Discourse functions of antonymy: a cross-linguistic investigation of Swedish and English

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Jones (2002) identified several discourse functions of antonymy, each of which is loosely associated with a number of contrastive
constructions in written English. Subsequent work (Jones, 2006; Jones and Murphy, 2005; Murphy and Jones, 2008) demonstrated
that these functions are found in other modalities/registers of English, albeit with some differences in distribution. This article takes
a first step in exploring discourse functions of antonymy in a language other than English. Because binary contrast has the potential
to interact in different ways with the values and thought patterns of different cultures, we hypothesized that other languages differ
from English in the ways in which antonyms are used in discourse.
In this study of antonyms in Swedish, translational near-equivalents of pairs used by Jones were searched in the Swedish Parole
corpus, and more than 4300 instances of co-occurring antonyms were found and analyzed in their sentential contexts. While the
same range of antonym discourse functions is found in English and Swedish, the proportions of those functions differ significantly
between the two languages. This paper both describes their functions (and the form of the functions) in Swedish and reflects on the
similarities and differences with English.We ascribe some of the differences to the idiomaticity of certain componential expressions
and discuss the possibility that certain cultural values affect some categories.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Languages and Literature


  • Discourse frame, Construction, Contrast, Opposition, Adjectives, Corpus
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2159-2184
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Publication categoryResearch

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