Saturday, January 14, 2006

Appendix for: Sub-Symbolic Language and Inspiration

ABSTRACT: A basic theory of language and cognition upon which was based the paper A Sub-Symbolic Language and the Inspiration of Scripture.

A theory of the workings of the mind

The Meaning Triangle gives us a way to see the connection between symbols (e.g. Words) and thought. It was put on paper by Ogden and Richards1 to give a picture that thoughts of a thing do have a connection to the words said about it, but the words are separate from the thought that comes about.

For the work we are doing, I have made small changes to the words that are used. I have done this to make clearer the discussion that comes after. A symbol is an experience. Such experience may be had by the eye, ear, touch, or may even be an experience of the mind such as a thought.

Symbols come into the the mind and the mind puts them into a structure. This structure we say is a symbolic relationship pattern2. The mind takes the symbolic relationship pattern and makes an attempt to see it in the “mental universe” that had existence before the experience. When it has a match, the structure in the “mental universe” is said to be the Referent3. Through this process, the symbolic relationship pattern has been Defined.

This complex process of Definition is the process that gives “meaning” to “words.”4

I make use of “symbolic relationship pattern in place of the words used by Ogden and Richards as well as Voelz because it makes clear that the relation among the symbols is the important thing. The words “Thought/Reference” (Ogden) and “Conceptual Signified” (Voelz) give the idea that this is a “thing” that has existence. But, a “thought” or “Conceptual Signified” does not have any material existence. It is only a structure; a complex of relations5.

Frequently we put a new symbol into the structure that makes the process of Referencing/Defining this structure simpler. This may be a label or name for the Referent so that the mind is able to see it with a smaller amount of work when it is Defining things.

You may be saying, “What is the difference between a symbolic relationship pattern and a Referent?” Even though they are complexes of symbols in relation to one another, there are two things that make them different.

First, they are different in respect to the time they came to be. The event of experience makes the division. Referents were in existence before the experience. The symbolic relationship pattern came to be with the experience. For purposes of the current discussion, it may be said that symbolic relationship patterns change and Referents do not.

A Referent, then, is a structure that has been put into the “mental universe” before the symbolic relationship pattern was made. From this we see that a Referent will generally be more complex in comparison to a symbolic relationship pattern. This is true because a Referent has relations to other Referents that may not be important in the current symbolic relationship pattern. We will see this as important when we come to the idea of Context and Communication.

The marks on the page after the word “STATEMENT” will make us ready to go forward:

STATEMENT: Larry schwinked the ronk.

When you first see these marks, you may say, “It gives no meaning!” I will now make you see that these marks give you a great amount of “meaning.

First, you see the lines and arches on the page and your mind takes note of the relation they have. This is where the physical experience ends. Your mind is able to see that structures of lines and arches like these have been experienced before and you
Define these structures as letters and words.

If you have not had much experience reading, you may to take smaller groups of lines and arches and Define them independently then put these Referents together to make a new symbolic relationship pattern in order to Define that structure. If you have had a greater amount of experience, you may be able to take a greater number of lines and arches and Define them at the level of words.

When we get to Definition at the level of words, we see that there is trouble. Two of the words are not able to be Defined (because I made them up). That is to say, you have no Referent for the words “schwinked” and “ronk.”

Ah,” you say, “See, it does not give meaning!” Again, I say that it gives greater meaning than you may see. You have come to the belief that the lines and arches are words in a statement. With experience in the English language you have the knowledge that in an English statement, the general form is “Subject – Verb – Object.” You come to the belief, then, that “Larry” is the “subject” of this statement, “schwinked” is the verb, and “the ronk” is the “object”. Other symbols that help are the “ed” marks at the end of the second word. You have knowledge that “ed” at the end of a word at times makes the act of the verb “past-tense.” The markings making the symbolthe” frequently occur before a noun. You have a friend or relation named “Larry” and see these markings as denoting a persons name.

With all of this, you are able to come to the belief that the statement means that some person named “Larry” at some point in time before now did “schwink” a “ronk.”

You now see that you have a great amount of meaning. When you come to the knowledge that “to schwink” is like “to walk into” and “ronk” is a word for “wall” you have completed the Definition process by having Referents for all of the symbols and have a complete Relationship Pattern. But if you give some thought to it, you had meaning before you had knowledge of these two words. You were able to get that meaning because of the relation among these symbols and the symbols that you were able to Define.

We see, then, that we get meaning not from symbols but from the relation that symbols have with other symbols. To say it another way, symbols get meaning when they are in a Context.

People frequently use the word Context, but give no thought to the definition of this word. So that we have agreement, we will use the word Context to be the symbols (experience from the senses as well as in the “mental universe” of a person) that occur near a symbol that is the interest of thought6. Note that these may be near in time and/or space.

