Discourse functions of antonymy: A cross-linguistic investigation of Swedish and English

M. Lynne Murphy, Carita Paradis, Caroline Willners, Steven Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Jones (2002) identified several discourse functions of antonymy, each of which is loosely associated with a number of contrastive constructions in written English. Subsequent work (Jones, 2006; Jones and Murphy, 2005; Murphy and Jones, 2008) demonstrated that these functions are found in other modalities/registers of English, albeit with some differences in distribution. This article takes a first step in exploring discourse functions of antonymy in a language other than English. Because binary contrast has the potential to interact in different ways with the values and thought patterns of different cultures, we hypothesized that other languages differ from English in the ways in which antonyms are used in discourse. In this study of antonyms in Swedish, translational near-equivalents of pairs used by Jones were searched in the Swedish Parole corpus, and more than 4300 instances of co-occurring antonyms were found and analyzed in their sentential contexts. While the same range of antonym discourse functions is found in English and Swedish, the proportions of those functions differ significantly between the two languages. This paper both describes their functions (and the form of the functions) in Swedish and reflects on the similarities and differences with English. We ascribe some of the differences to the idiomaticity of certain componential expressions and discuss the possibility that certain cultural values affect some categories. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2159-2184
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • Adjectives
  • Construction
  • Contrast
  • Corpus
  • Discourse frame
  • Opposition


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