Good and bad opposites: using textual and experimental techniques to measure antonym canonicity

Carita Paradis, Caroline Willners, Steven Jones

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The goal of this paper is to combine corpus methodology with experimental
methods to gain insights into the nature of antonymy as a lexico-semantic relation
and the degree of antonymic canonicity of word pairs in language and in
memory. Two approaches to antonymy in language are contrasted, the lexical
categorical model and the cognitive prototype model. The results of the investigation
support the latter model and show that different pairings have different
levels of lexico-semantic affinity. At this general level of categorization, empirical
methods converge; however, since they measure slightly different aspect of lexico-
semantic opposability and affinity, and since the techniques of investigation
are different in nature, we obtain slightly conflicting results at the more specific
levels. We conclude that some antonym pairs can be diagnosed as “canonical”
on the strength of three indicators: textual co-occurrence, individual judgement
about “goodness” of opposition, and elicitation evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-429
JournalThe Mental Lexicon
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Languages and Literature


  • synonym
  • contrast
  • adjective
  • conventionalization
  • lexico-semantic relation
  • antonym
  • prototype
  • gradable


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