We will now take up the idea of Learning. Learning is the process of getting new Referents into the “mental universe” or making change to a Referent that is there currently. Learning takes place when new relations are made from Referents that are a part of the “mental universe” and/or experiences from the senses and these relations are lasting. This process frequently makes more than one new Referent.

This Theory of Learning and the earlier Theory of Definition make us able to take a look at Communication.

Communication, the it is the process of making a symbolic relationship pattern in the mind of the Receiver(s) that is the same as the structure of the Referent in the mind of the Sender. In the end, this does not ever completely occur because no two people have the same Context. The nearer the match, the greater the amount of Communication.

For the Sender, the process is the reverse of the Theory of Definition we saw earlier. The Sender has a Referent in mind and makes a symbolic relationship pattern that is not as complex. The Sender then forms symbols (e.g. markings on a page, noises, hand-signs, etc.) to give to the Receiver. From these symbols and his Context, the Receiver makes a symbolic relationship pattern and makes an attempt to see a Referent in his “mental universe” that is a match to that of the Sender.

From this, we see that the nearer the Context of the Sender and Receiver, the nearer the symbolic relationship pattern of the Receiver is going to match the Referent in the mind of the Sender.

There are a number of important things to be said about this process. Senders not make symbols for all of the Referents and relations in their “mental universe” to Communicate. They make a structure with a smaller amount of complexity to Communicate to the Receiver. The things that are not Communicated, the Receiver will get from the Context. This may be from his “mental universe” or by observation of other symbols that were not given by the Sender.

The symbolic relationship pattern made by the Receiver, because it is based on his Context will frequently have relations that were not Communicated by the Sender. This is frequent when the Sender does not give Symbols to the Receiver to not make these relations.

This is one thing that makes Communication hard. At times, the Receiver does not make connections that the Sender has in mind or the Receiver does make connections that the Sender does not have in mind. While this is able to be fixed by changing the Context (for example, by the Sender giving more Symbols), it is clear that the Receiver did not get the meaning being Communicated by the Sender7.

From this we are able to see how Communication that is done by writing is frequently not done well. The Sender and Receiver may be separated by time or space to such a degree that more Symbols are not able to be sent. The Receiver is then made to put Symbols in the symbolic relationship pattern from his Context with no knowledge that these Symbols are to be part of the symbolic relationship pattern that the Sender made an attempt to Communicate.


Adler, Ronald B. and Neil Towne, Looking Out – Looking In. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2003.

Bates, Elizabeth and Judith C. Goodman, “On the Inseperability of Grammar and the Lexicon: Evidence from Acquisition Aphasia and Real-Time Processing” Language and Cognitive Processes 12(5/6), pp. 507-584. (Accessed Online 9/28/2005 at )

Faber, Pamela, “Translation Competence and Language Awareness” Language Awareness.7:1. 1998 (Accessed Online 9/28/2005 at )

Jiang, Nan, “Lexical Representation and Development in a Second Language” Applied Linguistics 21/1:47-77. Oxford University Press. 2000 (Accessed Online 9/28/2005 at: )

Moudraria, Olga, “Lexical Approach to Second Language Teaching” ERIC Clearinghouse EDO-FL-01-02, June 2001. (Digest available at )

Ogden, C.K. and I.A. Richards, The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of The Influence of Language upon Thought and of The Science of Symbolism. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1946.

Segler, Thomas M., “PhD Research Proposal: Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition and Learning Strategies in ICALL Environments.” April 2001. (Accessed Online 9/29/2005: )

Stubbs, M. “Language Development, Lexical Competence and Nuclear Vocabulary” Educational Linguistics. Blackwell, 1986. pp. 98-115.(Accessed online 7/19/2005 )


Voelz, James W., What Does This Mean? Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Post-Modern World, Saint Louis, MO: CPH, 1995.

Walker, Michael Pittman, “Chiseling Competence: A Connectionist Revision of Chomsky's Language Acquisition Device”, BA thesis, Emory University 1999 (Accessed online 7/23/2005 ).

1Ogden and Richards, The Meaning of Meaning

2Thought/Reference in Ogden and Richards, Conceptual Signified in Voelz.

3The process of building new patterns in the “mental universe” is briefly treated later in this presentation.

4In other words, a Symbol “means” something when a Referent is found in the “mental universe” that matches the symbolic relationship pattern of the constituent symbols..

5EXCURSUS: An interesting corollary to this understanding is that it validates the axiom that theology is the study of prepositions. This is true because the preposition is the language symbol that specifically functions to denote relationship. If you consider “thoughts” and “concepts” to be nothing but points at which relationships intersect then it is easy to admit to the truth of the axiom.

