Compounding and Cogntive Processes in Word Formation with ὑδροποτέω and Its Relatives: Was Anyone Ever a "Water Drinker"?

Discussions of lexical semantics often make assumptions about how meaning works: that the meaning of a word is compositional, the sum-total of its parts. Sometimes this assumption is intentional (structuralist semantics). Other times, it is merely a result of a folk understanding of semantics. And yet, several decades of research exist challenging that assumption (Fillmore 1976, Lakoff 1987, Langacker 1987, Fillmore, Kay, and O’Connor 1988, Sweetser 1991, Goldberg 2006, Evans 2009). Meaning is emergent, meaning is embodied, meaning is social, and meaning is constructional. Meaning formation in compounds presents an interesting example of this, one that often seems to be lost on both translations and lexicons. Consider the verb ὑδροποτέω, which Paul uses in 1 Timothy 5:23, exhorting Timothy to change his diet. Both lexicons and translations, intentionally or otherwise, consistently adopt a componential view of this words meaning, glossing Paul’s instruction with some form of: “Do not drink only water.” BDAG includes “only” as a mere parenthetical for its gloss, suggesting that the meaning of the verb is simply transparent to its components: ὕδωρ (water), πίνω (drink). Translations across the spectrum from the highly formal to highly functional continue in the same pattern. Indeed, the NASB italicize their use of “exclusively” to signal to the reader that the translators added the word for clarity, making a strong claim about the compositionality of the compound. Even the highly functional NLT translation simply states, “Don’t drink only water.” But if we take seriously cognitive linguistics claims about the nature of meaning, then the lexicographical evidence can only be read one way: ὑδροποτέω refers to the behavior “to live in abstinence regarding alcohol” and a better gloss for 1 Timothy 5:23 would be “Stop being a teetotaler.” In this paper, I suggest a path of lexicalization for this verb and its related forms that begins a cultural desire for a euphemism for teetotalism which was then later extended additionally into ascetic lifestyle decisions generally. I conclude that the component pieces of this compound were never used for the purpose of actually drinking water, but that their combination here is the result of a emergent phenomenon motivated by empirically established cognitive processes in meaning formation.