Lexicographic Interpretation Of Opposed Lexical Sets Representing Physical Characteristics Of Objects


The paper describes a complete ideographic analysis of the denotative sphere vocabulary: The Perception of world around aimed at the classification of lexical representations into denotative-ideographic groups and subgroups. The main methodological tool for the analysis was the concept of synonymous-antonymic complex. The research methods involved a structural-semantic approach based on the methods of definitional, component, ideographic analysis, as well as a cognitive approach, which involves the determination of cognitive strategies for representing opposing relations in the synonymous-antonymic complex and the identification of discursive specificity of opposing lexemes. The article also implements the representation in the lexicographic parameters of the opposing semantics represented by lexemes, which are associated with the objects and phenomena of the material world. The lexical macroset structure ‘physical characteristics’ is described: Microgroups in its composition are identified, frequency oppositions in microgroups are determined, their typical opposing semantics are formulated, features of their structural organization, for example, the presence of regular options of modification of basic semantics of the group, methods of grammatical representation typical for a microgroup in the form of various parts of speech, variation in the derivational relation. It was revealed that the semantic components “weight”, “form”, “structure”, “strength”, “stability”, “sustainability”, which make it possible to carry out an ideographic analysis of lexemes are the basics for microsynonymic-antonymic complexes as part of the macroset ‘physical characteristics’. They form typical semantics of individual synonymic-antonymic complexes and the semantics of the first main antonymic opposition in their composition.

Keywords: Antonyms, ideographic vocabulary, opposing relations, synonymous row, synonymic-antonymic, typical semantics


One of the ways the vocabulary reflects the semantic space of the language of universal relations of opposition is antonymy as a special lexical category, which has become the subject of close attention among the classics of Russian lexicography (Karaulov, 1976; Novikov, 1985; Novikov 2001; Shmelev 2003) and modern researchers, for example, united by the scientific field Ural Semantic School headed by Professor Babenko, while the aspects of studying antonyms may be different.

Aspects of Studying the Semantic Relations of Identity and Opposition

An investigation of semantic space of the language in terms of the study of the universal semantic relations of differentiation and identity makes it possible to reveal the patterns of organization of the semantic space of the Russian language in various forms of its existence (literary language in book and colloquial varieties, vernacular and jargon nominations), to investigate the semantic relations between various groupings of synonyms and antonyms , to determine the semantic distances between the meanings of individual lexemes and lexical sets, i.e. to explore the depth of semantic space.

The functional aspect of the study of antonyms, as well as synonyms, is associated not only with determining the capabilities of the Russian word-formation system in the representation of opposing relations (for example, displaying relations of identity and similarity with the help of lexemes formed according to regular word-formation models, for example, syntactic derivatives, in particular, verbal or abbreviated nouns, derived nouns and verbs, including reflexive ones, as well as adverbs depending on the semantics of the lexical set), but also with the research based on antonymic lexical sets of the problem of interaction of vocabulary and grammar on the basis of identification of the main derivational options of variation of the basic opposite semantics in the form of the predominance of opposed derivative words of certain parts of speech.

From a cognitive point of view, the opposition relations linking individual lexemes and lexical sets make it possible to reveal the regularities of categorization of individual parts of the picture of the world in the Russian national consciousness.

The importance of ideographic approach regarding the classification of lexical sets of a special type connected by the relations of synonymy, antonymy, clarification, differentiation and generalization of close or contiguous meanings was pointed out by one of the founders of ideographic lexicography Karaulov in his work General and Russian Ideograph (Karaulov, 1976), in particular, speaking about words limited by the framework of one lexical semantic group.

Contribution of Scientists of the Ural Semantic School Headed by Professor

L.G. Babenko in the Study of Antonymy as Lexical Category

Babenko developed the theoretical and methodological foundations of the study of antonymy in the structural-semantic, cognitive-discursive and ideographic aspects. The scientist gives a definition of the concept of lexical set (Babenko 2020b). Besides, he theoretically described and practically proved the specificity and significance of cognitive process of mental integration and the main cognitive strategies for representing opposites on the basis of the linguistic material of various ideographic dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms (Babenko, 2018a), (Babenko, 2016). Moreover, a definition of the synonymous-antonymic complex was provided (Babenko 2020b) and possible variants of the structural organization of synonymous-antonymic complexes were described, in particular, the levels of hierarchy in synonymous-antonymic complexes of different ranks (Babenko, 2020b). A definition was given and scientifically substantiated the specifics and components of the typical semantics of synonymous-antonymic complex (Babenko, 2019), a model of the lexicographic interpretation of synonymous-antonymic complexes in the vocabulary of the Russian language was proposed (Babenko, 2019; Babenko 2020a).

