Semănătorul (The Sower)

April 2023, Volume 3, Number 2

Word Studies: A Combination of Immediate Context, Current Usage, and Authorial Intention

Corin Mihăilă


Getting to the meaning of a word is no easy task. It may seem like a quick process since the object of the study is the smallest unit of discourse. And it is so in most cases. However, it is at this basic level of meaning that most  interpretative fallacies are committed: etymological fallacy, root fallacy, and illegitimate totality transfer, just to name a few. One must guard against such fallacies by considering at least three factors that determine the meaning of a word: immediate context, current usage, and authorial intention. The word is  loaded with potential meaning, but potential meaning becomes real meaning only when the word finds a place in a particular literary structure, within a particular life setting, and in the particular intention of the author who utters the word. In other words, we should be interested in the meaning a word acquires in a certain context, corresponds with its usage in that period and by the same author, and fulfils the function the author intended for the particular passage in which the word occurs. In order to guard ourselves against fallacies of all kinds and guarantee a certain degree of precision in interpretation, we should look for what an author does with the word(s) he uses in a certain context.

KEY WORDS: word studies, meaning, etymological fallacy, root fallacy, illegitimate totality transfer, immediate context, current usage, authorial intention.

DOI:  https://doi.org/10.58892/TS.swr3210