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Antonyms and word-level negation
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, General Linguistics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9592-5780
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, General Linguistics.
2015 (English)In: Abstracts, 2015, 74-74 p.Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Typological research on negation has focused most prominently on standard negation, i.e. the basic negation strategies in declarative clauses, and some work has also been done on other aspects of clausal negation as well as on indefinite pronouns in the scope of negation. Negation at the level of words, i.e., derivational affixes expressing negation as well as case markers with negative semantics, has so far not figured in systematic typological studies, but it has received some attention in theoretical literature on semantics and morphology. Zimmer (1964) discusses “affixal” negation primarily in English and a couple of other Indo-European languages, but also comments on a few non-­Indo‐European languages and even suggests some cross‐linguistic generalizations. Subsequent work (e.g., Horn 1989) is similarly restricted in its cross‐linguistic scope. From the semantic point of view, the issue of word­‐level negation is closely connected to antonymy. Antonymy and types of opposition have been a popular topic in semantic theories (see Horn 1989), where the central distinction is between contrary and contradictory opposites. The two types differ as to whether they allow a third possibility in-­between: contradictory opposites are either–or (dead vs. alive), whereas in contrary opposites there is a middle ground between the two poles (small vs. big). Linguistically, antonyms can be expressed by unrelated lexemes (lexical antonyms) like the examples cited above, or by means of overt negation (happy vs. unhappy, possible vs. impossible). Lexical and morphological antonymy do not necessarily exclude each other. E.g., Russian has regular triads of the kind bol’šoj ‘big’ – malen’kij ‘little’ – nebol’šoj ‘NEG‐big’, and even tetrads, such as dobryj ‘kind’ – zloj ‘mean’ – nedobryj ‘NEG-­kind’ – nezloj ‘NEG-­mean’. Despite all the attention that antonymy has received from semanticists, work in a broader cross‐linguistic comparative perspective is lacking. This talk presents a pilot study of antonymy and its expression by both lexical and overt morphological means. We will focus on antonymy in property words (adjectives), more specifically in such forms that can be used as adnominal modifiers. Our main interest will be in finding correlations between semantic and formal properties of antonyms. From the formal point of view, we will pay attention to the type of marking (e.g., prefix vs. suffix), to the number of different word-­‐level negators in a language, whether these markers can be used on other word classes than property words and how they are related to other negative markers in the language. Taking in semantics, we will observe what types of opposition (contrary vs. contradictory, scalar vs. non-­‐scalar etc.)and which domains of property scales (evaluation, size, dimension, temperature etc.) are expressed by lexical antonyms vs. each attested type of overt morphological marking, i.e. whether the linguistic evidence allows us to classify antonyms into cross‐linguistically relevant types. Does the existence of a lexical antonym exclude the possibility of morphological marking? Do the markers exclude one another on the same lexical item? Are there semantic principles governing such blocking effects? Can triads and/or tetrads be found in addition to pairs? Our pilot sample includes 15 languages from different families and geographical areas. The data comes from dictionaries and grammars and, most importantly, from a questionnaire sent to language experts. As this is a pilot study of a domain previously unexplored in language typology, our main goal is to sketch different ways of approaching this intriguing domain from a broader cross-­linguistic perspective.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. 74-74 p.
Keyword [en]
antonymy, negation, derivation, typology
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-128128OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-128128DiVA: diva2:913116
Conference
Diversity Linguistics: Retrospect and Prospect, Leipzig, Germany, May 1-3, 2015
Available from: 2016-03-19 Created: 2016-03-19 Last updated: 2016-12-05Bibliographically approved

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