Alternatives to morphological negation with verbs?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by ThomasK, Jan 1, 2013.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I was looking up 'to discover' and 'to cover' in Finnish. Both are simply two distinct words, so it seems to me, and I think there is no morphological negation of verbs in some languages. yet, to me as a westerner full of illusions, it seems so strange not to be able to do that (retaining the link with the active 'positive' (?) word --- or concept.

    So: what alternatives are there? And: could that imply a different worldview?
     
  2. Hulalessar Senior Member

    Andalucía
    English - England
    Whether it is the case that some languages have absolutely no derivational suffixes that negate the meaning of a verb I do not know, but it is what would be expected in an isolating language. If there are such languages I do not think it implies a different world view. After all in English, for example, you cannot negate just any "reversible" verb in this way.
     
  3. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    You might be right. I might have jumped to conclusions.

    I suddenly remember that Finnish does use some kind of prefixes in some cases, but rather lexical, and not to express negation. I just thought this kind of word-building betrays (perception of) links between different words that are not perceived in others. I remember vali- in Finnish somehow connects 'means', 'indirect' and 'distance': vali- refers to something like in-between. I'd never think of such a link, starting from my own Germanic words. That reminded me of worldviews, but that might not be the right association.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  4. Perseas Senior Member

    Athen
    Griechisch
    Does it mean that in Finnish there is no morphological negation of verbs at all, or it applies only to "cover" and "discover"?
    In Greek there are such morphemes, e.g. ξε/α/αν, but you can't put them in front of every verb. For example: σκεπάζω (= cover) - ξεσκεπάζω (= uncover), but τρέχω (= run) cannot have such negation. Also, some verbs take on another meaning (not negative or opposite) when they have such morphermes. For example: πουλώ (= sell), but ξεπουλώ (=sell out).
     
  5. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I must say I am not that sure, cannot ask Finnish speakers right now, but it seemed to me that it did not exist with verbs.

    The Greek principle is probably INdoEuropean. In Latin, French, etc., I recognize something similar, but it is no longer productive. The interesting is that in West Germanic language the mechanism still is productive: we can produce new words using new words and old prefixen (uitgetwitterd - twittered so much that there is nothing more to say).

    I happen to see that in some cases we can use a lexical expression as well: losmaken, to loosen, losmaak (South African), etc.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  6. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    My intuitions about English might be wrong, but your example is perhaps not the best one. The difference between 'discover' and 'cover' seems to be more than a simple negation:
    1) Columbus discovered America.
    2) Columbus covered America.

    For me, the root word ''cover" has entirely different interpretations in 1) and 2). If I translate them into my own native language, there would be no morphological similarity between them at all and I suspect that the same is true for Dutch.
     
  7. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Cover/discover should be Romance loanwords. In Italian it's coprire/scoprire.
    I would say that discover is a special case, in which the negation isn't perceived very much, probably because the meaning is quite metaphorical. For instance, you compare it with "misunderstand" or "disqualify", where the negation is clear.
     
  8. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks, but the principle is common, I think, to IE-languages: prefix + V. But you're right: the meaning of discover has developed, and is not as literal as in mis- or dis-. However, the point is: some languages do not seem to refer to a link between two actions (which we'd call opposites), and/or they name it a morphologically non-negative way.

    Of course: are they real opposites?
     
  9. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Yes, discovered here would be closer in meaning to uncovered -- made known.
     
  10. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    OK, I agree to some extent, i.e.: dis-cover might have a separate meaning, dis- not strictly meaning un-. But I think that etymologically this dis- is at least neg., in the sense of 'away from'. I now find out that it means:
    My example was not perfect. But how about Lithuanian? Do you use a prefix in this case, or in case of "truly negative" verbs?
     
  11. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    When I am thinking about it, I am not sure it's very common to use a negative prefix with verbs to express true negation. Many verbs don't seem to have an obvious negative meaning, i.e. what is the opposite of "run"?
     
