This paper analyzes instances of use of conventionalized antonyms in sentences in which they generate a related contrast pair or enhance its contrast potential, e.g. All those young blonde American nurses who marry old film stars placed in their care are simply taking care of business. The theoretical framework adopted is that of Cognitive Linguistics, in which meanings are mental entities in conceptual space and arise through context-driven conceptual combinations. Contexts of antonym use in the sentence seem to be structured and can be explained if conceptual approach to antonymy is adopted. Sentences in which the well-established antonymous pair is employed to act as a contrast generating device actually contain two contrasting pairs. The article seeks to explain why we are able to interpret the second contrast pair in the relation of binary semantic contrast, whether any form-meaning pairings can become members of the binary contrast set, and whether there is a scale of antonymity of contrast pairs in those contexts. The results provide support to cognitive prototype approach to antonymy, which predicts a category with a continuum structure, with a number of prototypical antonym partners as core members and ad hoc couplings on the outskirts.
©2015 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston