We Should Be Friends with Antonyms

Antonyms are words with opposite lexical meanings, they always belong to one and the same part of speech.

This means that if we are searching for antonym to a noun, we have to select it only among nouns. We can pick out an antonym to an adjective only among adjectives, and to a verb only among verbs. Consequently, antonym to an adverb can be only an adverb. Words, which belong to different parts of speech or lexical levels, can never be lingual antonyms.

Antonyms can be picked to those words, meanings of which carry opposite qualitative shades, but a common characteristic always lies at the heart of these meanings (season of the year, weight, height, feeling, time of the day etc.).

The function of opposition of antonyms can be used for reaching different stylistic goals, among which the following can be named: pointing to the limit of expression of quality, characteristic, relation or action; actualization of an utterance or stressing an image, an impression; estimation expression of opposite qualities of things and actions, often comparatively; representation of two opposite qualities, characteristics or actions; representation of one of opposable characteristics, actions or occurrence of realities of life through denial the other; acknowledgment of medium quality or characteristic, possible or really established between two words opposite in meaning.

The greatest part of antonyms are adjectives, forasmuch as the main feature of antonymy is presence of qualitative characteristic, and nothing exspresses quality better than an adjective. There are a lot of examples of antonymic pairs among adjectives: толстый – худой /fat - thin/, холодный – горячий /cold - hot/, тихий – громкий /quiet - loud/, светлый – темный /fair (light) - dark/, черный – белый /black - white/, сладкий – соленый /sweet - salty/, острый – тупой /sharp - blunt/, маленький – большой /small - big/ and many others.

However, nouns can also express opposite meanings and demonstrate contrast. For example: зло – добро /good - evil/, холод – жара /cold - heat/, чистота – грязь /cleanness - dirt/, зима – лето /winter - summer/, день – ночь /day - night/, жизнь – смерть /life - death/, молодость – старость /youth - anility/, победа – поражение /win - defeat/.

There are also many antonymic pairs among verbs. They are, for instance: любить – ненавидеть /to love - to hate/, работать – отдыхать /to work - to rest/, идти – стоять /to go - to stand/, уважать – презирать /to respect - to disdain/, ускоряться – тормозить /to accelerate - to back pedal/, ругать – хвалить /to scold - to praise/, говорить – молчать /to talk - to keep silent/, открывать – закрывать /to open - to close/.

Good examples of antonymic pairs among adverbs are the following: холодно – жарко /cold - hot/, красиво – уродливо /nice - ugly/, понятно – непонятно /clear - obscuredly/, случайно – специально /accidentally - purposely/, быстро – медленно /fast - slow/, вкусно – невкусно /tasty - not tasty/, сладко –горько /sweet - bitter/, тихо – громко /quite - loud/, спокойно – бурно /calm - headily/, остро – пресно /acrid - fresh/ etc.

Antonyms can be distinguished according to the structure and be: different-rooted (влево-вправо /left - right/, вверх-вниз /up - down/, туда -сюда /there - here/), single-rooted, which means those formed with the help of prefixes with opposite meaning or adding a prefix to an etymon (закрыть-открыть /to close - to open/, гуманный-негуманный /humane - inhumane/, монопольный-антимонопольный /monopoly - antimonopoly/).

With the point of view of action, antonyms can be: proportioned, in other words, when we have a certain action and its opposition (толкать – тянуть /to push - to pull/, вставать — ложиться /to get up - to lie down/, строить – ломать /to build - to break/, богатеть — беднеть /to grow rich - to grow poor/, краснеть - бледнеть /to redden - to pale/), and disproportionate, when we have an action and its absence (осуществлять – бездействовать /to realize - to non act/, молчать - говорить /to be quiet - to talk/).

There are dictionaries of antonyms in Russian, first of which was composed and published as far back as in 1970-s.

With arising of neologisms in language new antonymic pairs appear as well, and they immediately begin being studied by linguists. The following words can be reffered to antonyms-neologisms: круто – отстойно /awesome - bottom-of-the-barrel/, тупить – шарить, сечь /to buggin' - to be savvy, to latch on/, облом – халява /bringdown - freebie/, and everything of the kind. Such antonyms-neologisms are mostly used by youth and belong to youth slang.

Antonymic words and expressions help to make Russian language more expressive, informative and rich. Our everyday speech, literature, and media reports are full of antonyms. It is difficult to imagine Russian language without antonyms. It would become withered and boring without them, expressions would lose their piquancy and emotionality, that's why such stylistic device as antonymy is really necessary for speech.


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