6It should be noted here that the context includes ALL surrounding symbols. That is to say, it includes all sense perceptions acquired (sounds, feelings, hunger pains, temperature sensations, etc.) as well as anything that is “active” in the “mental universe” at the time. If a plane was flying over head when you read the statement discussed earlier, that would be part of the context (although, in this case, it would not have contributed to meaning) even though you may not have included it in your symbolic relationship pattern as you attempted to derive meaning from the statement .

7It should be apparent that the addition of symbols by the sender of a written text is frequently impossible because the sender is separated from the receiver and no context other than what is in the text itself is available.

Read More!

A Sub-Symbolic View of Language and the Inspiration of Scripture

The following pages discuss recent developments in the sciences of linguistics and human cognition as they relate to language. The aim is to determine whether or not these developments can assist the theologian in his task of understanding the scriptures. The primary question to be answered is whether the use of the information gained from these sciences would deny the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture.

A Sub-Symbolic View of Language and the Inspiration of Scripture
Matthew Dent

Dogmatics I
Rev. Prof. Roland Ziegler



Since the beginning, God communicated with man through language1 and in spite of the confounding of language at the Tower of Babel, God continues to communicate with us through language. He inspired the apostles and prophets to leave a written record of their teachings. In the same way that Christ condescended to come to earth to be born in the flesh, the Spirit condescended to be enfleshed in human language in the Holy Scriptures.

God has thus sanctified human language for the purpose of revealing Himself to mankind. Since God has chosen to use language to meet us, we should be diligent and careful in our interpretation of that language He has chosen to use in order that we might see Him as He intended to be seen.

It behooves us, therefore, to understand how language operates and work within the parameters of the medium itself. We should neither extend beyond the language lest we become enthusiasts, adding to God's revelation of Himself, nor should we place artificial strictures on language, lest we fail to fully understand and teach God's Word it in its completeness.

The following pages discuss recent developments in the sciences of linguistics and human cognition as they relate to language. The aim is to determine whether or not these developments can assist the theologian in his task of understanding the scriptures. The primary question to be answered is whether the use of the information gained from these sciences would deny the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture.

Science and Faith

Before using the results of scientific pursuits in the realm of theology, it is important to lay out the relationship between science and theology. As a pursuit of fallen man in investigating a fallen world, science can in no way be placed above or on par with faith. That is to say, where there is a conflict between science and faith, the rule of faith supercedes any conclusion of science2.

This investigation, however, complicates this relationship since we are proposing to discuss the process of interpretation of the Scriptures which are the rule and norm for faith. We must, therefore, proceed carefully and analyze any method of interpretation proposed by science to assure that the assumptions and results of the method do not conflict with the faith.

In the present instance, we will be using research that is being done with regard to how the human mind functions in the interpretation of language. A number of things commend this research as valid. First, language is an activity of fallen man. Second, God condescended to have His Word recorded as human language and intended it to be understood by us. We believe that the plain meaning of Scripture is ascertained through the human capacity for language not some magical property of God's Word that causes it to understood apart from this human capacity. That is, we believe that it is perspicuous3. Thus we make it accessible by translating it into the vernacular and we work to understand the original languages that God chose to use.

The present investigation seeks to better understand the underlying human capacity for language and how language affects and interacts with the cognitive functions.

The primary purpose is to develop sound methodologies for proper comprehension of language. Because of his sinful nature, man will always seek to push away and hide the reality of God from himself. Because of the simul of Lutheran theology, this is no less true of the believer than the unbeliever. By developing sound hermeneutics, we protect the teachings of scripture and make it possible to “follow the pattern of sound words.”

Postmodernism and Language

In his never ending quest to hide the reality of God from himself, man has begun even to deny the validity of his own scientific pursuits. Postmodernism is a term which has become associated with this latest attempt to run away and hide from God. With the denial of both objective reality and the correspondence theory of truth4, mankind has consented to be held in bondage by his own delusions. In this environment, the assertion of the perspicuity of Scripture becomes a license to accept the results of any hermeneutic as a valid interpretation.

Postmodern thinking has already begun redefining the nature of language and the interpretive process so as to divorce text and meaning from the historical situation and the intent of the author.5 Such a divorce has serious consequences because it is built on questionable presuppositions. Allowing it to go unchallenged has consequences which are unimaginable.6

Christian Response

Instead of capitulating to an understanding of language which will so obviously lead us astray, it is incumbent upon us to investigate, understand and be able to articulate clearly how the language of Scripture is perspicuous and how to arrive at a correct understanding of Scripture based on sound principles of interpretation. Luther lamented what happened when the Greek language disappeared and how it impacted the faith7. The present situation is similar. Although it is unlikely that the languages themselves will disappear in the same manner that they once did, the principles of deriving proper meaning from language is being threatened.

