Coats and bras and jeans – and clothes, too: Lexical contrast between hyperonyms and hyponyms
A special case of lexical contrast involves contrasting a hyperonym and a hyponym (as in clothes and socks), leading to the narrowing of the hyperonym’s sense. However, not all hyperonym/hyponym pairs are amenable to contrast (e.g. ?animals and cats). While category prototype structure forms a strong motivating and constraining factor for hyperonym/hyponym contrast (e.g. Lehrer 1990), what is lacking in previous work is a systematic consideration of the phenomenon in real language use. To that end, data from the GloWbE corpus (Davies 2013) was used to investigate which terms for items of clothing (e.g. coat, bra, jeans) can be contrasted with their hyperonym (either clothes or clothing). While marginal members of the ITEM OF CLOTHING category (e.g. belt, hat) have a stronger potential for contrasting with the hyperonym, even prototypical hyponyms (e.g. shirt, jeans) contrasted with clothes/clothing in at least some contexts. Language users can therefore manipulate category boundaries to meet their discourse needs, exploiting a range of dimensions of difference to create contrast. Many clothing terms were also found to contrast more readily with clothes than with clothing, suggesting that the meaning of clothes is generally narrower than that of its near-synonym clothing.
Citation : Koskela, Anu (2017) Coats and bras and jeans – and clothes, too: Lexical contrast between hyperonyms and hyponyms. English Language and Linguistics, 21 (3), pp. 475-499
Research Institute : Institute of English
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- School of Humanities