[Lingtyp] Does bipolar polysemy exist?

Volker Gast volker.gast at uni-jena.de
Thu May 31 09:32:56 EDT 2018


The question is, does Sahidic Coptic 'ehrai' mean 'up' and 'down' or 
simply 'changing its position on a vertical axis'?

Same for lexemes meaning both 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow' -- they could 
simply mean 'not today'. German has an adverb 'einst', which means either 
'in the past' or 'in the future' -- it's an adverbial of (remote) 
non-present time.

There are languages that use the same word for 'son-in-law' and 
'mother-in-law'. But then, these words simply mean 'non-[blood-related] 
relative'.

'Host' and 'guest' (also etymologically related in English, as far as I 
know) can be subsumed under 'role in a context of hospitality'. Such cases 
are very common, I think. We Germans tend to confuse Engl. 'borrow' and 
'lend', as we don't differentiate between these meanings. Germ. 'leihen' 
bassically means 'being involved in a temporary exchange of goods, with an 
obligation to return the exchanged goods'. The sentential context tells 
you who lends and who borrows.

There are probably languages that do not distinguish between dogs and 
foxes. A dog cannot be a fox, but a canid/canine can be either. That's a 
simple matter of hierarchical organization (heteronymy/hyperonymy).

With respect to 'personne' etc., polarity items interact with the 
sentential environment. I don't think that they 'mean' anything out of 
context.

I think the question is whether there are words denoting complementary 
sets. I don't see how this could work, as you would end up with an 
inherently contradictory predicate, as David pointed out. For instance, an 
adjective denoting both 'colorful' and 'colorless' -- and nothing 
else -- could not truthfully be predicated of any object (except perhaps 
in lexicalized cases of irony, but then, we'd have to assume that a new 
lexeme has been created).

And I agree that it is hard to think of an internally negated version of 
'go'. Such a verb would denote events that imply the absence of going. 
'Stay' is probably a candidate, but verbs are not normally organized in 
terms of complementarity.

To conclude, I think the question is not an empirical one. A word 
which indicates both membership to a category C and non-membership to that 
category cannot truthfully be predicated of any individual or object, and 
a word that cannot be used truthfully would likely drop out of use pretty 
soon; and it would probably not even emerge in the first place.

But it might be useful to provide more precise definitions to begin with, 
specifically of the syntagm 'bipolar polysemy'.

Volker

_____________
Prof. V. Gast
http://www.uni-jena.de/~mu65qev

On Thu, 31 May 2018, Eitan Grossman wrote:

> In the Sahidic dialect of Coptic (Afroasiatic), ehrai means 'up' and 'down.'
> 
> 
> Eitan GrossmanLecturer, Department of Linguistics/School of Language Sciences
> Hebrew University of Jerusalem
> Tel: +972 2 588 3809
> Fax: +972 2 588 1224
> 
> On Thu, May 31, 2018 at 2:15 PM, Mathias Jenny <mathias.jenny at uzh.ch> wrote:
>       In Thai, cʰâj means 'be so', but in literary style it is also used to mean 'not be so'.
> 
> Mathias Jenny
> 
> mathias.jenny at uzh.ch
> 
> 
> On Thu, May 31, 2018 at 1:07 PM Giorgio Francesco Arcodia <giorgio.arcodia at unimib.it> wrote:
> 
> I don't know if that counts, but: in Italian, ospite means both 'host' and 'guest'. In a given situation, you can't be both, so, (I guess) in a sense this word can be the
> negation of itself.
> 
> Apologies, semantics is not my forte.
> 
> Best,
> 
> Giorgio
> 馬振國
> 
> 2018-05-31 13:03 GMT+02:00 Mattis List <mattis.list at lingpy.org>:
>       Wouldn't the frequent cases of pronouns or pronoun-like words in French
>       (personne = "person, nobody", pas = "step, not", etc.) come close to
>       this notion? And this process has historically also be claimed for other
>       negation words, like Ancient Greek "ou", if I am not mistaken.
>
>       Best,
>
>       Mattis
>
>       On 2018-05-31 12:57, Joo Ian wrote:
>       > Dear all,
>       >
>       >  
>       >
>       > I would like to know if the following universal claim holds:
>       >
>       >  
>       >
>       > /There exists no lexeme that can mean X and the negation of X. (For
>       > example, no lexeme can express “to go” and “to not go”)./
>       >
>       >  
>       >
>       > I wonder if such “bipolar polysemy” exists in any lexeme, because I
>       > cannot think of any, and whether this claim is truly universal.
>       >
>       > I would appreciate to know if there is any counter-evidence.
>       >
>       >  
>       >
>       > From Hong Kong,
>       >
>       > Ian Joo
>       >
>       > http://ianjoo.academia.edu
>       >
>       >
>       >
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> --
> Prof. Dr. Giorgio Francesco Arcodia
> 馬振國博士 副教授
> Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca
> 米蘭比克卡大學
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