  12. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Well, in my view one could sustain that 'slow down' is an opposite, or standing still, or .... It is probably true, though: the strict opposite does not always/ often really exist. But aren't 'handsome' and 'ugly', 'good' and 'bad', 'grammatical/ ungrammatical' kind-of straight opposites? They are considered like that, I think, but yin-yang shows that they are not strict opposites, or that opposites somehow need each other. But that would be a separate thread.

    But let us assume there are kind-of opposites, and see whether one can make one word negative morphologically or otherwise, while retaining the link with the original. My ultimate question seems to be: is it somehow more evident/logical/... to keep the/ a link with the so-called positive or maybe 'unmarked' word/concept?
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  13. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    I am not sure if you are asking about negation of verbs or of adjectives in this thread.

    1) If you are asking about adjectives.
    You find many pairs of adjectives that are non-related and opposites (just like the ones you mention). You also find adjectives that are related and opposites (happy - unhappy). This is true in Finnish too (see here). However, I don't think you can find a language that exclusively relies on the former strategy, i.e. non-related opposites. Languages may differ as to what strategy is used for this and this adjective, but I don't see any reason for this to cause differences in world view.

    2) If you are asking about verbs.
    I wasn't really asking for the opposite of "to run", it was just serving as an example of how difficult it is to define the opposite action of most verbs. Moreover, in most cases where one seems to find an (etymologically) negative prefix like in misbehave, mislead, misunderstand etc there is more going on than a simple negation. The core meaning of the root verb changes so it's hardly surprising that you find languages where the apparent positive and negated form of an English verb are completely unrelated in the language in question. Some of them also imply a reversal of a previous action, e.g. English "to undo" (which does not mean the same thing as "not to do".) I don't think this has anything to do with different world views.

    In my own native language (Norwegian), I can't think of any cases where I use a prefix on verbs to negate their meaning. That job would be carried out by prepositions, particles, different verbs etc.
     
  14. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I do not focus on adjectives, I'd say, but I'd be willing to include them if useful. I had been thinking of verbs. However, mis- does not refer to a negation or an opposite, I'd say, but what you point out, is true: negation of a concept is almost a philosophical issue (what is, or what is considered as, the opposite?), and that might be one reason why negation as a morphological process is not so common (because the so-called opposites are not real opposites).

    I am beginning to think that the concept of opposites is even culture-specific to some extent.

    I'll see now whether any other language speaker from non-IE languages comes up with new ideas on this.
     
  15. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    All verbs in Lithuanian, Polish and Russian can be negated. In Lithuanian you just add the prefix ne in front of the verb (even if it already has some prepositions as suffixes in the frontal position). Also there is a double, triple or quadruple negation -- I don't see nothing nowhere, sort of. It is similar in Polish and Russian, except the negating particle is separate from the verb -- nie. I don't think there are innately, truly negative verbs in those languages, because such Latin prefixes as dis, for example are not used. I have to give it more thought, but I don't think so.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  16. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    You are right. The prefix mis- is not a negation.
    But it's still unclear to me what you are looking for.
     
  17. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I am sorry if things seem unclear. (The problem is that I generally have a hunch or a feeling, and then have to try to think it through in order to formulate the question, but then start from some assumptions that are biased, or not well-founded, or simply untrue... That's why I need all of you to see clear... ;-( )

    Let's try to break up my question into parts:

    (1) Can you make a verb negative using morphemes? (Like cover/ uncover (discover too, I think, but it is not always neg.), tie/untie, ...)
    (2) If not: how do you go about it? Only using words with different roots (lexical way), or ... ?
    (3) Is there some way of linking the opposites (verbs) non-morphologically, i.e., show the (inherent...) link?
    (4) Or do you think there is a good reason why opposites (verbs) often don't show that link? Or maybe: why do you have lexical opposites (good/ bad, ...), and only sometimes a morphological negative form, like kind/unkind, economic/ uneconomic (?)
     
