Date: Wed, 12 Oct 1994 00:13:47 -0400


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...

--peter patrick

georgetown u. lx