As Christians, we cannot accept all of the tenets of postmodern thinking. The Christian world view posits that there is an objective reality and what is true corresponds to that reality. Thus, there is a right and a wrong; a true and a false. For Scripture, this means there is a correct and an incorrect result of the interpretive enterprise.

In the same way that we can accept some but not all postmodern thinking,8 we must be cautious not to be blinded by groups such as The Entrevernes Group, The Society of Biblical Literature, Center for Analysis of Religious Discourse (CADIR), and others with a radical view of how semiotics should be applied to the interpretation of Scripture.

Furthermore, simply decrying their methodologies and not providing a corrective poses serious risks for posterity.

Language as Symbolic System

The fact is, all language is symbolic. Thus any interpretative endeavor is an exercise in semiotics. Long before de Saussure promoted the idea of a science of signs, there was a recognition that language was a symbolic system and that the relationship between the mental universe and the symbols used to communicate were arbitrary.9 Here we must alert the reader that in saying that the symbols of language are arbitrary we are not saying that meaning is arbitrary.

A Sub-Symbolic Theory of Language

There are some semiotic views of language which take on presuppositions that are antithetical to a Christian interpretation of Scripture and they must be discarded. However, in his own work of translating the Scriptures from Greek into German, Luther did not reject all the work of Erasmus in recovering the Greek language simply because he did not share Erasmus' humanist presuppositions. Luther instead made use of what he could and discarded the rest.

Once we begin to answer the question, “how do we understand language to function?” we must constantly consider the question, “does such an understanding run contrary to the doctrines of the historical Christian faith and specifically the doctrine of inspiration?”

We have already seen that there is general acceptance that language is a system of signification. The following summarizes a description of language, which some may label as “semiotic,” that will serve as the basis for the remaining investigation10.

This model of language and communication uses a triadic model of the sign11 loosely based on the Semiotic Triangle of Ogden and Richards12. Under this model, symbols are perceived, then organized based upon their relationships to one another. This organized structure is compared against the structures which already exist in the mind of the subject. When a match is found, the sign has been “defined.” New symbols are added to the mind of the subject by establishing new intersections of relationship among existing symbols13.

Cognitive science and Artificial Intelligence research has developed similar “sub-symbolic”14 understandings of language which construct meaning based on the relationships among symbols. Within this “connectionist” framework, it is possible to explain the work previous cognitive and linguistic researchers such as Noam Chomsky with his Language Acquisition Device without the need to resort to innate structures in the brain to account for the grammatical construction of language15.

A Constructive Semiotic Hermeneutic

Unlike postmodern semiotic interpreters who begin at the level of “discourse,” and attempt to “deconstruct” the discourse to arrive at meaning based on preconceived “structures”16, the model under discussion begins with low level symbols in their relationship to “construct” meaning.

In the constructive approach, the relationships are defined by the text itself. This is accomplished in a number of ways. One method is through grammatical construction. For example, in a “Subject Verb Object” sentence, the “Subject” is the actor who performs the “Verb” on the “Object.” Also, the tense of a “verb” can establish a temporal relationship (past, present, future, etc.). In addition to grammatical construction, relationships can be established through words which establish relationship, for example, words such as “before” and “after” and prepositions (“inside”, “outside”, “away from”, “toward”, etc.).

As we have already described, this approach to language causes meaning to be derived from the intersection of relationships among symbols. This has the consequence of removing the distinction between “grammar” and the “lexicon.”17 In this model, the traditional “lexicon” is not the dyadic association of “meaning” with “sign” but rather the process of definition is a process of matching patterns. When patterns match, there is definition. That sign can then function as a symbol and the mind can examine what else is related to that symbol.

This provides a beginning point for considering a constructive semiotic hermeneutic. Additional work must still be done to examine the ramifications of this theory of language on the interpretive enterprise. However, we must now turn our attention to Scriptural Inspiration.

Scriptural Inspiration

Rather than threatening the concept of scriptural inspiration, a sub-symbolic theory of language actually strengthens the necessity for a strong view of inspiration. If symbols in relationship form meaning, then by changing the symbols or changing the relationship the meaning will change. This is almost axiomatic18.

If, then, God wills to reveal Himself to us through writings, it is apparent that He must choose both the symbols that will be used as well as their relationships. Since relationship is, in part, tied closely with what we term the grammar of a language, the languages themselves take on great significance to the task of communication.

Given what we have thus far said, we can echo Luther when he says, “For it was not without purpose that God caused his Scriptures to be set down in these two languages alone—the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek.,” and goes on to say, “And let us be sure of this: we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages.”19 We can boldy assert, “In short, the Holy Spirit is no fool. He does not busy himself with inconsequential or useless matters. He regarded the languages as so useful and necessary to Christianity that he ofttimes brought them down with him from heaven.20

Translation, Manuscripts and Reliability

We no longer posses any of the original manuscripts written by the Apostles or Prophets. However, God, in his providence, preserved copies. We know from modern textual criticism that there are variances in these copies. The question arises as to whether or not we can trust them. After all, from the discussion above, since we have changed the symbols (words) we have thus changed the meaning.

