Antiautonymy in English and Chinese



Antiautonymy in English and Chinese

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Antiautonymy refers to a linguistic setting where pairs of words or phrases that one would think, given their appearances, would be antonymous, but strangely, in reality, are synonymous.  H


Help students to investigate into the generative mechanisms for antiautonymy and to further reveal the commonalities of human language thinking. 

Activity 1: Antiautonymy in Conversations


Listen to a short conversation and figure out what is talked about. Pay special attention to some phrase pairs which sound opposite in meanings.

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After hearing the conversation, you can refer to the printed form of the conversation and think about the meanings of the bold-faced words or phrases.

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Activity 2: Antiautonymy in English Texts


There 12 pairs of  sentences. Each pair contain bold-faced phrases. Try to make out if the bold-faced phrases are synonymous. If you think they are synonymous, please delve into the reasons caustive of this.




1A. I'll just have to hold myself back from not doing too much (that's hard for me). source 

1B. I know I have this habit and I'm trying to hold myself back from doing this.Source


2A. How many times have I told you to let Billy have whatever he wants! Source

2B. How many times haven't I told you to let the flowers alone! Source



3A. She said that the teen got a bad beating in the attack, which left his head badly swollen. Source

3B. He needed several stitches to stop bleeding and then got a good beating at home, when his father found out some of his previous mischief on that unfortunate day. Source


4A. In the run up to Trafalgar, George wrote letters home to his parents, describing how he hoped to give the French a good lickingSource

4B. I remember you gave Mickey a bad licking and earned the dollar that went to the winner. Source


5 A. She slowed up as she approached the pedestrian crossing. Source

5B. But, instead of walking faster to find out, she slowed down and took careful steps. Source


6A. The meeting wound down at 11:45, after the board formally expelled eight more students, declining as usual to explain specifically why or from what school. Source

6B. The meeting wound up at noon and then came the moment of truth. Source


7A. I've boned the chicken and then diced the meat. Source

7B. They all showed good knife skills, they deboned the chicken well. Source


8A. He loosened the laces of his shoes and stepped barefoot onto the soil and stone. Source

8B. She knelt at his feet and unloosened the laces of his boots. Source

9A. Please fill out the form below to submit a comment. Source

9B. If you would like to come, please fill in the form on the last page of this news. Source


10A. Jane is pretty and popular; you will have a fat chance of getting a date with her. Source

10B. I figured there was a slim chance that I would get a response, but I took a chance. Source


11A. Newman, who abstained from voting on the bill, delivered a sharp speech critiquing the effort to remove him from an office he won last November. Source

11B. Theresa May triggered a storm of protest last night by delivering a blunt speech. Source


12A. The fighter managed to worst his opponent. Source

12B. The IBF king believes he will best his opponent in round seven. Source



1) Lederer. R. Crazy English-The Ultimate Joy Ride through Our Language. Newyork: Simon and Schuster Inc. 1989

© Dingyu Song. Modern Languages, Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton. 19th January, 2018

Created using the LOC Tool, University of Southampton