Date: Wed, 12 Oct 1994 00:13:47 -0400
From: PPATRICK[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]GUVAX.BITNET
Subject: Re: Antilogies
I'm not sure I buy all of Wab's cases of polarity switches, though
that's what I first thought of before Larry Horn suggested "antilogy"
(which seems wonderful but maybe best only on the lexical level?)
"No love lost" I've always understood to come from "no love
there to lose in the first place", and it also seems to me to have
that dry sarcastic tone that the others don't.
"If not" is something I've been puzzling over for a long time,
and would like to know if it's been written up anywhere. But I think
it's only a written phenomenon, since there are two very distinct
intonation contours that disambiguate meanings in conversation:
"X, if not Y" "X," pause, lower pitch, "if not Y," with
a trailing low pitch on "Y"
Means "but not Y"
Ex: "It was bad, if not terrible", when it wasn't terrible.
"X, if not Y" "X", no or very brief pause, "if not Y" with
as-high or even-higher pitch and contrastive
stress on "Y". "X" is often aggravated or
intensified, and "Y" is even more so and in
the same direction. Means "X, indeed, Y".
Ex: "It was (downright) silly, if not absurd"
But I've also tried in vain to get non-linguists to hear the ambiguity
and the intonation patterns, so maybe mine are idiosyncratic or
dialectal. Also, I wonder if there's a polarity-like phenomenon of a
change spreading in one direction: polarity changes spread towards the
positive, which is semantic bleaching, don't they? So is the 2nd
reading winning out? or are they too functionally distinct for that to apply?
Whoops! my maiden (substantive, after that individual-reply fiasco)
speech was a bit long...
georgetown u. lx