Greek Vocabulary Acquisition Using Semantic Domains -- By: Mark Wilson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 46:2 (Jun 2003)
Article: Greek Vocabulary Acquisition Using Semantic Domains
Author: Mark Wilson

Greek Vocabulary Acquisition Using Semantic Domains

Mark Wilson

[Mark Wilson is adjunct professor of New Testament at Regent University, P.O. Box 64574, Virginia Beach, VA 23467–4574.]

I. Introduction1

Professors of Greek can readily identify with Bernard Brandon Scott’s observation, “After completing a beginning grammar course, most students …fail to clear the difficult hurdle of mastering sufficient vocabulary to read the Greek NT by sight. Often they become discouraged and quit.”2 Rydberg-Cox and Mahoney likewise echo this concern: “Vocabulary acquisition is a particularly vexed question for intermediate students of Greek and Latin.”3 While the latters’ research involving the Perseus Digital Library has been directed toward students learning classical texts, our concern is that Christian students maximize their potential in learning the koine Greek of the NT. The best way to acquire and master that vocabulary is the subject of this article. Before examining the available approaches to Greek vocabulary acquisition and proposing a fresh alternative, we will first look at some of the current research related to second language (L2) vocabulary acquisition.

II. Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition

In recent decades a worldwide industry, with research, institutions, and publications, has arisen over second language acquisition. Because English has emerged as the global lingua franca, the English language is the predominant focus of such enterprise. Research conducted in conjunction with ESL programs has valuable implications for teaching biblical languages, particularly vocabulary acquisition. However, even within the ESL movement little emphasis has been placed on the acquisition of vocabulary. Zimmerman writes, “Although the lexicon is arguably central to language acquisition and use, vocabulary instruction has not been a priority in second

language acquisition research or methodology.”4 Coady cites a typical attitude held by teachers and scholars that teaching vocabulary is a low-level activity not worthy of their complete attention. Although students feel words are very important, teachers tend to believe the challenge is grammar.5 Such attitudes may also characterize Greek pedagogy, where there is usually limited instruction related to vocabulary acquisition. It is assumed that students can learn vocabulary on their own. Teachers tend to emphas...

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