Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Words With/Without Negative Prefixes

I was just thinking about the fact that certain words seem to be used so much more frequently with their negative prefixes than without their negative prefixes (to the point that these words sound funny without their negative prefixes. Consider the following words:

(in)controvertible
(ir)refutable
(in)consequential
(in)effectual
(in)numerable
(in)sipid
(in)dolent
(in)advertent
(in)or(un)conscionable

These are just the first words like this that came to my mind and the majority have the negative "in" prefix. Please add to the list by clicking the comment button below. Also, can anyone think of a name to give this phenomenon?

4 comments:

This blog managed by Erin Davis said...

Could your observation of the phenomenon be called a theory of negativity?

Here's another: (in)dividual

I had to double-check, but dividual is a word all by itself.

Laura Payne said...

Great word to add to the list. Indeed, "dividual" is a word by itself. It is defined as: divided, shared, or participated in, in common with others. And, its use certainly is rare.

I love your name for the phenomenon too. Way to go.

Virtual Linguist said...

There's also uncouth, unkempt, untrammelled, disgruntled, ineffable, inept and unrequited. The positive forms are in OED, but are rarely used.
Perhaps the phenomenon could be called antithesislessness - try saying that after a few drinks!

Laura Payne said...

Beautiful morpheme combination. I absolutely love the word.

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