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Good and bad opposites

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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.
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Keywords: adjective; antonym; contrast; conventionalization; gradable; lexico-semantic relation; prototype; synonym

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 15, 2009

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