LINGUIST List 6.531

Sun 09 Apr 1995

Disc: Words that are their opposites

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  1. , words that are their opposites
  2. , Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites
  3. Alex Eulenberg, Words that are their own opposites
  4. Mari Olsen, Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites
  5. Yang Wei, Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites

Message 1: words that are their opposites

Date: Fri, 07 Apr 1995 17:52:33 words that are their opposites
From: <bergdahlouvaxa.cats.ohiou.edu>
Subject: words that are their opposites


 Ohio University Electronic Communication

 Date: 07-Apr-1995 05:51pm EST

 To: Remote Addressee ( _MX%"LINGUISTTamvm1.Tamu.Edu)

 From: David Bergdahl Dept: English
 BERGDAHL Tel No: (614) 593-2783

 Subject: words that are their opposites
 Subject: words that are their opposites

Let's not forget WITH: he fought with [on my side/against] me at Gettysburg

 DAVID
David Bergdahl Ohio University/Athens OH BERGDAHLOUVAXA.CaTS.OHIOU.EDU


Received: 07-Apr-1995 05:52pm
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Message 2: Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Sat, 08 Apr 1995 07:07:52 Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites
From: <MOKENNONACAD.ALBION.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites

since the list is not dead yet, and since we've drifted into other languages,
here are two more. i am told that in chinese the phrase "da cheng yi pian"
("beat become one slice") can mean either to get into a furious fight or
to become fast friends. in xhosa, you can get lots of pairs like "abafundi",
which can mean either "the students" or "they do not study". long live this
topic!

martha o'kennon
math dept, albion college
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Message 3: Words that are their own opposites

Date: Sat, 8 Apr 1995 10:51:28 -Words that are their own opposites
From: Alex Eulenberg <aeulenbeindiana.edu>
Subject: Words that are their own opposites

Benji Wald (IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU) writes:

) We'll never get anywhere with this discussion if we
) keep coming up with things like opposite readings according to context with
) English prepositions, among other things.

As the originator of this discussion, I feel a few words are necessary in
response.

First, the idea of an ambiguity involving two opposite meanings is to me
quite an interesting one, no matter whether the source is lexical,
grammatical, or pragmatic. I think it would be a great contribution to
linguistics if we could tally all the possible ways a construction can
mean its own opposite.

Here's another example I've been thinking about, a semantic group of words
dealing with healing, where the same word may mean both "restore" and
"eliminate".

They fixed the window -- They fixed the crack in the window.
My hand has healed -- The wound in my hand has healed.
My breathing is improving -- My cough is improving.

It's hard to say whether it is the verb or the noun which contains the
paradox. In other words, is it that the word "fix" (etc.) that means both
"remove a flaw in X" and "remove flaw X", or, is it that "crack" (etc.)
denotes an object whose very existence is its own flaw?

OK, let's try to eliminate the apparent auto-antonymy by taking the
second analysis: objects such as cracks are inherently bad -- "the only
good crack is a non-existent crack".

But this seems quite unnatural, especially for "heal". It is hard for me
to accept the analysis that a wound is a part of the body, that when
healthy, does not exist.

Furthermore, even if we do take this analysis English will still not be
free of auto-antonymy, since we can say "you've sure put a good crack/got
a good wound/got a terrific cough there", where "good" means being
present to the fullest extent.

Conclusion: no matter how you slice it, you've got auto-antonymy on your
hands, or at least semantic components of words that can flip
their values upside-down according to the convenience of the speaker.

Benji:
) But maybe I misunderstand, and that's not the point of the discussion.

As I understand it, the point of the discussion is to find more and more
ways that words can be their own opposites. In so doing, we will hopefully
find some patterns.

Benji:
) I must say I'm amazed at the
) longevity of this discussion. DOES ANYBODY OUT THERE KNOW IF THIS IS THE
) RECORD FOR LONGEVITY OF A LING.LIST TOPIC?

I first posted on the topic in early November of last year. Now there are
some linguists who believe that the linguist list topic "historical
linguistics" is much older than this, but others believe that given the
proposed time-depth, such a claim is in principle impossible to verify.

--Alex Eulenberg
--Indiana University

PS Before submitting your proposed auto-antonym to LINGUIST, you can
check with me at (aeulenbeindiana.edu) and I'll tell you if it's already
been mentioned. One of these days, I'll post an updated master list.
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Message 4: Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Sat, 8 Apr 1995 14:24:54 -Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites
From: Mari Olsen <molsenastrid.ling.nwu.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites

Another auto-antonym in Larry Rosenwald's post...
)
) One more addition to this fascinating subject, from Vladimir
) Nabokov's _Ada_:
) "Speaking as a botanist and a mad woman, [Ada] said, the most
) extraordinary word in the English language was 'husked,' because
 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
) it stood for opposite things, covered and uncovered, tightly
) husked but easily husked, meaning they pell off quite easily, you
) don't have to tear the waistband, you brute. 'Carefully husked
) brute," said Van [Ada's brother and lover] tenderly."
)

Mari Broman Olsen
Northwestern University
Department of Linguistics
2016 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208

molsenastrid.ling.nwu.edu
molsenbabel.ling.nwu.edu
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Message 5: Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Sun, 09 Apr 95 00:17:38 PDRe: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites
From: Yang Wei <HONGJUNUVVM.UVIC.CA>
Subject: Re: 6.522 Words that are their own opposites

Hi:
I am not sure if anyone has mentioned the Chinese verb "jie" which
means both 'to lend' and 'to borrow'. Apart from some structural
difference in the use of this verb, its meaning largely depends on
the real situation.
(1). ni *jie* wo de qian ying gai huan gei ni
 'The money you lent me should be returned to you'
(2). ni *jie* wo de qian ying gai huan gei wo
 'The money you borrowed from me should be returned to me'
Semantics seems to play a role here. Given the word order (you *jie*
me DE money) in both sentences, *jie* in (1) is understood as 'to lend'
because the money that "I should return to you" indicates that "you
lent me the money first". In (2), *jie* is understood to mean "to
borrow" because the money that "you should return to me" must be the
money the "you borrowed from me".

Chinese words of opposite meanings can sometimes be used as synonyms.
For example, sheng 'to win' and bai 'to lose' convey the same meaning
in (3) and (4) below:
(3) Zhongguo dui yi 3:0 da *sheng* meiguo dui. (da[Tone 4]='greatly')
(4) Zhongguo dui yi 3:0 da *bai* meiguo dui. ( ditto )
'Chinese team beat U.S. team by 3:0.'

Yang Wei
University of Victoria
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