word is attached to all the domains it can belong to, quite frequently we are bound to get false hits in our searches. Let me give you an example. The Greek word φυλακή is found across four different domains (7.24, 37.123, 67.196, and 85.85), some of which have widely different meanings, but how do we choose one and exclude the rest?

Well, now with ScriptureDirect we could simply double-click on Revelation 18:2, choose the Greek word, the 85.85 domain or the English word haunt. Similarly, with Logos Bible Software we could double-click the word in the Greek text (provided Louw-Nida is our first KeyLink option for the “Greek” Data Type), select the text and choose the appropriate option in the context menu or, presumably, speed search the new LGNTI by searching louw in "LN 85.85" andequals φυλακή, or something to that effect.

These improvements do make a huge difference, and it is good to see Bible software making such progress. Keep it up!

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