Here, again, we will return to the work of those attempting to replicate the function of language in the world of computers. The work of Risto Miikkulainen points out that a subsymbolic network is extremely resilient to the noise of these minor variations21.

It is interesting to note that we can extrapolate the results of Miikkulainen when we consider the issues related to translation.

Translation from one language to another can never completely replicate the pattern of symbols and relations that occur in the original language. But the “holographic property” of a subsymbolic representation allows the data carried by a translation to be sufficient to be resilient even to the “noise” introduced by translation. The redundancy of the themes of scripture, by being repeated using different symbols and relations22, provide additional resilience23.


The assaults of the devil, the world, and our flesh will continue to conspire against God and His desire that all should come to a true knowledge of Him and trust in the salvation He wrought through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One primary method is to obscure the record of His work in history, namely the Holy Scriptures. From Satan's first question to Eve, “Did God really say...?” until now, he has attempted to obfuscate, obscure and confuse God's Word to mankind. In the latest assault, that of postmodernism, one method has been by attacking how we approach the operation of language, claiming that text is divorced from the author and the intentions of the author.

In our investigation we have investigated another view of language based in part on cognitive theory and cognitive linguistics, computational sciences like Natural Language Processing, and other research into the operation of language. The goal of this investigation was to ascertain whether or not such a view of scripture was antithetical to the doctrine of Scriptural Interpretation.

The results of this inquiry were not only that such a view is not incompatible with the doctrine of Inspiration, but actually appeared to presuppose it. This clears the way for additional investigation into the appropriateness of this model of language for the interpretation of Scripture.

Works Cited

Bates, Elizabeth and Judith Goodman, “On the Inseparability of Grammar and the Lexicon, Language and Cognitive Processes, 12:5/6 (1997) pp. 507-584
< Last Accessed:10-31-2005 >

Cangelosi A & Parisi D (Eds), Simulating the Evolution of Language. London: Springer (2002) Chapter 9 < Last Accessed 10-31-2005 >

Delorme, Jean, “Orientations of a Literary Semiotics Questioned by the Bible”, Semia 81 (1998):27-61. < Last Accessed10-30-2005)

Geninasca, Jacques Signs and parables: Semiotics and Gospel Texts, Gary Phillips (tr), (Pittsburgh, PA: The Pickwick Press)

Grenz, Stanley, A Primer or Postmodernism, (Grand Rapids, MI, Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Luther, Martin, “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany that They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools”, LW 45

Miikkulainen, Risto, “Natural Language Processing with Subsymbolic Neural Networks.” In A. Browne (editor), Neural Network Perspectives on Cognition and Adaptive Robotics, (Bristol, UK; Philadelphia, PA: Institute of Physics Publishing) (1997) pp. 120-139.
< Last Accessed: 10-31-2005 >

Noth, Winfred, Handbook of Semiotics, (Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990).

Ogden, C.K. and I.A. Richards, The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of The Influence of Language upon Thought and of The Science of Symbolism. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1946.

Preus, Robert, The Theology of Post Reformation Lutheranism, Vol 2. (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House) (1972)

Walker, Michael, “Chiseling Competence: A Connectionist Revision of Chomsky's Language Acquisition Device” (B.A. Thesis, Emory University, 1999)
< Last Accessed: 10-31-2005 >

1Genesis 1:28-30, 3:8ff, 4:6-7,9ff.

2Preus, Robert, The Theology of Post Reformation Lutheranism, Vol 2. (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House) (1972) p. 281. - “Luther maintains this throughout. If there seems to be a conflict between Scripture and human science, he is firmly convinced from the outset that human science is in error and Scripture in the right.”

3Preus, p. 320 - “the perspicuity of Scripture consists in this, that it presents, in language that can be understood by all, whatever men must know to be saved.”

4Grenz, Stanley, A Primer or Postmodernism, (Grand Rapids, MI, Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) p. 163-167

5Delorme, Jean, “Orientations of a Literary Semiotics Questioned by the Bible”, Semia 81 (1998):27-61. (accessed at 10-30-2005) - “Analysis deconstructs the text in order to discover its construction and articulations, or, in other words, in order to elucidate the discoursive operations of the enunciation to which the text points and that imply a speaking subject. In saying this, we are not reverting to issues concerning the author and circumstances of the production of the text. For the text detaches itself from these issues and can be read from a great temporal and cultural distance from its origins. This shows that the operations which articulate and make significant all of its elements remain available within it and are ready to be realized by the act of reading.” - It should be noted that the organization sponsoring SEMIA, the Society of Biblical Literature, is “building” on the “foundation” of the historical-critical method of interpretation. Thus, they deny Inspiration of Scripture a priori.