  18. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    (1) Yes, sentential negation in Slavic languages and Farsi (these are the ones I can mention right here and now) is formed by attaching a negative morpheme to the verb stem.
    (2) It depends on what kind of negation you mean, denying the denotation of the verb alltogether or reversing an action. If you are denying the existence of the action denoted by the verb, then you would probably go for sentential negation. Slavic/Farsi would use affixing, Dutch would probably use a free morpheme. If you are talking about reversing an action, you could probably use various strategies. English can make use of un- as in undo, untie. You can also have completely independent lexical items (maybe find vs hide) or you could use prepositions/particles as in go in and go out.
    (3) If the verb stem is the same, then they are already linked in some way. If not, I don't really see any need for linking them.
    (4) Again, it's a question of what kind of opposites you are talking about. As we have seen already, apparently negated verbs (not sentential negation) have different meanings. Different meanings = different verbs. Hence, there is no need for them to be related. As for the morphologically negative adjectives, it's probably a question of what is practical and of historical accident. In principle there is nothing wrong with alternations liked big/non-big instead of big/small, but to me it seems impractical. Furthermore, French has no word for cheap, you would have say something like not expensive. Impractial maybe, but it works for them. Different languages, different histories.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  19. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Well, Thomas, in Baltic, and in Slavic languages (Polish and Russian -- I don't know much about other Slavic languages) the suffixes that you use with certain verbs -- like to uncover, or kill, for example don't have anything to do with negativity, but rather with direction or completing the action. I will use an exmaple from Polish, because it might be easier -- od would be the suffix to indicte undoing of something (but not always -- it has to be examined case by case -- also so the d could change into t sometimes, depending on the phonetic make-up of the word, od -- away from) Odkryć (to uncover), otworzyć - (to open). It just indicates direction. Za indictes completion -- zaprzeć (drzwi) to block the door, zabić -- to kill (bić -- to beat -- root). So, these are not really negative suffixes by themselves -- they may express different things depnding on the root verb.Some of those verbs may not even be divided into a suffix and a stem, because their separate parts would make little sense in their contemporary version.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  20. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    Except it is ugly. :) Why big/non-big and not small/non-small? It breaks the symmetry… And the main thing is, sometimes we want to say that a thing is neither big nor small. Or we just don't want to say whether it is small and only state it's not really big for our purposes; this shouldn't automatically mean it's small.
    It's making me wonder… But they probably have some synonyms to say that something comes cheap or sells cheap, has a low price, without telling anything about its being expensive or not, right? Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  21. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    I'll try to answer these for English:

    1. No.
    2. For most verbs this is syntactic: the verb do is added (properly conjugated) and followed by not (generally contracted) followed by the verb. A select number of verbs allow not alone to form their negations (be, have, will, etc.) and these are also generally contracted.
    3. It depends on what you include in your pairing of opposites; but that is a philosophical question, not a linguistic one.
    4. English doesn't mark verbal negation morphologically; the prefixing you are describing is derivational affixing, while the formation of negatives would be inflectional (and something English doesn't have for verbs).

    JE
     
  22. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    But as for 1: you can sometimes un-, can't you? Or maybe dis-, though not simply negative (well, there is as- vs. dis-, but that might be considered different)?
    As for 3 : OK, but taking one simple definition of opposites (the tradtional one): ... ?
    As for 4: I had been wondering whether these prefixes were not an aspect of morphology. The endings are, aren't they? Sorry, if I was wrong.
     
  23. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Isn't undo different than not to do, though? (real negation) The meaning obviously is different: what I meant was as a type of verb, in relation to its formation and function.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  24. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    I think it is instead obvious. The opposite of "running" is "not running". If English had a verb that would exactly express that somebody doesn't run and wouldn't express anything in addition, then it would be the perfect opposite of the verb "to run" (the innate property of opposites seems to be that they exclude each other), but English doesn't have such a verb. Consider, for example the verb "to lack", that seems to be a very good opposite for the verb "to have".
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  25. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    Or want or miss. Which on is the true opposite? What criteria are you using to decide?
     
