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Intercultural Pragmatics

Editor-in-Chief: Kecskes, Istvan


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1613-365X
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Volume 5, Issue 4

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The meaning of negated adjectives

Tamar Fraenkel / Yaacov Schul
Published Online: 2008-11-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/IPRG.2008.025

Abstract

The study investigates the way people use and make sense of negated adjectives. Past research showed that by using a negated adjective, instead of an available antonym, one is able to communicate a mitigated sense of that antonym. To illustrate, by saying ‘not hot’ one can communicate ‘neither hot, but not quite cold’. This effect has been termed the mitigation hypothesis. Our theoretical analysis suggests that the extent of mitigation should vary as a function of two factors. First, mitigation should be more pronounced for contraries (adjectives that lie on a continuum) than for contradictories (adjectives that form a dichotomy); Second, the extent of meaning mitigation of marked adjectives should be stronger than that of unmarked adjectives. Finally, we hypothesized that these two factors interact, so that the markedness effect should be stronger for contraries than for contradictories. We report results from three experiments that tested these hypotheses with native speakers of Hebrew and discuss alternative mechanisms that might lead to mitigation of negated terms. We also address the practical importance of our findings for questionnaire design and communication.

About the article

Published Online: 2008-11-20

Published in Print: 2008-11-01


Citation Information: Intercultural Pragmatics, Volume 5, Issue 4, Pages 517–540, ISSN (Online) 1613-365X, ISSN (Print) 1612-295X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/IPRG.2008.025.

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