6Ibid. p. 27 – also Noth, Winfred, Handbook of Semiotics, (Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990), pp. 314-320. The methods of A. J. Greimas and the Centre pour l'Analyse du Discours Religieux (Center for Analysis of Religious Discourse, CADIR) with the cooperation of other groups already has a history stretching back over thirty years. To a large extent in the religious world, their definition of semiotics sets the parameters for discussing the topic. Such a capitulation to a single group is a mistake. Greimas' work is laden with presuppositions hidden behind a bewildering terminology that requires years of study and its own dictionary to even begin to decipher. When I read portions of an earlier work (Hadidian, Dikran, Signs and Parables, Semiotics and Gospel Texts, Gary Phillips,tr. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Pickwick Press, 1978)) from this school of thought, I couldn't help wondering whether it was a serious work or a joke (cxref: “SCIgen – An Automated CS Paper Generator” - < last accessed 10-30-2005>)

7Luther, Martin, “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany that They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools”, LW 45:341-378

8Grenz, p. 165

9For a good history of Semiotics, see Noth, pp. 11-38. Noth first lists Plato (427BC – 347BC), most notably his play Cratylus.

10The APPENDIX contains a fuller treatment. The description is a “work in progress” and should be considered supplemental material only and not in any way a fulfillment of the assignment of this research paper. The present investigation is to ascertain whether or not the description of language and cognition contained in the APPENDIX can be used as a basis for biblical hermeneutics.

11See Noth, pp. 89-91

12Ogden, C.K. and I.A. Richards, The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of The Influence of Language upon Thought and of The Science of Symbolism. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1946. ch. 1

13It is sometimes necessary to “ground” new symbols into the mind of the subject as well. This will most often occur when the sign cannot be defined and must be integrated into the mental universe. See also: Cangelosi A & Parisi D (Eds), Simulating the Evolution of Language. London: Springer (2002) Chapter 9 < Last Accessed 10-31-2005 >

14The term “sub-symbolic” actually comes from the field of Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing. See: Miikkulainen, Risto, “Natural Language Processing with Subsymbolic Neural Networks.” In A. Browne (editor), Neural Network Perspectives on Cognition and Adaptive Robotics, (Bristol, UK; Philadelphia, PA: Institute of Physics Publishing) (1997) pp. 120-139. <
Last Accessed: 10-31-2005 >

15Walker, Michael, “Chiseling Competence: A Connectionist Revision of Chomsky's Language Acquisition Device” (B.A. Thesis, Emory University, 1999) < Last Accessed: 10-31-2005 >

16Reference Geninasca, Jacques Signs and parables: Semiotics and Gospel Texts, Gary Phillips (tr), (Pittsburgh, PA: The Pickwick Press) pp. 140-179. This section analyzes the parable of the Prodical Son. At first glance it may appear that the “isotopic” relationships are an attempt at putting objects within the narrative in relation to one another similar to the method we propose here. In actuality, it does not seek the relationship between items and attempt to understand the relationship and it significance but rather imposes an antithetical relationship between items (e.g. The father is placed against the employer, the home is placed against the distant country). Meaning is determined by the trajectory on the continuum between these poles and assumptions are made as to the signification of different actors and situations. This is contrasted with the “constructive” method we are introducing where the relationships are defined by the text itself and are only recognized by the reader.

17See also: Bates, Elizabeth and Judith Goodman, “On the Inseparability of Grammar and the Lexicon, Language and Cognitive Processes, 12:5/6 (1997) pp. 507-584 < Last Accessed: 10-31-2005 > I cannot entirely agree with Bates and Goodwin that the “separate grammatical component” has been “moved into the lexicon.” The “intricate interactions between lexical and grammatical information” that they highlight indicates that grammar and lexical value are inextricably linked. Their research indicates that, practically speaking, one cannot exist without the other. The model we are investigating shares this conclusion (or rather, was formed in part based upon it).

18Almost but not quite. It is possible to vary the symbols and their relations in such a way that the meaning is the same but the symbols and relations are different. This is often done by adding complexity and additional symbols. For instance, you could say “my mother” or you could say “the sister-in-law of my father's only sibling”. Both statements could refer to the same person.

19Luther, Martin, “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany that They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools”, LW 45:341-378


21Miikkulainen, p. 3 - “The holographic property (3) makes the system robust against noise, damage, and incomplete information. Because the same information is represented in several places, the processing is ef- fectively based on an average of several representations. Noise is automatically ltered out in the averaging process, and loss of a few processing elements does not a ect the average very much. The system does not selectively lose discrete blocks of information; instead, the accuracy of the output gradually degrades. Even when the input pattern is incomplete, the system can use the rest of the pattern to reconstruct the missing information.”

22Ibid. p. 3 - “From the first two properties it follows that the representations can reflect the meanings of the concepts for which they stand. Similar meanings have similar representations. Because they are continuous, it is possible to represent different degrees of similarity, and category memberships become a matter of degree. There are no clear-cut symbols, because representations belong to each and every class to a different degree, depending on their similarities to other representations in the class.”

23See note 18 above.

Read More!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Book Review: "Just Words" by JAO Preus

The goal is not to reduce the Gospel to one of its words, but to proclaim it in its fullness, to use all its ways of being said. The goal is, in addition to proclaiming the Gospel as a divine, powerful Word, to proclaim it is a profound and richly textured human word. (p. 24)

To be fair, I should note that this was a book that was assigned as part of my Homeletics course at the seminary in preparation for writing our first sermon. What appears below is a review based on that context. In other contexts or for other purposes, the book may have a different impact. There are many reasons I would commend this book to others, it's stated goal of equiping people to effectively communicate the Gospel isn't one of them.

In his book Just Words, Preus outlines the various metaphors that the Scriptures use to relate the Good News of Christ to us. His purpose, "is to help all Christians not only to grasp and understand the Gospel, but also to proclaim and communicate it in its fullness, to hear it and say it in all its ways of being heard and said, through all God's beautiful words."

My biggest complaint with this work is that by not clearly separating his two purposes (understanding and proclamation), the book accomplishes neither purpose successfully.

I found myself initially liking his discussion of metaphor and language in general. However, I found the theme of universality in chapter 26 to be overly platonic in its conceptualization of words and language. In spite of his early discussion of the maliability of language, Preus apparently still holds to a rather rigorous association of signifier with signified. Rereading the section entitled, "The Meaning of Metaphor," and the fact that he begins with Aristotle's definition, I should have realized this earlier on.

In his discussion of the different scriptural metaphors for the Gospel, he seemed to be doing three things simultaneously but was not explicit about it.

First, he presented a real-life situation and how the metaphor under discussion intersected with that situation.

Second, he described a scriptural metaphor.

Third, he showed how the metaphor can intersect with "real life". This is different from "applying" the metaphor to the situation, as I note below.

My primary issue is not that these three steps are there. I believe they are the appropriate steps to undertake, generally speaking. My concern is specifically with how he goes about the second and third steps.

In describing a metaphor from scripture that aligns with the situation, he does so from all of scripture. Perhaps he is following the Franzmann res verba res concept of hermeneutics or he is trying to just provide a general overview. The result is that where his work succeeds in separating the metaphors in a generic sense, each metaphor still seems trite and generic. By blending all of the pericopes pertaining to a particular metaphor together, he takes off the sharp edges of the various pericopes. In essence, he still does what he laments that others do:

To blend all metaphors together, to take off the sharp edges of the various metaphors, may be something like the following:
Imagine ordering a nine-course dinner. The green salad is cool and crisp, the soup clear and tasty. The brightly colored vegetables are steamed just right. The steak and lobster are cooked to perfection. Flakey bread, soft and warm, is served with creamy butter. A bottle of fine wine complements the entree. Sweet dessert follows with rich black coffee. What a delightful experience! With so many colors, flavors, textrues, temperatures, the meal is complete.
Then imagine asking the waiter to throw all the courses into a blender and turn the knob to puree.
(pp. 36-37)

Each time that one of the metaphors is encountered in scripture, it has it's own unique contours. The "Light/Darkness" metaphor of Genesis 1 is different from the Light/Darkness metaphor of John 1. That's not to say there is no relationship between the two, but to say there's a relationship is different from saying they are the "same metaphor," which it seems Preus is saying.

His abstraction of the metaphors of scripture seems to carry over to his attempt to integrate those metaphors into real life. Each chapter begins with a real life situation and a description of how a scriptural passage containing the metaphor under discussion helped in that situation. But when it comes to intersecting the abstracted metaphor laid out in the chapter with reality, he does so only with an abstract reality-- which is no reality at all.

In my view, each pericope is a metaphor of its own. These metaphors do fall into various categories (some may call these "motifs") and recognizing this can be helpful to understanding the text under consideration. It can even provide additional threads for sermon preparation. However, Preus' book does a disservice by treating all of the pericopes of a given category as a single metaphor.

Preus' book does a good job at discussing these categories of metaphors. The brush strokes are broad, but that's to be expected when categorizing things. However, by not engaging the actual enterprise of "exegeting" a real-life situation and "exegeting" scipture and bridging the two, the work is of only marginal value in eqiupping people to communicate the Gospel effectively.

