Beyond Semantic Opposition: Contextual Opposites in Osundare’s The Eye Of The Earth

Khabyr Alowonle Fasasi


Lexical semanticists have categorized linguistic items based on their perceived relationships and have come up with the category termed semantic oppositions to describe words that share certain contrastive features. Consequently, certain categories of semantic oppositions have been documented in the literature. The current research argues that a certain type of opposition termed contextual opposition has not been accounted for. Resting on Teun van Dijk’s (2006) socio-cognitive theory of context, this paper probes into the types of opposites found in Niyi Osundare’s poetry, The Eye of the Earth with a view to accounting for the nature of relationships existing between certain pairs of opposites. In addition to the various types of semantic opposites in the text, analysis reveals the presence of a new type of opposites termed ‘contextual opposites’ (opposition conferred on the linguistic items by context). Findings reveal that contextual oppositions (or pragmatic oppositions) designate a relationship in which words, phrases and larger expressions which ordinarily do not share any linguistic relationship of contrast or incompatibility are forced to appear as opposites as a result of their contextual contradictory semantics and syntactic ordering. The paper concludes that current categorisation of opposition in English should incorporate contextual oppositions rather than limiting such to the traditional lens of lexical semantics.


Lexical Relations, Semantic Opposition, Context, Pragmatics, Discourse Structures, Osundare

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