Aspects of Semantic Opposition in English

Aspects of Semantic Opposition in English

Aspects of Semantic Opposition in English

Aspects of Semantic Opposition in English

Synopsis

Antonymy is recognized as an important type of meaning relation in natural language, yet there are very few detailed empirical studies of the topic. Through an analysis of a corpus of forty-three contemporary English-language novels, Mettinger isolates ten syntactic frames within which antonyms are regularly found: these serve as a useful heuristic tool for eliciting opposites from texts. Arguing that there are two kinds of antonyms--systematic and non-systematic opposites--he analyzes numerous pairs of antonyms, highlighting an important semantic relationship.

Excerpt

Yes, I cannot help still believing in two lovers who wished to get married, who were ready to take each other on for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. She loved him and she would have taken him for better or for worse. As far as she had gone, she took him for worse. It brought about her death.

(NEM, 176, 177)

Binary semantic opposition, as exemplified above, has for a long time been regarded as an important means of structuring the vocabulary of natural languages and has therefore been receiving the due attention of linguists. The majority of studies concerning themselves with this topic are highly theoretical in nature, thus arriving deductively at classifications and subclassifications of binary semantic opposition into various types, without, however, considering an appropriate amount of data. The primary aim of this study is therefore to provide a treatment of binary meaningrelations obtaining between lexemes of the English language on a considerably enlarged empirical basis. For this purpose two corpora have been used: one is a collection of about 350 pairs of opposites as listed in the 1972 edition of Roget Thesaurus of English words and phrases, whose meanings have been checked with Hornby Advanced learner's dictionary. Their analysis in terms of semantic dimensions and semantic-feature relationships is given in Chapter 5; this is the first attempt at an analysis of this type comprising a larger number of opposites in English and will, hopefully, serve as a basis for discussion and further investigation in this field. In addition to this, a corpus of "opposites in context" has been assembled from forty-three (predominantly British) novels. This collection comprises more than 350 pairs of morphologically related and morphologically unrelated lexemes in a variety of contexts: morphologically related lexemes were, of . . .

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