LINGUIST List 6.430

Fri 24 Mar 1995

Disc: Words that are their own opposites

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  1. , Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites
  2. (ane A. Edwards, autoantonyms
  3. , Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites
  4. "Karen Baumer, Words that are their own opposites
  5. Jane A. Edwards, Re: Words that are their own opposites

Message 1: Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Sat, 18 Mar 1995 18:19-ESTRe: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites
From: <Marion.KeeA.NL.CS.CMU.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites

Several people submitted "overlook" and "oversight", which are fine
examples of this phenomenon in English (though I think that
Mary Neff's "outgoing : retiring" is perhaps the most elegant
submission to date.) Perhaps my current work on the various shades of
meaning in English prepositions has biased me, but in any case I think
that the difference in the various senses of "oversight" and "overlook"
stems largely from their compounding with "over-". "over" is sneaky;
at first glance it seems to be fairly limited in expressive power, but
deeper analysis reveals that in it lurk a number of distinctions of
meaning, some of them quite subtle indeed. In addition to nuances of
physical location, "over" can indicate power relationships (both
outright force, and more subtle authority), value judgements, and
the general notion of (metaphorically) moving on to another thing,
as in "get over it" and "skip over". So my analysis of "oversight" and
"overlook" would be that in one sense, "over" takes on the meaning of
authority-over, and in the other sense it takes on the meaning of
skipping-over.

Perhaps a similar argument could be make for the "sight/see/look" part
of the compound? For instance, useages such as "see to it" "look to
your own interest" seem to carry some of this "authority" meaning.
I think the "over" analysis is more clear-cut, but it would be
interesting to see if someone will make a case for the other half.

 --Marion Kee

Marion Kee | All opinions are my own;
Knowledge Engineer, Center for Machine Translation | when CMU wants my opinions
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA, USA | it pays for them.
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Message 2: autoantonyms

Date: 19 Mar 1995 22:05:23 CST
From: (ane A. Edwards <GLADNEYVMD.CSO.UIUC.EDU>
Subject: autoantonyms

A book that is "in print" when it is said that such-and-such author has X
hundred thousand books "in print" can actually be out of print from the
standpoint of the potential purchaser of that book.
Frank Y. Gladney.
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Message 3: Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Mon, 20 Mar 1995 10:35:04 Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites
From: <arianth.vu.nl>
Subject: Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites

In the Hebrew Bible, the verb

BeReK

usually means "to bless".

However, in the first chapter of the book of Job,
the same word is generally believed to mean "to curse".

A similar contrast is found in later
Midrashic and Talmudic literature.

Arian.

 =============================================+========================
 Dr Arian J.C. Verheij | email arianth.vu.nl
 VU, Dpt. Computer Science & Biblical Studies | phone +31 20 444 6625/7
 De Boelelaan 1105, NL 1081 HV Amsterdam | fax +31 20 444 6635
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Message 4: Words that are their own opposites

Date: Mon, 20 Mar 1995 13:39:45 Words that are their own opposites
From: "Karen Baumer <kbaumerminerva.cis.yale.edu>
Subject: Words that are their own opposites


St Isidore of Seville may well be the source of "lucus a non lucendo," as
Paul Werth suggests. However, it's no accident that Benji Wald attributed
this 'etymology' to Varro (116-27 B.C.E.), as the latter is responsible
for such etymological gems as

vallum...quod ea varicare nemo posset

"_Vallum_ 'camp wall' because no one could _varicare_ 'straddle over it'"
(_De Lingua Latina_: V, 117)

and

qua vix agi potest, hinc angiportum; qua nil potest agi, hinc angulus

"Where it is hardly possible for anything _agi_ 'to be driven,' from this
it is called an _angiportum_ 'alley'; where nothing can _agi_ 'be driven,'
from this it is an _angulus_ 'corner'" (Ibid.: VI, 41).

A footnote in the Loeb edition of _De Lingua Latina_ refers to this as
"derivation by the contrary meaning," and cites another example:

ludus, in quo minime luditur

"School, in which there is very little playing" (Festus, 122. 16M).

Karen Baumer
Yale University
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Message 5: Re: Words that are their own opposites

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 1995 14:04:21 Re: Words that are their own opposites
From: Jane A. Edwards <edwardscogsci.Berkeley.EDU>
Subject: Re: Words that are their own opposites

In February, Anna Morpurgo Davies (morpurgovax.ox.ac.uk) mentioned
Lepschy and gave 3 references; I wish to mention one further one:
 Lepschy, Guilio (1982). Linguistic historiography. In David Crystal
 (ed.) Linguistic controversies: Essays in linguistic theory and
 practice in honour of F. R. Palmer. London: Edwards Arnold.
In discussing Carl Abel's _Gegensinn der Urworte_ (1884) and
related work Lepschy writes:
 "His [i.e., Abel's] theory on the importance and interest of words with
opposite meanings (which were, he suggested, particularly frequent in
the early stages of languages) finds its place in a long tradition of
studies, from the Stoic's grammar and the etymologies _e contrario_
[...], to the chapter in Arab linguistic tradition devoted to the [...]
contraries, or words of opposite meanings [...] to the medieval Jewish
grammarians' discussions on parallel phenomena in Hebrew [...] to
Christian biblical scholars who at least since the 17th century examine
cases of 'enantiosemy' in the Sacred, classical, and modern languages,
commenting on words like Hebrew _berekh_ 'he blessed' and 'he cursed',
Greek _argo's_ 'swift' and 'slow', Latin _altus_ 'high' and 'deep'
[...] Nearer to Abel, in the first part of the 19th century, we find
the German romantics meditating on opposite meanings [...] and it is
impossible not to remember Hegel's comments on a key term in his logic,
_aufheben_, which means both 'to eliminate' and 'to preserve',
illustrating a coexistence in language of opposite meanings which has
great speculative import." Lepschy also writes that Abel's ideas "were
taken seriously by people of the calibre of Pott, Steinthal, and
Schuchardt", and that Freud repeatedly quoted Abel's work, viewing it
"as a linguistic confirmation" of his own theory that "for the
unconscious, opposites are equivalent to each other." (pp. 28-29)

Surprisingly broad historically, I thought. In this chapter Lepschy
bemoans the more general lack of a comprehensive historiography
of linguistics.

 -Jane Edwards (edwardscogsci.berkeley.edu)
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