Technorati Tags:

Read More!

Repurposing the blog

Originally this blog was conceived to simply be a place to help people learn the Greek language. In the process of (re)learning Koine Greek for my studies, I became involved at a much more fundamental level of understanding language. I've decided to repurpose this site for use in discussions related to linguistics and the relation of our understanding of what language is and how it works to pastoral practice.

This includes, but is not limited to, exegesis and hermeneutics as well as proclaimation of the Gospel.

Over time I will include essays and thoughts related to these topics.

I'll still include info on learning language, but it will no longer be the main focus of the site.

For my views on life, the universe, and everything else, visit First Person Life!

Read More!

Monday, July 11, 2005


Learning vocabulary is one of the most important building blocks to learning any new language. The problem arises if you are unaccustomed to memorization. Here are a handful of tips and ideas to help optimize your time spent memorizing vocabulary.

First, be sure to study in a quiet place away from distractions whenever possible. This will allow you to concentrate on the task at hand.

Second, vocalize the vocabulary word and definition.

Now, for some more mechanical advice.

Many people organize their vocabulary in three stacks. First, the stack of words not yet studied (this is usually the vocabulary box from which the words have not yet been pulled). Second a stack of words currently being studied. Third a stack of words known. While this method provides a good starting point, the memorization process can be enhanced by further categorizing the words.

For example, within your "actively studying" stack, the words should be further subdivided. The easiest organization is type of word (i.e. noun, verb, adjective, adverb, other).


Organize nouns by gender (masculine, feminine, and neuter) and declension, even breaking them down further by sub-patterns in the case of alpha declension nouns (alpha, eta and hybrid patterns).


Organize verbs by verb family (e.g. omega, epsilon-omega, and mi verbs).


The additional time this takes will be made up for when you must keep track of all three declensions and all three genders. It also helps when learning paradigms because you can simply go through each paradigm subgroup seprately. Once you are comfortable, you can then begin to mix them.


The Memorization Session

Organize your memorization session so that you are spending no more than 20 minutes working on flashcards at a time. Taking a ten minute break between sessions. Studies show that after 20 minutes, the session is less effective. Further, studies show that recall actually is enhanced during the ten minute break, then begins to decline after that.

During your memorization session, the following procedure can be helpful.

Pick a sub-group from your "working" cards.

Start with no more than five cards from this group. Go through all five cards once, reading the word and its definition aloud. If it's a noun, say the article, the nominative singular and the genative singular, then the definition.

When you return to the first card of the five, begin really attempting to make sure you know the words. Repeat the article, nom. singular, and gen. singular, then attempt to state the definition without flipping the card over. If you are correct, place the card at the back of the stack. If you are incorrect, place the card behind the next card in the stack. That is, go to the next word in the stack but place the word just completed directly behind it so that it will be the next card to work with.

When you feel comfortable with the entire stack of five cards, add one or two additinal cards from the "working" stack to the back of the stack in your hand.

As you add more cards, you can put cards your having trouble with two or three cards back instead of one as outlined above, but do not put them too far back. The idea is that you put them soon enough that you still remember them in your short-term memory when you encounter the card again.

Continue adding cards until you have ten to fifteen cards in your hand or have all of the cards from the subgroup you are working on in your hand. Make sure you are comfortable with all (or nearly all) of the words in your hand before adding more.

If you have ten to fifteen cards in your hand and have not exhausted the subgroup, begin removing cards from your hand when adding new cards. To do this, only add a new card when you come across a word that "you know that you know". Remove the known card from your hand and set it aside (but not in your stack of "known" words).

When you feel that "you know that you know" all of the cards, shuffle the subgroup and work through the entire subgroup two to three times. If you run across a card that you have difficulty with, place it only one or two cards back (similar to above). Otherwise, place cards answered correctly at the back of the stack.

Work through each sub-group individually in this manner.

When you are comfortable with the subgroups, then begin to mix them together and follow the same basic process. There will likely a small handful of cards that you have difficulty with. These can be pulled and can be worked with further, but the majority of the cards can be placed in a "think I know it" stack. This stack should be reviewed at least twice per day for a week before placing cards in the "known" stack.

The entire "known" stack should be reviewed no less than twice per week to keep the vocabulary fresh in your mind. If you find you have difficulty with a couple of words, move them either to the "working" stack or into the "think I know it" stack depending on the amount of work you feel you need to get it down.

Yes, it's a lot of work, but the idea is to not need a lexicon for every other word.

Similar procedures can be used for principle parts and other memory work.

As time permits, I will post more detailed information and background regarding the recommendations above and why these recommendations are made.

May God bless your studies!

Matt D.

Read More!