[Lingtyp] Does bipolar polysemy exist?
gil at shh.mpg.de
Thu May 31 11:15:38 EDT 2018
Moving away from antonymy to "true" negation, the following two
examples, both marginal in one sense or another, come to mind:
1. Phonetic realizations of English "can" and "can't". In many
varieties the vowel is identical, and impressionistically, in some of
these, the final "t" is replaced by some kind of glottalization, a final
glottal stop and/or some kind of creakiness over the vowel. I wouldn't
be surprised if there are dialects where the distinction has been
completely neutralized. I know one non-native but fluent speaker of
American English who seems, to my ears at least, to have identical
phonetic realizations for "can" and "can't", and I keep on having to
interrupt and ask her which of the two she means.
2. In several varieties of colloquial Malay/Indonesian, the negator
"tak" ([taʔ]), although written as a separate word, actually cliticizes
to the word that follows it. In one of the ludlings described in the
reference below, the onset of the final (disyllabic) foot and everything
before it is replaced by the fixed sequence "war-", e.g. "pergi" (go) >
"warergi", "bahasa" (language) > "warasa". So what happens to negated
words? "tak=pergi" (NEG go) > "warergi"; that is to say, the distinction
between basic forms and their negations is systematically neutralized.
Of course, ludlings violate many universals of language, so this
shouldn't be taken as evidence against a possible universal proscribing
such neutralizations. But still ...
Gil, David (2002) "Ludlings in Malayic Languages: An Introduction", in
Bambang Kaswanti Purwo ed., /PELBBA 15, Pertemuan Linguistik Pusat
Kajian Bahasa dan Budaya Atma Jaya: Kelima Belas/, Unika Atma Jaya,
What's common to both of these very different examples is that, in one
way or another, it's the phonology that's the culprit.
On 31/05/2018 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
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816
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