Semantic profiles of antonymic adjectives in discourse

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This study has two goals: Firstly, to give an account of the semantic organization of individually used antonymic adjectives in discourse, and secondly, based on these finding, and previous work on antonymic meanings, contribute to a comprehensive theoretical account of their representation within the framework of Cognitive Linguistics. The hypothesis is that the members of the pairs are used in the same contexts and in the same type of constructions, not only when they co-occur and are used to express binary opposition as shown in previous work, but also otherwise. The manually coded corpus data from the BNC are analyzed along four semantic parameters: (i) the configuration of the adjectives in terms of gradability, (ii) the way they modify the nominal meanings, i.e. attributively or predicatively (iii) the meaning type of the modified nouns, and (iv) the status of the constructions with respect to whether their meanings are what we refer to as ‘basic’, metaphorical or metonymical. Multi-dimensional correspondence analysis technique is used to identify similarity spaces on the basis of the totality of the data. As predicted, our findings confirm a high degree of pairwise similarity – and some differences. On the basis of these results, it can be argued that the long-standing controversy within Structuralism between proponents of the co-occurrence hypothesis and the substitutability hypothesis in antonym research is a non-issue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-191
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Centre for Languages and Literature (015016000), English Studies (015008010), Linguistics and Phonetics (015010003)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature


  • Opposition
  • gradability
  • nominal meaning
  • metaphor
  • metonymy
  • literal
  • scalar
  • corpus
  • adjectives
  • English
  • semantics
  • noun
  • attributive
  • figurative
  • syntagmatic
  • paradigmatic
  • substitution hypothesis
  • co-occurrence hypothesis


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