Negation and approximation as configurational construals in SPACE

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


This article is a window into conceptual space through antonyms, negated antonyms and antonyms modified by degree modifiers. It investigates native speakers’ understanding of negation in combination with BOUNDED antonymic adjectival meanings and also in relation to their interpretations of the approximating degree modifier, ‘almost’ in Swedish. The results of the investigation are compared with a similar study by Paradis and Willners (2006), which includes ‘not’ with UNBOUNDED SCALE meanings and in relation to ‘fairly’.
We propose that ‘not’ is a degree modifier and like all other degree modifiers it operates on the configurational construals in SPACE. In combination with BOUNDED antonyms ‘not’ operates on the boundary and bisects a spatial structure. The combinations of ‘not’ and BOUNDED meanings are interpreted as synonyms of their antonyms. ‘Almost closed’ differs significantly from ‘closed’ but is not significantly different from ‘not open’. In contrast, in combination with UNBOUNDED antonyms, ‘not’ modifies the UNBOUNDED SCALE structure and evokes a range on the scale in SPACE in the same way as ‘fairly’ does. While the results for the UNBOUNDED meanings are very robust across all test items, the BOUNDED meanings are much more volatile and adaptive to alternative scalar interpretations.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Construal of Spatial Meaning Windows into Conceptual Space
EditorsCarita Paradis, Jean Hudson, Ulf Magnusson
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)978-0-19-964163-5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch

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