Antonyms as lexical constructions: or, why paradigmatic construction is not an oxymoron

  • M. Lynne Murphy


This paper argues that antonymy is a syntagmatic as well as a paradigmatic relation, and that antonym pairs constitute a particular type of construction. This position relies on three observations about antonymy in discourse: (1) antonyms tend to co-occur in sentences, (2) they tend to co-occur in particular contrastive constructions, and (3) unlike other paradigmatic relations, antonymy is lexical as well as semantic in nature. CxG offers a means to treat both the contrastive constructions and conventionalised antonym pairings as linguistic constructions, thus providing an account of how semantically paradigmatic relations come to be syntagmatically realised as well. After reviewing the relevant characteristics of CxG, it looks at some of the phrasal contexts in which antonyms tend to co-occur and argues that at least some of these constitute constructions with contrastive import. It then sketches a new type of discontinuous lexical construction that treats antonym pairs as lexical items, and raises issues for further discussion.

Special Volume 1 (guest editor: Doris Schönefeld)