Under the leadership of Babenko, scientists of the Ural Semantic School carry out fundamental research. They use lexical statistics methods to study synonyms and antonyms (Mukhin, 2017), which is consistent with foreign studies of antonymy based on the corpus approach (Jones, 2002). They study synonyms and antonyms with emotive semantics (Babenko, 2018). Besides, they study the synonyms and antonyms of certain denotative spheres, namely the synonymic-antonymic complexes of denotative spheres associated with science (Voronina & Gulyaeva, 2019), knowledge (Voronina, 2020), sound (Voronina & Cherkasova, 2018), settlements (Mukhina, 2020), a living being (Dudorova, 2020), as well as antonyms united by the semantics of object renaming (Plotnikova, 2019).

The work of the research team has resulted in the development of the Large Explanatory Ideographic Dictionary of Synonymous-Antonymic Complexes (Babenko, 2021).

Thus, it can be concluded that various areas of the antonymic picture of the world of the Russian language are currently in the center of close attention of scientists and are studied using methods of structural-semantic, cognitive-discursive and ideographic analysis.

Problem Statement

The problems of this study are related to the development of the issues relevant to modern linguistics:

  • Description of synonymic-antonymic complexes difficult for interpretation of abstract conceptual area ‘physical characteristics’.
  • The need to reflect the results of studies of relations of identity and differentiation in the lexicographic parameters of the explanatory ideographic dictionary of synonymous-antonymic complexes.
  • Application of ideographic approach for linguistic interpretation of antonyms to increase the productivity of semantic research.
  • Study of the semantic area ‘physical characteristics’ in order to draw conclusions about the ways to implement the cognitive relations of identity and opposition in the language.

Research Questions

The relevance of the work is seen in the selection of lexical units in the Russian language in the relationship of opposition in the structure of synonymous-antonymic complexes (hereinafter – SAC) included in the denotative field ‘physical characteristics’.

Research Novelty

The novelty of the research is determined by the definition of oppositional lexical-semantic sets in the structure of the SAC ‘physical characteristics’, the study of their structural and semantic features, lexical content, the discursive specifics of lexemes, as well as the identification of the main variants of the representation of opposing relations in the composition of the SAC.

Practical Relevance

The importance of reflecting the relationship of similarity and opposition in lexicographic parameters, presenting the results of the research in the form of dictionary materials, where the lexicographic representation of the results of the study of opposing lexical SAC ‘physical characteristics’ sets is carried out gives practical significance to research in this area of scientific knowledge.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the paper is the development of a general hierarchical structure of lexical sets that represent the denotative field of ‘physical characteristics’ in the vocabulary of the Russian language. The next stage of the study is aimed at the definition of the macrostructure of a certain SAC as the middle level of the hierarchy of the dictionary of synonymous-antonymic complexes. Another purpose is the selection of 1) the main levels of the hierarchy of meanings in the SAC: basic antonymic opposition of the SAC reflecting all the opposing meanings of the synonymous oppositions of one SAC; 2) the main antonymic oppositions representing the SAC subgroups; 3) individual private oppositions within subgroups representing synonymous-antonymic microcomplexes. The final stage of the work is aimed at the definition of the main strategies for representing the relationship of similarity and opposition, as well as discursive options for the implementation of the opposing meanings in contexts.

Research Methods

On the one hand, the study is based on the traditional structural-semantic approach, which provides for the analysis of material based on the methods of definitional, component, ideographic analysis. On the other hand, the cognitive approach, which assumes, firstly, the definition of cognitive strategies for representing opposites in the SAC ‘physical characteristics’, and secondly, the identification of the discursive specificity of lexemes, i.e. members of separate synonymous-antonymic complexes.

Synonym-Antonymic Complex: Definition and Main Characteristics

The main methodological tool of analysis in the paper is the concept of a synonymous-antonymic complex, introduced by Babenko.

Summarizing the theoretical provisions of (Babenko, 2019; Babenko, 2020a; Babenko 2020b) the following definition can be given: A synonymic-antonymic complex is a single hierarchically organized system consisting of a set of related synonyms and antonyms (which are involved in displaying the integration of relations of identity and opposition in the Russian language by lexical means and are combined into semantically correlated groupings of words connected by paradigmatic relations), which has a specifically organized integrative semantics and a special structural organization, which determines the features of the lexicographic representation of the typical semantics of SAC, the presence of variants of its modeling, the principles of identifying basic antonymic oppositions and their regular partial variants that form the SAC and synonymous-antonymic microgroups in their composition.

