Magazine article Word Ways

More on Pseudoantonyms

Magazine article Word Ways

More on Pseudoantonyms

Article excerpt

In an article in the last issue of this journal (Word Ways 44.1, February 2011), Anil uncovered a number of examples of pseudoantonyms in the realm of English negatory prefixes. A pseudoantonym consists of an affixed word and the corresponding unaffixed base which one would expect to be antonyms on the basis of the meaning of the affix, but which are instead synonyms (or near synonyms). For example, the prefix DE- has a primary meaning 'to do the opposite of' in examples such as ACTIVATE ~ DEACTIVATE, but not in FEND ~ DEFEND. Since the latter two words can be synonymous, they are pseudoantonyms.

In this note I present a number of English pseudoantonyms involving the prefix RE-. According to the usual sources there is a single prefix RE- with the principle meaning 'again' or 'anew'. Word pairs consisting of a verb and the same verb with RE- include VISIT ~ REVISIT, WIND ~ REWIND, USE REUSE, TRAIN ~ RETRAIN, THINK ~ RETHINK, TAKE ~ RETAKE, START ~ RESTART, etc. Also attested is a secondary meaning, namely 'back', or 'backward', e.g. CALL ~ RECALL.

If a pair of words with RE- is a pseudoantonym, then we would not expect either of these meanings to be observable in the prefixed word. Examples of pseudoantonyms include the following:

 Figure 1: Pseudoantonyms with the prefix RE-:
 MINDFUL ~ REMINDFUL MOVE ~ REMOVE PINE ~ REPINE SEARCH ~ RESEARCH SOUND
~ RESOUND SOLVE ~ RESOLVE VIEW ~ REVIEW 

The word pairs in Figure 1 are pseudoantonyms because the unprefixed verbal base has a meaning which is either identical or very similar to the meaning of the corresponding word with RE-. …

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