Why don't certain antonym pairs get rearranged often? We have little and big, small and large, but almost never hear little and large.
Another example: weak and strong, soft and tough, but never weak and tough.
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Presumably because those pairs of synonyms -- little/small, strong/tough etc. -- actually differ somewhat in semantics and usage.
This is easy to see with the second example: not everything strong is tough and not everything weak is soft, nor vice versa.
a strong/?tough argument
a tough/?strong steak
a weak/?soft correlation
the soft/?weak bigotry of low expectations
With the first example the denotations seem to overlap more, but little and big have an emotive association that small and large lack.
You big/?large palooka!
What a cute little/?small kitten!
I would guess that little and big tend to be acquired earlier by children, too, though I don't have any data on this.
So, in terms of meaning and usage, little is a more exact antonym of big than small is, and similarly for the other examples, which is presumably why they remain aligned in speakers' minds.
This is a good demonstration of conventionalisation in natural language. The conventionalisation goes so far, the even the order of the antonyms tend to be fixed, as in black and white or good and evil. The conventionalisation reduces the surprisal of the antonym phrase and eases its processing in the human brain. Any derivation from that would be marked in linguistic terminology.