Antonyms are words of the same language rendering contradictory or contrary notions. Complete or perfect antonyms are very rare. Antonyms are always coupled and belong to the same part of speech. They are different in sound form and are characterized by different types of semantic contrast of the denotational meaning.
Among antonyms we distinguish several groups:
1. Contradictories are presented by mutually opposed notions which deny one another: alive || dead, good || bad, married || unmarried, white || black, perfect || imperfect, true || false.
2. Contraries are presented by mutually opposed notions which are gradable: old || young, hot || cold, slow || fast.
3. Incompatibles are presented by antonyms with the common component of meaning and the reverse of hyponymy with the relations of exclusion (not of contradiction)
morning ≠ night ≠ evening - time (common)
red ≠ black ≠ blue - colour (common)
4. Antonyms with a contrary vector of direction:
South || North, West || East, know || forget, arrive || depart.
5. Conversive antonyms denote reversive notions:
doctor || patient, husband || wife, lend || borrow, tie || untie.
Antonyms are characterized by different structural characteristics: a considerable number of antonyms are root words: slow || fast, clever || silly, love || hate, rich || poor. Among them there are different parts of speech: adjectives (domineering), verbs, adverbs, nouns.
Derivational antonyms are words with the same root but with affixes which serve to deny the quality stated in the stem. A pair of derivational antonyms form a privative binary opposition:
logical || illogical, appear || disappear, pleasant || unpleasant, kind || unkind.
Root (absolute) and derivational antonyms are different from the point of view of morphological and semantic characteristics. While root antonyms form a gradual opposition clever - not bright of average mental abilities - not quick-brained - unintelligent - silly, derivational antonyms always build a privative binary opposition: kind - unkind, real - unreal.
It should be observed that words form antonymic pairs not in every context. Thus tall building ||lowbuilding,talltree||lowtree but:tallman||shortman.Oldhouse||newhouse butoldman||youngman.
In polysemantic words each of the meanings has its own antonym:clever(умный)||stupid(глупый);clever(даровитый)||dull(тупой);clever(ловкий)||clumsy(неуклюжий).
At the same time, words, which do not form an antonymic pair may be opposed to each other in certain contexts, this becoming contextual antonyms.
Antonyms are employed in fiction as a very effective stylistic device. This phenomenon is named "antithesis" (from Greek anti "against"; thesis "statement") and is applied to any active confrontation of notions, really and presumably contrastive.
The following example demonstrates the contradictory nature of the referent:
"It was best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the era of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of Hope, it was the winter of Despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us ... on the right and in front and behind ...
(Ch. Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities")
Antithesis may concern two different objects with the opposite characteristics and absolute incompatibility:
His fees were high, his lessons were light...
(O'Henry "The Gifts of the Magi")
"High" and "light" are not antonyms denoting incompatible notions, but their confrontation is quite legitimate in the context.
A considerable number of set phrases are based on antithesis:
dead or alive, black and white, the first and the last, from top to toe, sooner or later.
Antithesis is used in every type of emotional speech of all stylistic registers.