Antonymy: A Corpus Based Perspective

Antonymy: A Corpus Based Perspective

Antonymy: A Corpus Based Perspective

Antonymy: A Corpus Based Perspective

Synopsis

Antonymy is the technical name used to describe 'opposites', pairs of words such as rich/poor, love/hate and male/female. Antonyms are a ubiquitous part of everyday language, and this book provides a detailed, comprehensive account of the phenomenon.This book demonstrates how traditional linguistic theory can be revisited, updated and challenged in the corpus age. It will be essential reading for scholars interested in antonymy and corpus linguistics.

Excerpt

Thirty years ago, the series which this book initiates would have been inconceivable. The enormous advances in computer architecture and software that have since made corpus linguistics possible were then only imaginable to the visionary few. Pioneering corpus linguists like Randolph Quirk, M. A. K. Halliday and John Sinclair had to work manually or with primitive computer tools and tiny databases, and their research results found only a small audience. It was a period towered over by Noam Chomsky and his rejection of authentic data as a basis for theory-making made the publication of corpus-based research hard to achieve. Key corpus-based works of that period, such as the OSTI reports by Halliday's research team (Huddleston et al. 1968) on scientific English and by Sinclair, Jones and Daley (1970) on collocation, remained unpublished despite their ground-breaking quality, though they were widely circulated in mimeographed form.

Thirty years from now, it is possible that the series that this book initiates will once again seem inconceivable. To a future generation of linguists, natural language processing and corpus-based approaches to linguistic questions may well be so ubiquitous, so normal, that they will think it quaint that a series such as this had ever been needed to provide a home for ground-breaking corpus-linguistic work. Mike Scott, whose WordSmith concordancing software package (Scott 1999) is widely used to analyse corpora, has remarked that talking of corpus linguistics is like talking of 'spade gardening'. His observation has a number of implications. A gardener who never used a spade would be a strange kind of gardener (and a gardener who used nothing but a spade would be even stranger). On the other hand, just as the use of a spade does not constitute a special kind of gardening, so the use of a computer to analyse a corpus as a means of exploring linguistic questions does not constitute per se a special branch of linguistics. So why this series and this book?

A clue to the answer to this question comes from an analogy drawn by John Sinclair. He has commented that the computer corpus is to the contemporary linguist what the microscope was to the naturalist of the Enlightenment. The microscope showed the world of nature in a new way, it revealed aspects of nature that had previously only been guessed at (or had been wrongly guessed at) and it opened up opportunities for investigation that in due course . . .

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