The main characteristics of the SAC, according to Babenko (2020b) are the same thematic assignment of a set of synonyms and antonyms of the same meaningful orientation, the display of various aspects of the general denotative macro-situation by the SAC lexical means, connection of lexemes in the SAC by relations identities and opposites, the entry of synonyms and antonyms into equipolent oppositions, conveying their complex intersecting nature.

Research Stages

According to the concept of Babenko concerning the lexicographic representation of the SAC the characteristics of the main antonymic oppositions in the SAC ‘physical characteristics’ were carried out according to the following model:

  • At the first stage, the antonymously opposed synonymous series were extracted from ideographic dictionaries of synonyms of the Russian language (Babenko, 2008; Babenko, 2017) united by semantics related to the physical characteristics of objects.
  • At the second stage, based on the definitional analysis the lexical meanings of the dominant lexemes of the opposed synonymous series were provided.
  • At the third stage, with the help of the National Corpus of the Russian Language the illustrations of the use of dominant lexemes of synonymous series were selected, as well as examples of the joint use of dominant antonymic lexemes within the same context proving the antonymy of their semantics.
  • At the fourth stage, the generalized typical semantics of the SAC was given.
  • At the fifth stage, as a result of structural-semantic analysis, the macrostructure of the SAC was determined including the main options for varying its typical semantics.
  • At the sixth stage, as a result of ideographic analysis the general macrostructure of the SAC ‘physical characteristics’ was revealed.
  • The seventh stage of the study involved the determination of the general patterns of representation of relations of similarity and opposition in the studied SACs.


Ideographic Material Classification

The ideographic analysis showed that synonymous-antonymic complexes of the denotative field ‘physical characteristics’ are included into lexical macromoset ‘the perception of the surrounding world’ (33 NAO) along with the following microsets:

‘Taste’ (4 SAC: sweet ↔ bitter, sweet ↔ sour, sour ↔ non-sour, salty ↔ unsalted), ‘olfaction’ (1 SAC: fragrant ↔ fetid), ‘sense’ (5 SAC: smooth ↔ rough, smooth ↔ bumpy, hot ↔ cold, wet ↔ dry, even ↔ uneven), ‘size’ (4 SAC: (large ↔ small, high ↔ low, deep ↔ shallow, wide ↔ narrow), ‘shape change’ (4 SAC: swell/get swollen ↔ fall/get fallen, straighten/ get straight ↔ bend/ get bent, elongate/become elongated ↔ shorten/become shorter).

Macrostructure of Lexical Sets of Ideographic Field ‘Physical Characteristics’

From a structural point of view, the SAC ‘physical characteristics’ includes 15 SACs and is subdivided into ideographic subgroups ‘weight’ (1 SAC:), ‘shape’ (2 SAC:), ‘structure’ (7 SAC:), ‘strength’ (2 SAC:), ‘sustainability’ (2 SAC:), ‘proportionality’ (1 SAC: proportionate ↔ disproportionate).

As you can see, the SAC ‘physical characteristics’ is the most voluminous macrostructure among the SACs of the denotative field ‘perception of the surrounding world’: 15 SACs out of 33, respectively. In the SAC ‘physical characteristics’, the SACs of the subgroup ‘structure’ prevail quantitatively.

The variety of physical characteristics of objects of the surrounding world, reflected in the synonymous and antonymic picture of the world of the Russian language, as well as the absence of a basic antonymic opposition for the entire SAC "Physical characteristics" (as the opposition large ↔ small in the SAC "Size, size") is due, in our opinion, a large number of really existing in nature characteristics associated with objects and phenomena of the material world, with the structure of matter and its forms. Some of these tangible features, namely weight, shape, structure, strength, stability, proportionality, are the basis for combining synonymous-antonymic microcomplexes as part of the synonymous-antonymic macrocomplex "Physical characteristics".

Typical Opposite Semantics of SAC in Lexical Sets Macrostructure of the Ideographic Field Physical Characteristics

For each microset in the structure of the SAC ‘physical characteristics’, a typical semantics was defined in the form of expanded definition that interprets the semantics of the entire complex as briefly as possible and accumulates both identical and opposite essential semantic features, as well as their lexical representations in the form of private oppositions (Babenko, 2019).

Let us consider, for example, the typical opposing semantics of the microset ‘form’. In the typical semantics of the lexemes combined by this semantic component, the semantic features ‘protruding above the surface / depressed inward’ () are opposed; ‘the same / not the same in shape, size" ().