  26. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Is the oppositie of 'to run' that obvious? 'Not to run' leaves a lot of room for interpretation, I think: walking slowly, standing still, etc. So indeed, the true opposite here is not clear. To close/ to disclose seems different already, I mean, those seem 'truer' opposites to me. Having and missing seem like opposites, but those are not the only ones, I suppose: having and getting might be considered opposites too, then, I suppose. I suppose a lot has to do with the 'preciseness' (precision) of a word/concept's meaning.

    BTW: cheap in French is bon-marché in Fr., goedkoop in Dutch (it seems like a calque).
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  27. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    Well, I think one word can have many opposites in a language. I can't understand why 'want' might be an opposite for 'have', because wanting doesn't even contradict having. I use two criteria:
    1) two opposites contradict each other: the more they do so, the better; *
    2) an opposite adds as little as possible to the contradition of the other word's meaning.
    According to these criteria, the perfect opposites are "good/not good" and "bad/not bad", and a less exact pair of opposites is "bad/good".

    * For example, getting seems to be a partial opposite of having, because getting could imply you didn't have the thing in the beginning but means you have it in the end.

    Indeed. Just like "to run" or any other expression. One could run in so many ways, for example, the purposes can be different: the runner wants to be in time, or the runner wants to escape a danger, etc.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  28. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    No, you can't. That is not a negative, the prefix un- does not mean 'not': uncover does not mean 'not cover', it means 'to remove the cover from something'.
    Still philosophy and not linguistics.
    The prefixes are aspects of morphology, sure, but they are not part of inflectional morphology (which is what it would be to morphologically negate a verb); they are part of derivational morphology (they unpredictably change the meaning/part of speech of the verb). Verbal negation should be perfectly productive; but what you've described is not perfectly productive: We can have to ride and the productive negative formation to not ride (do not ride when conjugated) but there is nothing productive about unride or disride, which almost anyone will tell you are meaningless non-words.

    True negation in English is phrasal, not morphological.

    JE
     
  29. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    On the other hand, my point was: does not having this V/un-V combination imply that one language (...) does not perceive a [semantic] link that another one does? Does it refer to a different worldview in that respect? (i did not wish to imply that the former was more fundamental, let alone that one language is more precise than another !)

    @JE: I see your point, I think. 'Negation' was a wrong choice, but 'opposite' might be better. As for linquistics and philosophy: doesn't pragmatics introduce some kind of philosophy/ background/ context into the linguistic theory?
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
  30. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    Well, I am not sure that can count as an opposite. “Not running” is a basic denial of any activity of running. Every activity that doesn’t involve running would be an opposite of “run” then: sitting, driving, resting, sleeping etc. So I have to agree with ThomasK here.
    Which again proves my point. French does not have a simplex word for cheap. You have to say it in some other way. Not expensive, good deal etc. Adjectives are not really part of the question though :)
    Could you please find a language that uses this strategy extensively for reversing the meaning of verbs? A handful of verbs in English where this is possible is hardly enough to establish a different world view.

    And what makes you think that a language lacking the V/un-V combination implies that the speakers of that particular language perceive no [semantic] link between the members of a given verb pair? The Norwegian verb for untie does not contain a negative (or reversing) prefix like English does, but it certainly contains the root tie. Norwegian tie and untie are very related.

    Finally, I seriously doubt the effects this may have on world views. To open and to close can be considered opposite actions. They are very different phonologically but people probably have enough real-world knowledge to see that they are semantically linked in spite of this.
     
  31. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Yes, I agree with some points in post 28. For me the only real opposite of run is not to run. As to linguistics -- linguistics is really the philosophy of language, among other things, and it started as a branch of philosophy (just a side note). Such prefixes as dis-, un-, mis- in English don't indicate negation.
     
  32. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I did not think so, I just wondered. I always look at roots of words, i.e., etymology, and thus metaphors to some extent - and that gets me going, wondering. Of course I am generally forced to review assumptions, think it through, etc. So that is fruitful, though somehow disappointing in the sense that I am again disillusioned, but I get used to that.
     
  33. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch

    I did not think so, I just wondered. I always look at roots of words, the etymology, and that often leads me to metaphors – and their impact. That is how I got to think that there might be… But I am generally forced to review assumptions, reformulate my thoughts, etc., so that is fruitful, though somehow disappointing. ;-)

    We do have a lot of phrasal verbs (…) with ont-, weg-, af-, which all have some negative connotation, and other languages don’t. That has got me going… So thanks for all the contributions.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  34. arielipi Senior Member

    Israel
    Hebrew
    Hebrew doesnt have these(negating ones) inherently, and those we have are a translation of english ones, resulting in some difficulty to use, neglected over the years except for a few.
     
  35. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    Sorry, I can't see your point. You seem to say that this concept is not a real one and as such can't be counted as an opposite of anything. I can't see why; these two words (not activities, but words) do convey a meaning and therefore express a concept.

    Let's take the word 'trempicate' that doesn't seem to exist in English and attach the meaning of not running to it. I guess it could be used like that: "It's not his fault that he's late!" - "It is. He trempicated". The verb is meaningful and looks like a very vivid opposite of running, although it sure doesn't exist in English.
    Not quite. Any word that would mean an activity that by definition cannot involve running would be an opposite of 'run', more or less precise (the less it tells in addition to contradicting the meaning of the verb 'to run', and the more natural and necessary those additions are — the more precise the opposite is). Why not?
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  36. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    It is not easy at all, it seems to me, but it looks like a useful term if we start from an exact definition of the 'posited', as you suggest...

    BTW: basically that is a metaphor as well ( in front of the 'posited', hindering us), and we have given it some kind of meaning, but it remains quite abstract, I am afraid. I am afraid the same holds of negation...
     
  37. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    Sorry? What is not easy at all? What looks like a useful term? What you're referring to by the word 'posited'? What thing is a metaphor here? Thanks!
     
  38. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    'Opposite' looks like a useful term, but it is not easy to define, I think. Opposite is a metaphor, based on ob + ponere, so, to put in front of and thus hinder (someone). That was very concrete, like an obstacle, but when used as an abstract word, or as a metaphor, it becomes more difficult, I think...
     
  39. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Hi, Thomas. I am not sure if verbs can have opposites, or real antonyms, at all, other than the ones resulting from the morphological negation.To be motionless, does not necessarily mean not to run. To walk may contain the meaning of not to run within its lexical field, but it may mean many other things as well. (at least in Indo-European languages).
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  40. arielipi Senior Member

    Israel
    Hebrew
    Hebrew:
    If you mean to ask if we can say "not verb-ing/ed/etc" yes we can, but we dont have original prefixes, only translated ones.
    We also have opposite verbs, sometimes by root, sometimes by binyan - they are pure opposite is worth mentioning I think.
    חימם קירר khimem kirer are opposites, first is made something hotter, second cooler.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  41. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Hi. Doesn't their meaning stem from the meaning of the adjectives though -- warm and cold? Are they verbs by themselves, or do they consist of something similar to a linking verb and an adjective, or some other construction that involves an adjective.
     
  42. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    @Liliana: no opposites of verbs? I do agree that the opposites (...) of 'to run' can be quite different, but depending on the definition, I suppose. If running has to do with moving fast, then it seems logical that moving slowly is the opposite - but I am using adv./ adj. here, indeed... If speaking means producing words, then being quiet should be the or an opposite at least (zwijgen in Dutch). here I am not using adjectives, only perhaps nouns.
     
  43. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Hi. So, do you mean that stroll, for example, would be the opposite of run? I am not sure if I subscribe to the theory of verbs opposites. Speaking means to utter words (aloud). One can also speak to oneself, sort of, (mentally create words) when being quiet.
     
  44. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I am no longer sure of anything, Liliana. I had just been wondering about things, did not wish to develop a theory. I'd just say that speaking to oneself is only a metaphor, not to be interpreted literally.

    BTW, I had two other things I wanted to add to #42, viz.:
    - @both: this hot/ warm issue is interesting. Any verb seems to refer to the noun, or in this case the adj., I suppose. That might corroborate your thesis.

