[Lingtyp] Does bipolar polysemy exist?

Robert Cloutier kankoku at hotmail.com
Fri Jun 1 10:49:56 UTC 2018

Hello Ian,

You may be able to find some examples by looking up contronym, auto-antonym, or autantonym; most instances have opposite meanings, though not necessarily the clear-cut 'X' versus 'not X' you are looking for.

One example in English that is the result of misanalysis is the word inflammable, which can mean both 'flammable' and 'not flammable'. The former is the original meaning, and the latter is a result of speakers interpreting the in- prefix as negation. Because of this confusion, though, inflammable seems to be less commonly used with the meaning 'flammable'.

Best regards,

Robert Cloutier

Univeristy of Amsterdam


From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of Tianqiao Lu <lutianqiao at maonan.org>
Sent: Friday, June 1, 2018 4:57:14 AM
To: Giorgio Francesco Arcodia; mattis.list
Cc: lingtyp
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] Does bipolar polysemy exist?

Hi Ian.

The following sentences in Mandarin Chinese might imply some bipolar polysemy:
(1) W¨¯ ch¨¤di¨£ner m¨¦i di¨¤o xi¨¤qu
      1sg almost not-yet fall down
can either mean:
     "I almost fell down" (i.e. I did not fall down)
     "I almost didn't fall down" (i.e. I did fall down)
(2) W¨¯ ch¨¤di¨£ner m¨¦i g¨¤osu t¨¡.
      1sg  almost   not-yet tell 3sg.
can either mean:
     "I almost told him/her" (i.e. I haven't told him/her)
     "I almost haven't told him/her" (i.e. I did tell him/her)
Hopefully this might help.

Tianqiao Lu
School of Linguistic Sciences
Jiangsu Normal University

------------------ Original ------------------
From:  "Giorgio Francesco Arcodia"<giorgio.arcodia at unimib.it>;
Date:  Thu, May 31, 2018 07:06 PM
To:  "mattis.list"<mattis.list at lingpy.org>;
Cc:  "lingtyp"<lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>;
Subject:  Re: [Lingtyp] Does bipolar polysemy exist?

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.



2018-05-31 13:03 GMT+02:00 Mattis List <mattis.list at lingpy.org<mailto: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.



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
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