Contrast (linguistics)

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In general linguistics , contrast has two different meanings:

  • On the one hand, contrast is used in North American linguistics in the same sense as opposition (Bußmann 2002, 376). Example: Contrast between voiced and unvoiced sound : [d], [t]. In many cases, a difference in meaning arises at the same time, for example with the word pair (= minimal pair ) “trade” - “dumbbell”.
  • In structural linguistics, on the other hand, “contrast” is an opposite of “opposition”: “contrast” then describes the syntagmatic relationships between units, “opposition” the paradigmatic ones. A syntagmatic relationship exists between the units that follow one another in speech; a paradigmatic between units that can be exchanged for one another in the same context. In this case, one would see a contrast in the examples given, for example between the sounds [n] and [d] or [n] and [t]; between [d] and [t], however, there is an opposition.


  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.) With the collaboration of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 .

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Wiktionary: Contrast  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations