chapter  I
12 Pages

1 Towards a definition of ‘kindred relations’

Language apparently abhors absolute synonymy almost as much as nature abhors an absolute vacuum. It is generally assumed by linguists that pairs of words or other lexical elements with absolutely identical meanings are rare, perhaps even non-existent. Not surprisingly, synonymy between grammatical constructions is equally uncommon: rival constructions, like affirmative versus negative verb phrase, or restrictive versus nonrestrictive relative clause, usually show clear differences in meaning; in other words, to adopt the terminology of Haas (1980: 67-9), they exhibit ‘heteronymy’. Even structures with more subtle differences of meaning, like active versus passive, or cleft versus non-cleft, can be said to be nonsynonymous, although they may involve near-synonymy, or ‘plesionymy’, to use the term proposed by Cruse (1986: 285-9).