lexical query

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue Sep 4 00:20:07 UTC 2007

On Sep 3, 2007, at 4:31 PM, Dennis Baron wrote:

> Arnold,
> So far as I can determine, there is still no accepted term to
> describe words or phrases that mean both themselves and their
> opposites -- autoantonyms, iI have called them, or paradoxical or
> oxymoronic words...

oh lord, i will never make myself understood.  i suppose i should be
endlessly sorry for having introduced antillogies (or whatever term
you use -- at least there *are* some candidates) into this discussion.

antilogies (or whatever you call them) are words that are ambiguous
between X and the opposite of X -- which is to say that an antilogy
is really *two distinct lexemes*, one meaning X, the other the
opposite of X (for some value of "opposite").  they are in fact as
distinct as "pen" 'writing implement' and "pen" 'enclosure for
animals'; they just happen to have the same pronunciation (and
syntactic category).

the concept that i've been trying to get at has to do with a class L1
of lexemes whose *intension* involves being both X and the opposite
of X (normally, not in the same way).  something counts as a
"hermaphrodite", for instance, if it is both female (in some ways)
and male (in some ways); "hermaprodite" is a member of L1.  as far as
i know, there is no term in english that denotes L1.

in fact, my friend's query was about a *proper subclass* L2 of L1,
the subclass of lexemes X for which the intension of X comprises
circumstances that are blessings (to some experiencer) and the
opposed intension comprises circumstances that are curses (to the
same experiencer).  as far as i know, there is no term in english
that denotes L2, though there are a few that are close.

i am now reduced to giving beginning semantics lectures.  this is

i seem to be totally unable to make my meaning clear.  i will not
post further here on this topic ("words for" some concept) or on my
other explicatory failure (distinguishing inadvertent slips from some
other things that might be called, loosely, "blends") for at least
six months.

(i'd set aside this three-day weekend to try to catch up on my 3000+
queue of unanswered e-mail and my 250+ queue of partially written
postings for Language Log, but in fact i've not done a bit of either
project, and i've just baffled and irritated my colleagues on ADS-L.
time to retire.)

by the way: if you've copied ADS-L e-mail to me, or sent me e-mail
off-list, this weekend, you will have gotten a bounce message from
stanford.  but i did in fact get your message.  the problem is a loop
triggered by changes from an old server to a new one.  it happened
last weekend, was fixed last monday, but now has reappeared.  do not
be alarmed.


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