    - But not all ... (words?) have opposites, I suppose. Like existing. I'd love to have a verb for 'not to exist', but I think that is a world we can hardly refer to, as it is considered non-existent.
     
  45. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    I see no problem with referring to non-existent things. First, we think of them, possibly use a word for them, and only then classify them as non-existent. Non-existence is just one of many attributes that we could assign to the things that we have in our minds, why should we treat it as something very special?
     
  46. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Can we have things in our minds that do not exist??? Good heavens, shall we now have to discuss what we mean by 'exist'??? ;-) I'd say they must be to think of them. I also thought: I love creativity, but can I really invent, create, what does not exist? It looks like that but are those the right terms ??? Aaarrrhhhh !
     
  47. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    The aeroplane didn't exist before a man invented one, but he surely was able to think of it and say: "it doesn't exist for now, nor do I know whether it will exist in the future, but I'll try to make it exist, and maybe I'll succeed". :)
     
  48. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    Are you sure?


    Wiktionary entry for want:

    want (third-person singular simple present wants, present participle wanting, simple past and past participle wanted)

    1. (transitive) To wish for or to desire (something). [from 18th c.] What do you want to eat?I want you to leave.I never wanted to go back to live with my mother.I want to be an astronaut when I'm olderI don't want him to marry Gloria, I want him to marry me!What do you want from me?Do you want anything from the shops?
    2. (intransitive, now dated) To be lacking, not to exist. [from 13th c.] There was something wanting in the play.
    3. (transitive) To lack, not to have (something). [from 13th c.]  [quotations ▼]
    4. (transitive, colloquially with verbal noun as object) To be in need of; to require (something). [from 15th c.] That chair wants fixing.



    First, your criteria are contradictory.

    Second, your examples are opposites of different types, not different degrees--it's not 'more exact' and 'less exact'; it's one type and another type. A word and its rule-formed negation are opposites by logical necessity; 'lexical opposites' are opposites by way of agreed-upon meaning (we can't predict a lexical opposite; the opposition is semantic and not morphological/syntactic).

    Third, your criteria fail to account for speaker intuition. I think most people would agree that good and bad are in greater opposition to one another than good and not good.

    But this thread isn't about these kinds of opposition. It's about comparing opposite/negation pairs such as kind/not kind and kind/unkind. The question is whether there are languages that only allow the former kind of formations but not the latter--at least if I'm understanding the question right--and what affect this might have on the worldview of speakers of such languages.

    It is my position that, at least in English, these are two distinct processes that cannot be compared.

    JE
     
  49. e2-e4 X Senior Member

    Русский
    Thanks.
    Please explain.
    At least, they state that good/bad are more exact opposites than valuable/bad, which is what I wanted to get. The deviation from speaker's intuition that you mention is the only one.
     
  50. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    It seems that we have wandered off topic.

    ThomasK asks what alternatives there are for morphological negation in verbs and then the question is: what does negation really mean?

    The 'classical' negation is sentential negation and all languages have some way to express this: verbal or nominal affixes, free morphemes etc. Whatever the strategy is, they all correspond to "not".

    English makes use of “not” in combination with some syntactic changes to express sentential negation, but in some cases the verb in question has something that looks like a negative verbal prefix which is in fact something else: dis-, un-. We have already seen that discover and undo are not really negated. The meaning of discover is radically different from cover so ThomasK’s starting point that Finnish ignores a semantic link that is preserved in English because of etymology does not hold.

    If negation in this case refers to the reverse action in a sense, then we have some alternatives. English can use:
    The affix un-: undo, undress, untie.
    Particles and prepositions: go in/go out, turn on/turn off
    Different lexical items: wake up/fall asleep, open/close

    I have yet to see examples of a language that extensively uses affixes to revert the meaning of the verbs such that unrun means "the reverse action of running", uneat means "the reverse action of eating" etc. I don’t believe such a language exists because I cannot comprehend what kind of actions these negative verb forms would refer to which would be different from regular sentential negation. If such a language doesn’t exist, then this discussion is a mere philosophical debate about the worldview of speakers of a hypothetical language.
     

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