Separate SAC of the ‘form’ microset are combined on the basis of typical semantics, which clearly demonstrates the ways of varying the basic semantics in particular oppositions within subgroups. Let us give as an example the typical semantics of the SAC ‘’ consisting of the basic semantic opposition ‘protruding above the surface, rounded ↔ depressed inward, rounded or arcuate’ () and the semantic components associated with regular partial grammatical variants that form separate subgroups in the SAC ‘convex ↔ concave’: the first subgroup uniting synonymous rows of abstract nouns – ‘a characteristic of smth. rounded and protruding above the surface’ (); part of the surface of smth. of rounded shape facing outward ↔ part of the surface of smth. of rounded shape facing inward ‘ (). The second subgroup, which unites derivatives from the original adjective adverbial names – ‘being rounded and protruding above the surface ↔ being rounded and depressed inward’ (). The third subgroup of derived verbs – ‘change / change the form of an object or its part forming a roundness facing outward ↔ change / change the shape of an object pressing it in whole or part of it inward’ (), including return ones – ‘take / take a rounded, outward-facing shape ↔ take / take a rounded, inward-facing shape’ (). Thus, these data confirm the idea of Babenko that the main antonymic oppositions form subgroups consisting of private antonymic oppositions associated with the main derivational relations (Babenko, 2019).

Based on the semantic analysis of the typical semantics of the SAC ‘convex ↔ concave’ it is possible to distinguish both the general semantic component of the ‘round or arched shape’ and the opposite semantic features of the lexemes of this SAC (protruding above the surface / depressed inward, part of the surface of something outward / inward facing, being protruding above the surface / depressed inward, forming an outward / inward facing roundness, take / taking outward / inward facing shape.

Substantive and Structural Features of SAC as Part of the Physical Characteristics Macroset

From the point of view of measurability the SAC ‘commensurate ↔ disproportionate’ includes the largest number of oppositions – 9 oppositions: proportionate ↔ disproportionate, proportionality ↔ disproportion, proportionate ↔ disproportionate, symmetric ↔ asymmetric, symmetry ↔ asymmetry, symmetrical ↔ asymmetric, harmonious ↔ inharmonious, harmony ↔ disharmony, proportion ↔ disproportion.

As part of the ‘physical characteristics’ macroset the following oppositions can enter into antonymic relations.

First, there are. In quantitative terms, the most common opposite synonymic rows are presented in the SAC ‘light ↔ heavy’. From a structural and semantic point of view this SAC includes 7 opposite synonymic rows: light, lightweight, short-weight, weightless, not heavy’, i.e. having a small, insignificant or insufficient weight (for example, ... Faina Georgievna gave my grandmother an elegant, stick from weightless material with an amazing handle made of amber... (A. Shcheglov) ↔ heavy, bulky, massive, not light, of one pood, leaden, ponderous, dark and heavy, colloquial – weighty, colloquial – unliftable, colloquial – full-weight, colloquial – weighing a hundred poods , colloquial – heavy, colloquial – weighty, traditional poetic, colloquial – heavy, i.e. having a lot of weight (for example, and with the force of a drunk person she tore off a heavy old chest of drawers and moved it to the door scratching the floor (L. Andreev). The contexts of the joint use of antonyms confirming their opposition: Egyptian chariots were much more maneuverable compared to Hittites, but even this circumstance did not allow the Egyptians to turn the course of the battle in their favor (magazine).

The relations of differentiation in the SAC ‘light ↔ heavy’ are also linked by synonymous rows of lightness, airiness, low weight, weightlessness, subtlety, i.e. the property of objects having relatively small weight ↔ heaviness, weightiness, obsolete – burden, i.e. property of objects with a large weight; light, airy, lightweight, weightless, i.e. having little or insufficient weight, being light in weight ↔ heavy, ponderous, i.e. having a lot of weight, being heavy on weight; weightless, airy, lightweight, outdated – ethereal, i.e. very lightweight; imperceptible by weight, like air ↔ heavy, bulky, massive, not light, of one pood, leaden, ponderous, dark and heavy, colloquial – weighty, colloquial – unliftable, colloquial – full-weight, colloquial – weighing a hundred poods, colloquial – heavy, colloquial – weighty, traditional poetic, colloquial – heavy, i.e. having a lot of weight; weightlessness, lightness, airiness, outdated – ethereality, i.e. the property of objects having very low weight ↔ heaviness, weightiness, outdated – burden, i.e. property of objects with a large weight; airy, outdated – ethereally, i.e. having little or no weight, being light on weight ↔ heavy, ponderous, i.e. having a lot of weight, being heavy on weight. As you can see, the typical opposite semantics of the SAC ‘light ↔ heavy’ varies in subgroups that combine derivatives that differ in semantic components ‘small, insignificant or insufficient weight’ (combining synonymous rows with dominants light, lightness, airy) and ‘very low weight’ (synonymous rows with dominants weightless, weightlessness, airy).

