LINGUIST List 6.465

Tue 28 Mar 1995

Disc: Words that are their own opposites

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Directory

  1. Ben Karlin, Words that are their own opposites
  2. Larry Horn, Re: 6.430 Words that are their own opposites
  3. "Dra. Rosa Graciela Montes", Words that are their own opposites - Hasta (until)
  4. Dan Alford, Re: 6.430 Words that are their own opposites
  5. Mayssa Abou-Youssef, Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites
  6. , words that are their own opposites

Message 1: Words that are their own opposites

Date: Fri, 24 Mar 95 14:09:34 CSWords that are their own opposites
From: Ben Karlin <U29003UICVM.CC.UIC.EDU>
Subject: Words that are their own opposites

Is this somehow relevant to the pair "caregiver" and "caretaker"; words
that should be opposite but are equivalent?

Ben Karlin (u29003uic.edu)
Disabled Student Services, University of Illinois - Chicago
Residence: 15 Hickory, Aurora IL USA 60505-3721
 1 708 851-5982 VOX/TTY/FAX/KIDS/ANS
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Message 2: Re: 6.430 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Fri, 24 Mar 95 21:12:19 ESRe: 6.430 Words that are their own opposites
From: Larry Horn <LHORNyalevm.ycc.yale.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.430 Words that are their own opposites

Jane Edwards (via Anna Morpurgo Davies) calls our attention to Abel's and
Freud's contributions to our topic, citing this passage from Lepschy (1982)
on Carl Abel's _Gegensinn der Urworte_ (1884) inter alia:

)"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)

I also delve into Abel and Freud in the "Negation East and West" section of
my book, A Natural History of Negation (Chicago, 1989; cf. esp. pp. 93-94).
I ended up taking a rather skeptical stance toward both Abel's thesis that
'primitive languages' tend to contain a significant number of _Urwoerte_ that
simultaneously denote two contraries and Freud's borrowing of Abel's work as
evidence for the 'antithetical meaning of primal words' as reflected in the
absence of the law of contradiction within dreams ('Hearing the analysand in-
sist of a dream character "It's NOT my mother", the analyst immediately trans-
lates 'So it IS his mother'.) The nature of the examples marshaled by Abel
and Freud, unfortunately, are such as to raise the eyebrows of even the most
fervent megacomparativist among us, although some of them (Lat. clamare 'cry'
vs. clam 'softly') are indeed cute. Some do involve what another poster just
asked about, albeit with the inaccurate label "palindrome"--the idea being that
the sounds or letters of one word can be reversed to produce an antonym [or in
some of the Abel-Freud cases, a synonym] of that word, and many involve cross-
linguistic pairs: Ger. Topf 'pot'/Eng. 'pot', Ger. Ruhe 'rest'/Eng. 'hurry',
'care' vs. 'wreck'. (If THIS is what Pott and Schuchardt "took seriously", I'm
disappointed, especially in the former, who had the good taste to discover
the phenomenon of negative polarity.) In my book, I also--like Lepschy--
try to deal with the Hegelian notion of _aufhebung_, arguing that
whatever its importance for the theory of dialectic, this particular
antilogy/auto-antonym/enantioseme does not comfortably sit on the Abel-Freudian
roster of primal antithetical words. Indeed, the strongest examples of this
phenomenon we have (cleave, sanction, etc.) are remarkably non-primal. And
some of the others mentioned by Abel/Lipschy/Edwards--as other posters on
this thread have observed--are simply misdiagnosed (Lat. 'altus', for one).
The case of the Hebrew berekh 'he blessed/he cursed' I imagine is just like
the use of Fr. sacre' 'blessed, cursed'--whether we want to invoke irony,
euphemism, or some other trope to explain this development (cf. the Eumenides,
et al.) In none of these cases is the thesis of an unconscious identification
of opposites particular economical or explanatory, although it does make a nice
story.
(The relevant Freud papers are "The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words"
[1910] and "Negation" [1925], both of course to be found in Strachey's
Standard Edition; the passage from Hegel's Logic on Aufhebung is also
discussed by Walter Kaufmann in his Hegel (1995, p. 192-3).)

Larry
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Message 3: Words that are their own opposites - Hasta (until)

Date: Sat, 25 Mar 1995 14:58:25 Words that are their own opposites - Hasta (until)
From: "Dra. Rosa Graciela Montes" <rmontescen.buap.mx>
Subject: Words that are their own opposites - Hasta (until)

The case of "hasta" (until) in Spanish seems to fit here, sort of.
"Hasta" used with a durative or progressive marks endpoint of the action:

 Se la paso' llorando hasta el dia siguiente
 [(S)he cried until the following day]

In some dialects (e.g. Mexican Sp.) though, "hasta" can be used with a
punctual verb to mark beginning point of the action:

 Dejo de llorar hasta que la mama la alzo'.
 [(S)he stopped crying until the mother picked her/him up]

A problem arises though when some verbs can be "read" as punctual or
durative depending on how one interprets "hasta". I think it's Kany who
cites an example found in a window somewhat similar to the following:

 Este negocio abre hasta las 9

 This shop opens at 9 (but not before)
 This shop will be open until 9 (and will then close)

Rosa Graciela Montes
U. Aut de Puebla
MEXICO

rmontessiu.cen.buap.mx
rmontescca.pue.udlap.mx
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Message 4: Re: 6.430 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Sat, 25 Mar 1995 17:26:03 Re: 6.430 Words that are their own opposites
From: Dan Alford <dalfords1.csuhayward.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.430 Words that are their own opposites

The truth LIES between the two extremes!

 -- Moonhawk (%-))
 ("The fool on the hill sees the sun going down and)
 (the eyes in his head see the world spinning round")
 (-- McCartney/Lennon)
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Message 5: Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Sun, 19 Mar 1995 10:57:26 Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites
From: Mayssa Abou-Youssef <JKRTEYAgrove.iup.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.381 Words that are their own opposites

Don't know if this got mentioned but it came up in conversation
the other day: "Did the alarm [on the alarm clock] go off?"
"No, something happened and the alarm went off." [Meaning not
that the alarm sounded but that the alarm setting to "on" had
gotten turned "off."] So the alarm should go off unless the
alarm goes off. Or the alarm which is turned on goes off and
is turned off. When it is on going off. Wait a minute. Speaking
of that, "She turned him on but he turned on her." Mayssa Abou Youssef
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Message 6: words that are their own opposites

Date: Mon, 27 Mar 95 11:46:27 CSwords that are their own opposites
From: <GA5123SIUCVMB.SIU.EDU>
Subject: words that are their own opposites

 Marion Kee, who works with prepositions, should enjoy this autoantonym:
FOR (= 'because of' / 'in spite of'):
 1) We hired her for her computer skills.
 2) For all her faults, she's still a good computer-guruani.

Lee Hartman ga5123siucvmb.siu.edu
Department of Foreign Languages
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4521 U.S.A.
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