Secondly, the synonymous rows and individual lexemes enter into opposites, as in the SAC ‘shaky ↔ stable’: synonymous rows with a dominant unsteady (unsteady, shaky, colloquial – living, colloquial – swelling, colloquial – unsteady, colloquial – wobbly, colloquial – flimsy, i.e. able to easily come to a state of movement, swinging from side to side or being in a state of movement, swinging from side to side or from top to bottom) and the lexeme stable, i.e. able to stand firmly, without falling, without hesitation, without tipping over on one side; a substantive synonymous row unsteadiness, colloquial – shallowness, i.e. a property of smth. easily coming into a state of motion, oscillation, or being in a state of motion, oscillation, insufficiently stable and the noun stability, i.e. property of smth. able to stand firmly, without falling, without hesitation, without overturning on one side; adverbial synonymous row unsteady, shaky, colloquial – quick, i.e. not having a solid foundation; easily coming into a state of movement, fluctuation and the adverb stable, i.e. having a solid foundation; without falling or hesitating, despite the influence of various forces.

Thirdly, antonymic relations link, for example, in the SAC ‘soft ↔ hard’ most oppositions are the oppositions of individual antonyms associated with different meanings of the adjectives soft and hard, for example, soft changes shape under the influence of compression, pressure, without returning to its previous shape, for example, July, cloudless sky, still air saturated with a tart resinous smell of pine, earth hot from the sun and soft from yellow pine needles <...> (A. Rybakov ). ↔ hard, i.e. one that is difficult to compress, cut, changes its shape under great force”, for example, On the one side the mountain was cut vertically to the height of human exposing the red clay (Z. Sinyavskaya).

So, the analysis showed that, as part of the ‘physical characteristics’ macroset, each SAC has its own content-structural features, which manifests itself in the presence of a specific oppositional structure of SAC, the number of basic antonymic oppositions and the quantitative composition of individual private oppositions, methods of regular variation of typical opposing semantics in the composition of the SAC subgroups, the peculiarities of the cognitive processes of interpretation and profiling of typical semantics of individual synonymic-antonymic microcomplexes.


The opposing structure of the paradigm of the opposed synonymous series of SAC ‘physical characteristics’ is formed by hierarchically organized SAC subgroups: weight, form, structure, strength, sustainability, proportionality. This allows us to assert that these cognitive signs are significant for the Russian national consciousness in terms of their representation by synonyms and antonyms in the linguistic picture of the world.

All antonymously opposed synonymous series united by semantics associated with the distinctive properties of objects and phenomena of the material world, with their material structure, can be considered a macro-synonymous-antonymic complex formed by micro-synonymic-antonymic complexes in its composition. At the same time, the semantic components weight, shape, structure, strength, sustainability, proportionality are basic for micro-synonymic-antonymic complexes and form both their typical semantics and the semantics of the first main antonymic opposition in their composition (such as light ↔ heavy, strong ↔ fragile, proportional ↔ disproportionate and similar).

The interpretation of the main idea of micro-synonymic-antonymic complexes is carried out by lexemes with different categorical and grammatical characteristics. In the macro-synonymic-antonymic complex ‘physical characteristics’, adjectives are the basic antonyms, the methods of repeated variation of the typical opposing semantics in the SAC subgroups are associated with the regular appearance of syntactic derivatives in the oppositions, i.e. from subjective nouns, derived adverbs and verbs.

Lexemes with the opposite semantics enter into antonymic relations, lexical-semantic groupings of lexemes, i.e. synonymous series with one-word antonyms, as well as antonymic synonymous series.

The specificity of structural and semantic organization of the SAC ‘physical characteristics’ is a significant amount of synonymous series entering into opposites of the synonymous series of the SAC ‘light ↔ heavy’ including both neutral and stylistically and functionally marked vocabulary.

Antonymic oppositions in the SAC are combined on the basis of not only opposite semantic features, but also on the basis of identical components of typical semantics.


The study received the financial support of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research in the framework of the project No. 19-012-00458 Relations of Identities and Opposites: Integration of Mental Spaces in Lexicographic, Structural-Semantic and Cognitive-Discursive Presentation


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Mukhina, I. K. (2021). Lexicographic Interpretation Of Opposed Lexical Sets Representing Physical Characteristics Of Objects. In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in The Context of Modern Globalism, vol 117. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1100-1109). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2021.11.147